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Discussion: SIAC SportIdent Active Card - any clubs using?

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Nov 7, 2015 2:30 AM # 
I got the latest SportIdent newsletter today promoting the SIAC contactless epunch card.

Does anyone (or club) have any experience with the operation of the new firmware required for SI stations BSF7 and BSF8 to work correctly with these SIAC contactless cards

We have one club member who has an SIAC card .He ran a course and got a beep at each control but we were unable to download his card,

Is there extra battery drain on the BSF7 or 8 stations ?

We (MNOC) would like to upgrade but don't want to be on the bleeding edge of technology . Any feedback would be useful when we do our annual system check/upgrade . Thanks
Nov 7, 2015 4:16 AM # 
We upgraded to the new firmware, but we haven't tried enabling the Air system.

I understand there is more battery drain using the Air functionality. You also have to program the units to come on like in the old days.

My understanding is if you've got BSF7 or BSF8 units, you can enable a touch-free system, but it requires turn-on, turn-off programming.

I haven't tried it yet.
Nov 7, 2015 4:09 PM # 
Hi, I've used the Air+ system in a number of backyard races. We have a complete Air+ set that we can lend you if you wish to experiment. Also we will help get you as many SIACs to rent should you wish to organize an Air+ event. I plan on writing a detailed set of articles about Air+ at my blog at in the coming months. In the meantime, here are your answers:
a) Unable to download: This should have worked, even with 580 at your various controls, including the download station. I will experiment and get back to you.
b) Extra battery drain: Not when you're NOT programmed for Air+. To explain: Normally a BSFx is programmed as CTL. To run an Air+ event they need to be programmed as BC CTL (Beacon Control). When the control is a BC CTL, you will drain your batteries faster.
c) See the last para of the SPORTident newsletter (link at You might want to stay at firmware 580 for a bit longer...
d) When in Air+ mode, the control does NOT know when a SIAC has punched, because the control radiates location and time continuously, and a SIAC just picks it up. Therefore a SIAC will NOT turn on a control, and you will not have proof in the control that the SIAC was there. Not so when SI-x timing chips use this control the old-fashioned way.

In summary a control in beacon mode will not detect a SIAC, needs to be turned on, needs to stay on for the full amount of time, and will drain more battery. I believe Canada will start using this for the elites in national events eventually.
Nov 7, 2015 4:17 PM # 
One extra comment. I believe that SI-6 chips are handled better in Firmware 623 than they were in 5xx. As some of you will remember there was one hickup during the North-Americans in Ottawa, which were related to an SI-6 and a single control (probably 574 at the time). I have it on good authority that it was a bug, and that the 6xx series fixed it. Firmware 623 also has a nifty new Start Clock built into the start controls...
Nov 7, 2015 8:01 PM # 
Okay, let's assume that there is a sprint here in NA using the SIAC system. Won't those folks with SI 10 & SI 11 have a bit of an advantage over those without? Or, is the thinking that the advantage isn't any different than those with SI 8's and SI 9's over SI 5's? Or, is the thinking that folks just need to upgrade?

Or, should we just not use the SIAC system (especially for sprints), until the SI 10's and SI 11's are more commonplace?
Nov 7, 2015 8:35 PM # 
There is no fair way to use the system without providing everyone with a SIAC stick. Only the SIAC, not the 10/11s work in touch free mode.
Nov 7, 2015 11:28 PM # 
Here's the paragraph from the newletter. I upgraded about 113 BSF7 units and several BSF8s, and we did see several with very low battery indications.

From the newsletter:

We would also like to make you aware and ask for your support with a new issue that has been reported for firmware 623. After upgrading a BSF8 to firmware 623 it can happen – in extremely rare cases – that the station will drain its battery in a fortnight. The station functions correctly otherwise. We have been hard at work to track this issue down, but – not least because it does happen so rarely – this has proofed to be difficult so far. Here is what we know: Only BSF8 stations with serial numbers in the range 155,000 to 165,000 seem to be affected. It does depend on the history of the station – the same station with a new battery is no longer affected. The very-low-battery issue as reported in our known issues document is an indicator that the station might suffer from fast battery drainage. We would like to ask for your support: If you upgrade your stations to 623 and see the low-battery-voltage issue – that is, the station displays a battery voltage of below 2 volts – please get in touch with us.
Nov 7, 2015 11:52 PM # 
Thanks for all the comments . I think we will wait a few months before implementing anything. Would certainly like to know why we couldn't download the SIAC stick . For now we will simply give that SIAC stick owner a rental SI-9 to use
Nov 9, 2015 3:31 AM # 
Hi, I used my SIAC today in our weekly B-meet (traditional SI race, no Air+). Had no problems downloading after. Our download control is still 574, using "legacy" protocol (don't think that makes a difference). Software used is OE2010.
Nov 9, 2015 3:32 AM # 
@cedarcreek: is the official repair shop in the americas. If you have a few controls with very low battery conditions, send them to us, and we'll fix them. It's a warranty repair.
Nov 9, 2015 3:43 AM # 
@edwarddes, @carlch: We don't have to provide it to everybody, but the elites should have a chance to run a race similar to how the World champs was done this year. Provide SIAC to the elites, and only set the elite controls to be Air+.
Nov 11, 2015 10:37 AM # 
@erict: I agree with providing SIACs to elites so they can practice, but I disagree with only setting elite controls to Air+. If an elite visits an incorrect control (a would-be-mispunch), the non-Air+ will be another hint to give that control code another check. And unless elite controls are really only used by elites, "normal" runners in possession of a SIAC will be upset about "some controls worked touch free, some didn't".
Nov 12, 2015 3:16 AM # 
the non-Air+ will be another hint to give that control code another check

Nov 12, 2015 11:00 AM # 
JJ, thanks for missing my point. An inconsistent punch process across controls within a race will at least confuse non-elites (if they have a private SIAC), and yes, I do believe elites shouldn't be given even a chance of a hint that they're at a wrong control by technical means. Plus needing to program only some stations differently for a given race is also asking for mistakes to be made.
Nov 12, 2015 12:22 PM # 
Not sure how taking a line directly from your post and asking "seriously" could be construed as missing your point. But sure, I'll dig myself in deeper:

I won't argue with the notion that it may be challenging for people to set up equipment properly, and they should consider whether extra complexity is going to be inviting trouble. But as for the notion that this is some kind of carefully controlled experiment where we have a chance of eliminating all subtle external factors and that this would contaminate the data because somebody would otherwise "deserve" to be disqualified, well, thanks for missing the point of what this sport is all about.
Nov 12, 2015 4:36 PM # 
Sorry, I don't even understand the language you are speaking in your second paragraph. So I guess I'll just have to miss your point.
Nov 12, 2015 5:39 PM # 
Why not set all controls to Air+ mode?

If only some are set to Air+ mode there is greater risk of human error and as jSh mentioned there would be an inconsistent punch response from the units which will invariably confuse a handful of runners and cause an increase in mispunches. Admittedly you could explain this to runners in advance and then put the onus for not mispunching on the runners but it's never good to risk extra mispunches or problems if you can avoid it.

For the non-elites they can use whatever SI chips they have / want and if that gives a slight advantage to certain people so what? Shoes and compasses are two other pieces of equipment that give an advantage if you put out the money to buy better models and we don't complain that that's unfair.
Nov 12, 2015 8:36 PM # 
Shoes and compasses are two other pieces of equipment that give an advantage if you put out the money to buy better models and we don't complain that that's unfair.

And SI sticks. Like many people, I have an old SI5, which for various reasons I have still used on occasion, and my newer one is noticeably faster.
Nov 13, 2015 9:24 PM # 
My thoughts from quite a lot of experience in the first week of August are that's its pretty much essential for Sprints Relays (and also MTBO and SkiO). But I really don't see much if any gain from using it at Middle or Long races (and actually your opening yourself up to complexity that you don't need).

On the positive side the technology works well and we had very few issues with it, but there are some differences and you need to be aware of them.
Nov 13, 2015 10:57 PM # 
So Jon, what's the solution for an event that's far smaller than WOC but large enough to warrant wanting SIAC for the elites in a Sprint Relay (i.e. NAOCs). Typically we need to recycle controls from day one to day three (and so on) and if we don't use it for everything then we need to decide how to manage the SI controls. Do we

  • reprogram them between days (risk of error);

  • somehow make sure we have a totally separate set for the sprint relay (potentially expensive / more logistics around borrowing);

  • leave them all in Air+ mode (complications around what to do with elite vs non-elite courses);

  • or something else I've missed entirely?

This discussion thread is closed.