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Discussion Forum - PACER - SDM and PACER


Author: Tony Cartwright
Posted: Sun 4th Jun 2017, 10:38
Joined: 1978
Local Group: Surrey
Hi David,

Glad you found PACER worked for you on the SDM. I would agree with Adam that EE does indeed seem to offer the best coverage. In surrey we are getting 4G signals with EE where previously we had 'no service' - that's got to be progress!

Regarding your poor signal locations. On the WT and PBM this year we experimented with a commercial app called Scan to Spreadsheet (costs less than £3). Via a bluetooth scanner paired with a smartphone or tablet it simply records ScanID and time. One of our members has developed an Excel Macro that will take that data and upload it to PACER. Although we used it as back-up only it offers a very workable alternative to Offline PACER which requires a laptop. I appreciate you are using RFID as we were with Chekpoint but we switched to barcodes (PACER handles both) simply to exploit the barcode bluetooth scanners which are readily paired with a smartphone - much more convenient than a laptop - weatherproof, comes with in-built cellular, most people have one, a small ext battery for the phone/tablet is the most you might need for a long CP. Email me if you want to know more.

Tony
Author: Adam Dawson
Posted: Fri 26th May 2017, 11:33
Joined: 2013
Local Group: London
Thank you for the extensive feedback David. I'm glad PACER worked for you and appreciate your efforts to note and share practical experience. NB I have found EE usually has the best coverage in remote areas, so you might try that at Norton if not already done so.
Author: David Hodge
Posted: Fri 19th May 2017, 14:36
Joined: 2011
Local Group: Sussex
At the Sussex group we have been using Chekpoint for the South Downs Marathon for the last 3 years. This was developed by myself with a lot of help from Tony Cartwright of the Surrey group.

I decided now was the time to retire Chekpoint and start using PACER. As we are using RFID readers and have slightly different entrant structure to Surrey I thought my experiences might help others.

I was able to dive in, read the manual (shock horror!) - yes it has lots of info, and get people clocked through the event in about 2 hours.Then I went back and started again, having got a feel for how it hung together.

Stage 1. Configure PACER
We have 180 entrants split into walkers and runners. The walkers have a massed start at 0900 and the the runners at 1000. This is done so that everyone is reasonably together at the first checkpoint after 9.6 miles.

To do this I created 2 routes on the event SDM-W and SDM-R. This is useful because when you come to enter all entrants with the same bulk start time you can filter by route - saves ticking 180 ticks in a list.

After putting in the 3 intermediate checkpoints I assigned the same checkpoints to both routes.

I then needed a CSV file for the entrants. We take details of the entrants on our website so it was just a case of modifying the code (I am the websites designer) to create the correct file structure for PACER.I then opened this in Excel clicked in the first ScanID box and tapped away on the reader with all the RFID cards. his was very easy as after each entry, the cursor moved down to the next empty box. I have an older version of Excel so you may have to configure Excel to do this on your version.

Later on I added 10 extra entrants - spare1 -spare10 in case we had entrants on the day
I also added 12 more entrants - TestCard 1-TestCard12. This is done so I can give 3 test cards to each of the 4 checkpoints around the route

Saved from excel as a CSV, import to PACER and bingo all data was there.

Stage 2. Testing the event
The start, finish and one other checkpoint are in 2 village halls with wifi so we use old laptops (XP!) - they just need internet access i.e. a working browser. The other 2 are in the country.
At these we use an Android tablet, RFID reader, 10,000mAh battery in a plastic box with a vodafone or O2 mifi unit, and a long pole to get some height for the mifi unit.

The start. We can give the entrants their cards and scan them in at the start checkpoint as we are going to bulk set the times later. If you are having a random start then you need to only scan them at the start checkpoint when they actually start.

Stage 3. The event Sunday May 14th 2017.
We had 2 laptops at the start - East Dean Village Hall has wifi access. One laptop was permanently on the scan screen to scan the cards at the start and finish. The other allowed us to do other maintenance required and at the end print all the certificates. I designed the certificate to only use two small images so they printed fairly quickly (20 seconds).

The mobile unit at Norton suffered from signal drop out this year so quite a lot of cards were not read. The times were entered manually, back at East dean later. A bit of a drag but it works. Firle laptop had no errors (wifi in village hall). Plonk Barn - mobile unit - all ok - better signal, did drop out occasiaonally but recovered.
By the end of the event all data was in correctly, nothing to do when I got home.

Issues to look at for next year
Revisit Norton to check if O2 would be better than Vodafone. Have discovered the mobile signal availablity keeps changing. Norton by the way is in a dip out in the country. The locals(4 houses) have to go upstairs to make calls.
The mobile units have an issue with the tiny power connector to the tablets, will replace with a soldered in lead.You can see a picture of the mobile unit here https://secure.ldwasussex.org.uk/SDMKit.JPG.
Any questions - use the contact us page on our website ldwasussex.org.uk

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