We had the chance to interview Nick Wallbridge, an Event Rider who also happens to be a Computer Programmer, who is the brains behind the new EventScores Live Scoring System, which enables people both at the event and at home to keep up to the minute with the action of every phase of a competition.
HERE is the Link.
When did you come up with the idea, and how did the system evolve?
I’ve been thinking about it since I started eventing, over 10 years ago. I know first-hand the frustration of having to wait for results, and of not knowing whether to ‘go for it’ xc or not.
I knew it could be done technologically, but wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
BEDE’s Stuart Buntine was also thinking along the same lines, and about 2 1/2 years ago we had our first meeting about it. One of Stuart’s maxims is “Innovation Within Eventing” which I strongly support.
We started the prototype project, initially to improve the speed and collection of dressage scores. Sheets are sometimes lost – in the judge’s car, by a cadet or volunteer. There is quite a delay getting the score to the Scoreboards – they are collected in batches, walked to the Scorers, put into a pile, added up by two different people, then put into the BE system, then onto the Scoreboard sheets, and finally put onto the Scoreboard for competitors to see! There is a lot of room for error.
The idea was to replace the paper score sheet with a Tablet, but the technology wasn’t quite ready. We can train a Dressage Writer to use it, but there was some resistance. Judges also found it awkward. A hand resting on the screen is a problem. And it took a lot of technology – up to 6 arenas running, a computer in each, and so on.
So, we scrapped that idea, and went back to the drawing board.
I use a model called “Iterative or Agile Development”.
Basically, the idea is that you try every stage, and throw it away if it doesn’t work. But if it does, you build on it.
80/20 rule: 80% of benefit for 20% of the effort, and 80% function from 20% of cost.
How exactly does it work?
We have ended up with a very good communication system around the event.
Put a computer in each scoring point of the event.
Dressage: We collect the dressage sheets more often, so the chance of them being lost or mislaid is reduced. Sheet results are inputted at the Dressage Scorer’s area. The score is immediately on the computer and the website. Usually it is about 15 minutes from end of test to the score being on the website, phone or scoreboards. This is already a huge improvement.
Show Jumping: a computer is in the Judges’ Box. The Dressage Score is automatically there, of course. There is a paper record in the SJ box too. SJ Results are inputted immediately to the system.
Cross Country: Three computers for the XC. One is with the provisional scorers in XC Control. One in the XC start. They have a start/finish button like the normal clocks so there is no need to enter times. The manual clocks back it up. It is at least as accurate as the manual method.
It copes with overtaking horses, held horses, etc. All times are calculated by the system, reducing maths and transcription errors. XC jump scores are the last to be done. Radio traffic is monitored – every fence has a radio. We have an extra person listening in on it – and of course XC Control is already listening in on it too. XC Control puts in their results, and there is a second person in the Scorers’ area, monitoring the Radio traffic, tracking and inputting. Details of a problem are put in immediately. The system compares the two sets of results – XC Control and the other inputter’s. Provisional results are online instantly. There is a final cross-check to ensure that there are no discrepancies or extra faults.
Bikes follow the last horse around the XC to collect the Fence Judge’s sheets. The final confirmed result can come out 10-15 minutes after the last horse has finished. A big advantage is that scores are available to competiors from the moment they are known, so can be queried immediately if the rider thinks there is a mistake. This cuts out a huge potential wait – resolving queries takes a lot of time.
What are your aims for the system now?
We want this solution to work from grassroots level to top level, and for it to be cost-effective at every level. Currently it is being used from BE80(T) to the biggest CIC***.
Who writes the code?
I do. It helps that I am a competitor so know what they want the system to do. An Owner is also part of the group and Stuart represents the needs of organisers.Input was requested at events from volunteers, competitors, etc – what do people want to see?
Does it take more volunteers, or less?
In terms of volunteers, it has a neutral effect. People are simply distributed slightly differently.
Part of the cost to the event is that there has to be a ‘technician’ on site for the entire time the system is being used, one who fully understands the whole system.
What do you provide?
Computers, software, at least one technician, ideally two. Communication network.
How is the communication done?
Through the Cloud if available, by 3g or 4g.
We have a Mifi unit next to the computer. Coverage has improved hugely over the last two years that we have been running. We use the best networks available at each site, whichever they are.
The biggest cost is setting up the communication network.
For International events, or if the 3g/4g is insufficient, we will set up our own Intranet. Also if it is a big event for the public, and large crowds are anticipated as the public network can be overwhelmed.
Interest is obviously growing… who are the latest Events to sign up?
Hambleden and Richmond. There are others interested but I can’t say which at the moment!
What affects the cost the most?
The cost depends on the site survey. I have an App to test from different areas of the site, on at least two networks. We tend to use 3 or EE.
As an example of a tricky site, Hopetoun is hilly and remote and coverage is patchy, but it is still sufficient.
We have contingency plans in place. At Oasby the dressage is in a marginal area but we are still able to work through the cloud.
There is a higher cost to the event if an Intranet is required.
How many people follow the results on line?
At Oasby 2015 it was 840 on the Friday.
At Osberton 2014, on the Saturday, 5,500 sessions, 2,500 individual users.
Any other interesting things?
The vast majority of mobile devices owned by Eventers are Apple! Eventers love their Apple kit.
We are now being pressured to do it faster – expectations have risen! But we almost cannot do it faster.
The benefits of this system are clear to see. As a supporter, enthusiast, or owner, one can sit at home or at work and check, in real-time, the progress of a rider or horse. Instant results, to your phone or computer.
As an Owner or competitor at the event, you will see results far faster. No more finding out your dressage score 2 strides from the first show-jump, or having no idea where you stand in the section before going XC. results are instantly tabulated in order of lowest score, and updated as the results come in. No more hanging around for two or three hours to see if you are needed at a prize-giving, only to come 11th. Results come through faster and it is clear far sooner, whether you will be placed or not. Hopefully this will lead to more competitors attending prize-givings too, which will keep Organisers and Sponsors happier. It’s a win/win situation, and I hope that B.E. will consider investing in it so that everyone can benefit at all events, not just the ones whose Organisers believe it is worth the outlay.
If any Organisers are interested in this new system, Please contact Stuart Buntine on firstname.lastname@example.org
Riders, Owners and fans of the sport – obviously this is an additional cost for an Organiser, so please, if you access this service and enjoy it, let them know that you appreciate this service being offered at their Event.
The results from Chatsworth International are all being handled by EventScoresLive.com, and will be instantly available, on THIS link.