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Reflections on the GoldRiver300 - part 1. Richta and Android smartphones.

It's a week now since the GoldRiver300 and I have been thinking about what went well, and we'll do more of it and what went less well and I'll change things.

One of the things that went less well was using Android smartphones to run Richta Rally Timing.

Richta Rally Timing is an app suite that uses the gps chip in the phone, coupled with the phone's internal clock to record a participant's progress through the set gps timing gates. Richta constantly monitors the phone's gps position and each time the phone passes those gps coordinates, the app records the time, compares it to the elapsed time since the previous gate, compares that to the target time and awards early or late time penalties.

The apps (RallyMaster, Competitor and Scoreboard) all run equally well on Apple smartphones and tablets and devices running on Android.

The catch is that Richta requires uninterrupted access to the gps chip data.

Apple products all run iOS as their operating system and I am told it is quite good at multitasking. It is not too difficult to set the device up to run Richta for the whole day and all you have to do is keep the device charged, either with a usb charger or a piggyback battery.

Android, on the other hand is an operating system that is used by many different manufacturers of smartphones and tablets, it (apparently) is not so good at multitasking and confusingly, each different manufacturer has a slightly different way of setting the phone up.

The experience from GoldRiver was that if a smartphone running Richta with Android has any interruption in its access to the gps chip, for example if an email or a text is received (SIM card free phones hotspotting to another phone with cell service or hooking up to a wifi connection for example) the Android smartphone will drop it's Richta application while it deals with whatever has just happened - but not restart Richta afterwards.

iPhones appear to soldier on, keeping all the plates spinning.

I know some smartphone users are phobic about Apple products.

I also know that I have neither the time nor the tech-savvyness to solve anyone's tech problems on the event start line.

I attempted to address this issue this time round by setting a verification route for Thursday afternoon, which participants could use as a dress rehearsal to set their devices up.

Still, some android phones had hissyfits and shut down.

If an event participant insists on using android, I will insist you are on your own! I simply do not know enough about phones to set them up.

My strong recommendation is that everyone uses an iPhone.

Don't buy a new one.

Buy a secondhand one, eBay or Facebook marketplace.

Don't have a SIM card in it.

Clear it of just about every app you don't need.

You need Richta Competitor and Gaia. Perhaps Richta Scoreboard. Nothing else.

Run it with a usb charger.

Hotspot it to your good phone and...

Activate it through your cell service.

When you return to the finish line, hotspot your device again and your scores will download.

If anyone is anti-owning an iPhone, I will have some for rent that I will set up. $50 per day with the charging lead. Keep it charged while you are using it.

No doubt some android aficionados will want to weigh-in with "what you need to do is....". To them I would like to extend an invitation to come along to the events and be the "tech with the mech on the desk". I am blessed with the Homer Simpson principle of "something new in, something old out" of my tiny swede and I don't need to know anything about this!

The suite of Richta apps works very well, laying the route out, recording individual progress, collecting the scores and sharing them. The alternative is an order of magnitude more expensive ($1000 compared to $100) and is called RallyPro. I will not go down this route as my intention is to provide low set up cost events that the rally-curious can try, see if they like it and decide how much they want to spend on it.

I think most people will understand and appreciate this approach.

More reflections to come.


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