I have worked in IT for more than 25 years as a developer and partner (shareholder) of ABRA Software a.s., which deals with the creation and implementation and maintenance of the ERP system of the same name. Over this long period, I have gone through many programming languages and environments, along with the systems we have developed. From Assembler, Basic, through FoxBase and Clipper, FoxPro to Delphi and Java. I tried different database machines and technologies.
When I was about 45 years old, I took part in the first sprint MTB triathlon and I quite liked it. I tried a few more, and when they stopped organizing the original triathlon, I decided to organize my own triathlon – with the help of friends.
And because I wanted to have it (although it’s a hobby triathlon) “professional”, I started thinking about how to measure it without a stopwatch in my hand. First I bought one RFID antenna integrated with the receiver and tried to process the information about the recorded chips. I found that one antenna is not enough and if the chip is in the competitor’s cover, nothing is recorded.
Then I continued with an RFID reader, to which up to four antennas could be connected. I processed the data from this reader with a program written in Java. I measured the first few years of our triathlon Chalupářský Trojpohodář in this way. But it was a bit complicated and I had to take a backup source for the race. And sometime at that time, I thought that a device that would be able to measure even more complex races (such as triathlon and duathlon, which I also started to organize) independently of the power supply and some other running computer would be useful. And to make it so simple that even a “normal” person can easily handle it. Not just an IT specialist. And also so that it doesn’t cost money, but to pay for it by organizing several races.
So I came up with the concept of a durable measuring case “RaceMeter”, which would contain all the essentials:
- The basis is a four-port or eight-port RFID module, which takes care of recording chips detected by connected antennas.
- Another integral part is a small computer (Raspberry Pi), which will take care of processing information from the RFID module, continuous storage in the database and evaluation of results (even continuously). In addition, this small computer runs a web server, so all device management and display of results is available from other computers (mobile and tablet) and only a browser is needed.
- And in order to connect to this suitcase, it also includes a wifi router.
- Rechargeable Lithium polymer batteries with a capacity of 12Ah (at a voltage of 12V) take care of the power supply in the RaceMeter and I have proven that a fully charged one will keep the RaceMeter in full operation for almost 8 hours.
At the time when I had RaceMeter as a hobby project, the situation in my original company changed significantly. Simply put, the goal was superior to the path we take to it. Unfortunately (or thank God) I couldn’t accept it and I left the company as a developer and co-owner.
In addition to building the “Pretty cottage” apartments, which we operate in Strmilov in Czech Canada, I also started to pay much more attention to the RaceMeter project. Thanks to consultations and help from friends from octopuslab.cz, I gradually started to “make” and program a device that would met the requirements. Experiments on universal printed circuit boards eventually turned out to be a solution that I don’t have to be ashamed of. In addition to my own races (triathlon and duathlon), which we organize, I used RaceMeter to measure races for friends and acquaintances, and thanks to that I also supplemented the system.
Now the RaceMeter system communicates in English, Czech, Slovak, Polish and German. It is possible to define and measure races that contain more than one section. Alternatively, it can send the results to the competitors’ e-mails. It can be updated from the Internet. It works even when there is no internet connection. It provides ongoing information to the commentator – for example, times after the first or xth round, or the time of a certain section. The results are available online. It is possible to combine multiple RaceMeter devices together and measure chip passages at remote locations.
I made the system easy to use. I know for myself that there is never time left during competitions. For example, sometimes you get a starting list with a list of competitors after the start of the race and then you need to get the competitors into the system as soon as possible. We are also counting on this and we are continuously updating the system with software.