First a Death Star, next an AMB timing system

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by jcathie, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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  2. Jerry

    Jerry New Member

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    You've got my $ contribution.:)
     
  3. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    Why AMB? I thought what Stratotech uses was pretty pimp... is there a reason why we would not look at that system? With RFID tags becoming ubiquitous, I would assume that battery powered transponders are on the way to dinosaur land... no?

    Perhaps this is the wrong time to upgrade (possibly)? Has anyone looked at what new products might be in the pipeline? I would think that would be required homework for a purchase of this magnitude...
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  4. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    We did look at their system. Initial response was favorable but upon closer examination the bloom came off the rose.

    EMRA had major and I mean MAJOR technical support from the manufacturer to get their system working. Calgary didn't and it was, from what I hear, a disaster. Apparently it had a lot to do with the width of the track. Stratotech is narrow. Race City wasn't narrow. Mission isn't narrow.

    RFID tags are ubiquitous in inventory control and tracking, but not in motorsports.

    Battery powered (or hard wired) transponders still do well in F1, MotoGP, WSBK, NASCAR, etc., etc. If RFID really is the cat's meow, I would think these other organizations would be all over it. Not so much.

    We already have the infrastructure in place at Mission to use AMB as SCCBC has been using it for years. There is a potential benefit for a cross-sharing agreement with SCCBC whereby if our decoder fails, we can use theirs and vice-versa.

    As for a new product pipeline, most companies I know of keep new products under wraps until they are ready to sell it. There are exceptions, of course (*cough*Microsoft*cough*) but they are few and far between. That homework is awfully difficult to do unless someone has inside information or someone is selling vaporware.

    AMB is not really all that expensive when you put it alongside how much we have invested in Airfence; about $7000.00 for the decoder and software. The reliability, functionality, ease of use and labor saving benefits of AMB make it a worthwhile investment when you are looking at trying to retain overworked volunteers.

    Trust me. We don't toss this idea around casually. There's a lot of thought and research that goes into it. Just as we did before we bought dBcom.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  5. Dean Thompson

    Dean Thompson New Member

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    Another bonus of AMB is it automatically uploads your lap times and race results to the AMB database and can be seen online as soon as you get back in the pits. They aren't cheap transponders at $400, but they are tough little units when compared to DbCom and RFID tags. Hell, even Saratoga Speedway uses AMB!!
     
  6. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    Quite right, Dean. IF we choose to upload the results to MyLaps.com. Uploading results to MyLaps.com is quick and convenient but it would require an Internet connection at the track, which we currently don't have. There is also a downside to MyLaps.com. If we publish the results for your transponder to MyLaps.com and you then choose to sell your transponder to someone else, they would only be able to see THEIR results on MyLaps.com under YOUR account. Unless, of course, they wish to pay a 'transfer fee' (US$41.40) to AMB to move the registration of the transponder into the name of the purchaser. This is how AMB explains it.

    SCCBC does not use MyLaps.com; rather they place the results of each race/event as a PDF file on their web site shortly after the raceday, much like we are currently doing.

    The AMB transponders are quite rugged as Dean said. Essentially they are a solid block of epoxy with electronics embedded inside. They are also mounted on the bike in a much less vulnerable place than the dBcom transponder. In the event of a crash, the AMB transponder is going to (usually) come out in much better shape being mounted on a front fork tube than in a pouch on the rear tail piece. The AMB transponder also includes a status LED that lets you know the battery charge condition. The AMB software also includes an indicator to inform me if a particular transponder has a low battery and another indicator for poor signal strength (likely due to improper placement).

    AMB also has a new lease offering whereby you can lease a transponder for 1, 2 or 5 years and have a FULL WARRANTY for the term of your lease. Information on this offering is here.

    AMB also has a free PC application to view live timing information and there are mobile apps available for those with a smart phone. We currently transmit live dBcom timing information that requires a web browser (no mobile app; use a mobile browser). It is how the announcer is able to see live results. Anyone else is able to access this information as well.
     
  7. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    If anyone would care to do some homework for us to see what new products might be in the pipeline, that would be great too.
     
  8. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    We should start off by emailing the exec of a few clubs, network a bit, perhaps there is a contact out there who has heard something. Only once we know we are going to spend some cash, that is...

    Then we could just email the various current suppliers, and ask what is in the pipeline.

    I understand your comment that the Edmonton system has bugs. I am wondering if those bugs are fixable, or perhaps if they have been fixed already. I don't know the technical issues of the RFID range issue, but if the club needs someone to understand it and report at a meeting (again, assuming we really are going to spend some cash) I could volunteer to do the homework. I would expect it is a solvable issue, just requiring more transmitter power, no?

    The RFID system seems super sweet to me, passing out stickers sure makes it easy to register, and there is no follow up requirement as there is with returning rented transponders. No need to charge stickers either... and no duds.

    My personal opinion is that we do a survey of the available technologies, and have a report written by some volunteer. Worst case, I could be that volunteer. Best case, we have an electrical engineer on board who is ready to spend a brief amount of time on this (at most a few hours work: emails to the various suppliers, and then condensing those replies into a report).

    We would feel super stupid if we bought a 7K system that is obsolete the day we bring it home. Yah, I know... everything is obsolete the day you bring it home now. But the advantages of an RFID system seem apparent. If we can go that way, we should.

    On an unrelated matter, jcathie-

    do you give a shit if some of the bikes running next year have red numbers?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  9. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    Why don't you start on the worst case?

    Color doesn't matter if I can't read the numbers going past me.
     
  10. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    Are we actually doing this? Upgrading the timing system, I mean? If someone from the executive asks me to do it, I am on it. Pardon me, kind sir, if you are on the exec...

    What questions would you ask of potential timing system vendors?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  11. Andrew Marles

    Andrew Marles Moderator

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    I have a lot of experience with wireless and RF and am happy to lend my expertise to the club. Personally, I think we get a lot more support from emra than we do from the us clubs that use AMB so anything we can do to make those guys feel welcome will probably help pay for itself. And if we are trying to attract racers from down south, a 10 dollar tag isn't going to be a barrier. But AMB is cool too, whatever the exec decides.
     
  12. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    Eventually dBcom will be replaced. I am not on the executive. Ask the vendors how their product stands up against AMB.
     
  13. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    Probably not worth investigating until the year we actually intend to move on this, IMHO, but clearly, since it is getting harder and harder to get the dBcom, we will have to do something. Seems you would be the man to drive this upgrade, along with John...

    I agree, do what we can to bring the EMRA crew. When did you last see a WMRRA member up here (Adam does not count LOL)?
     
  14. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    Andrew, support from other clubs that use AMB is not the issue here. I'm sure if you ask, the out-of-towners that make the effort to come race with us feel welcome right now while we are using dBcom. We rent them dBcom transponders and they seem quite content with that.

    We aren't trying to attract racers from down south by installing AMB. I'm sure we would welcome any rider from down south that cared to make the effort to ensure their bike will meet our sound limitations. We are looking at using AMB to reduce the work load on our volunteers and replace a dBcom system that we have been using for almost 8 years and was used when we bought it. dBcom is old. It is old technology and the hardware is not being updated. The software we use is not getting bug fixes or updates of any sort. The developer isn't selling enough copies to make it worth his while to make the effort to continue development.

    The long and the short of it is we want to use the software that AMB sells because it is much, much more capable than the software we are using with dBcom. The AMB software does not work with dBcom hardware. The dBcom system we are using got us through a crisis of not being able to recruit and retain volunteer scoring staff. I thank Al Beck for working very hard to ensure we were able to buy the dBcom system. It is one of his legacies. Believe me, you wouldn't want to see how long it would take to get results if we were scoring races manually. If you like, feel free to download trial copies of the the AMB software (Orbits) and the software we use with dBcom (Kronos) and you'll see for yourself the huge difference I speak of. I've been using the AMB software with SCCBC for most of last season and it confirms what I knew all along; that it is far, far superior to what we are using now.

    There are a number of reasons why we are looking to make this move and I'm not going to enumerate every one of them here. The topic has been on the back burner for the last couple years and was always in the plan once we had completed our Airfence acquisition programme.

    Safety first, then volunteer aids second.
     
  15. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    Hey, as a member, I would like to know why "we" are looking to make this move... I am sure the rational is sound, but I am curious. I would expect that this would require a committee to determine how to go about such a large expenditure... rather than some old guard backroom boys making a call on their own... not that they would make the wrong call... but that is just how things should operate in a transparent organization, IMHO.

    Three members to write a brief recommendation for the membership: jcathie, andrew... and one more.
     
  16. Jerry

    Jerry New Member

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    Hmmm, ... seems to me all the tracks we run in the USA use AMB - which we rent for $70 a weekend.

    If we are going to change, would it not make more sense to use what they are using?
     
  17. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    I like EMRA's system. Buy a sticker for a couple bux. Stick it on your helmet. Done. No batteries, no returning it, and so on. Renting a transceiver at the Ridge was a major PIA. Took forever to get one (they had a snag that day). Getting my sticker at EMRA was done when I paid my fee. Stupid simple.

    I am buying a transciever for WMRRA because I intend to race at the Ridge a fair bit in the future... but I would still prefer the RFID system... assuming it works, of course. If jcathie is right, it is a non starter. If he is wrong... and the tech has improved... it deserves consideration IMHO.

    But I am one member. I think a more important issue is implementing Heiner's suggestion that we move our meetings to the virtual world so we can actually get some interaction from the rank and file when we make calls like this.

    My 0.02.
     
  18. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    The technology had not improved before Race City closed last year. Are the racers willing to accept scoring problems (or no scoring at all) while a problematic system goes through troubleshooting? How long are the racers willing to put up with problems? I want no part of a scoring system headache, plain and simple. AMB has worked at Mission for years.

    We all know the vendor is going to promise the moon to close the sale, whoever they are. We have to go by the experiences of others to help us in making the final decision.
     
  19. dasein

    dasein WMRRA #24

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    I agree... if a vendor could demo it, perhaps? Then we would know for sure. I expect it could be a few years before the club moves on this. Who knows what the timing landscape will be then. Probably smartphone based LOL.

    Using stickers instead of transponder rentals would save a ton of time for the club, however. That is all.
     
  20. jcathie

    jcathie Member

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    Most racers would choose to have their own transponder, just as they do with dBcom. Rentals would be for Novices and out-of-towners.
     

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