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Discussion: QR code orienteering

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 12, 2016 12:54 PM # 
I saw JimBaker mention QR codes versus permanent courses. I would like a thread where we could discuss experiences on QR code orienteering as a possible alternative to permanent courses, successes, pitfalls, etc.

Last year I mapped the little park near my house for MNOC's Adventure race, a small stop for the adventure challenge task and for a small orienteering course. The park also has a "reading trail" and other things for kids, so the park manager and I decided that orienteering might be a nice addition. We did not go the permanent course route precisely because of the trails that form, and the park has areas where they want to restore the prairie, and also does not want a lot of people going off trail.

I printed iOrienteering QR codes, laminated them and attached them with zip ties. Cheap and easily replaceable. We did it this summer and monitored it. Unless the QR codes were along the trails, at intersections, in high traffic areas (though not where one has to mow) stakes were fine, but should not be too tall. If they were hung in areas visible kind of visible from the trails, they were supposed to be not too obtrusive. So there were parameters I had to work around. We also played with the size, how big should the marker be.

Then summer came and I took notes to tweak things for the other two parks I have everything lined up for and the one for which an iOrienteering course is planned. There are many controls which have to be moved for next year because the vegetation growth over the summer and the given parameters of unobtrusiveness did not jive. I am also checking how they hold up if exposed to the sun.

Initially the park printed and laminated the QR codes for me. I had to redo them, as hot laminating works far better than cold laminating. Second lesson learned is: cut a corner off the paper before laminating, and leave a 1 cm edge at top and bottom of laminate without paper. If attaching by zip tie, punch a whole in the corner without paper. If attaching by staples to a wooden stake, put staples through edges without paper. Otherwise moisture will get in to the paper through the tiny punch holes. A "duh" moment after the heavy rain days in spring.

Eager to learn from anyone else who has gone this direction. Also in terms of advertising it, getting out the word, etc., whatever else useful in this topic.
Oct 12, 2016 2:01 PM # 
DVOA hasn't implemented one yet but I did a QR course near Plano, TX while I was on a work trip. It was nice that I could access from my phone and not have to go to a park office.

Unfortunately I hit a glitch when one of the controls was missing, and it wouldn't let me skip. It was also a little tricky to read the map and use the QR reader at the same time, but that might be due to my phone settings. The course has a bunch of controls and randomly picks 10 which makes it new each time. More info in the links
Oct 12, 2016 2:11 PM # 
Laminating tips: you definitely need to leave a plastic border around the edge to get a good seal. And Amy hole punched need to be through just plastic border, at least a couple mm from any paper. If heat laminating, make sure the laminator is fully warmed up to the correct temperature for the thickness of the laminate you are using (thicker sheets are stiffer and may hold up better for outdoor use), but require a little higher temperature for a good seal. If you're not sure that you got a good seal, it doesn't hurt to run the laminate through the machine a second time.

Expect that laminates left outdoors year round will need to be replaced from time to time; they will deteriorate more quickly if they get a lot of direct sunlight.

As to QR codes, it's nice if each one has a traditional letter or number as well so that you can still do the course without a phone or QR app.
Oct 12, 2016 5:54 PM # 
Mike's last comment raises a key point in my mind:
Just what is the reason for using QR codes (which, I, personally have never used for anything, since they appear to only be an obtuse way to link to a website that could easily be found with a search engine), instead of a simple alphanumeric code? It seems to me that the laminated tag itself would address the flexibility / overuse issue...
Oct 12, 2016 6:50 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Just what is the reason for using QR codes?

For one, orienteering apps already exist that use QR code functionality as a means for punching. You don't have to reinvent the wheel by creating an app where you type in an alphanumeric code.

Also, QR codes are more specific than a search engine. CascadeOC has the most permanent courses of any club, and we're now putting on QR codes on the laminated caps which point directly to the page on our website where you can download maps. If someone finds one of our markers and wonders what it is, there's a QR code (and web address) that points directly to where the map is and how people can get involved.
Oct 12, 2016 7:46 PM # 
@Pink Socks: are you thus using 2 QR codes per marker, one to point to the website and one as CP for the timing App?
Oct 12, 2016 7:52 PM # 
For the course that I set, the QR code is the same as the alphanumeric control code (printed on each face of the marker), plus the name of the course. I used the MOBO app. One person did the course using the app, others can do it just using a printed map and ignoring the QR code and NFC tag. (The NFC tag is yet another thing that contains just the control code and the name of the course, for use by the app. With some phones, it can be easier to "tap" than to use a QR reader, depending in part on light conditions and wind. QR code and NFC are two options for doing the course using an app.)
Oct 12, 2016 7:53 PM # 
By the way, beacons might be a yet easier way to punch using an app. Dunno whether any app currently supports them.
Oct 12, 2016 8:15 PM # 
Pink Socks:
We just have one (pointing to the website page about permanent courses and map downloads).

It'd be fun to have them all hooked up to one of the mobile apps, but it's not something we've done yet, and not something on my personal to-do list (e-punch programming and permanent courses are two important things that I've personally decided to not focus on; I'd rather be useful elsewhere).
Oct 12, 2016 8:15 PM # 
@pink: Thank you for that explanation! I can definitely now see the utility of QR codes on permanent courses as not just for "punching", but for promotion/information.

Now, I just need to figure out how to read them with my phone (Samsung S6 active)...
Oct 12, 2016 8:22 PM # 
Guy - I'm pretty happy with this QR app. Haven't used it for O type stuff though
Oct 12, 2016 8:55 PM # 
Thanks, Clint! Just tried it...
Oct 12, 2016 8:56 PM # 
Until now I have only put the CP QR on the markers, and the course QR on the maps posted in the park, with a link to the maps on my page
But @pink's way of using QRs opens up new possibilities, as it is the advertising and promoting that I struggle with most
Oct 12, 2016 11:44 PM # 
While the QR code may be cool and efficient, it's a great idea to have the website printed on the tag above or below the code. Not everybody is able to read QR codes, not everybody carries a phone when they happen to walk by the marker. I'm not saying that having QR codes isn't a great idea, but like any technology, some percentage of people won't use it. For starters, if I see a random QR code with no explanation, how do I know it won't take me to a porn site or drop adware or spyware on me? Stating the purpose on the marker gives it legitimacy.
Oct 12, 2016 11:58 PM # 
For starters, if I see a random QR code with no explanation, how do I know it won't take me to a porn site or drop adware or spyware on me? Stating the purpose on the marker gives it legitimacy.

Somewhat. Our state public transport agency stopped putting QR codes on their advertising posters on trains because some smartass started sticking new codes over the top which redirected to porn sites.
Oct 13, 2016 1:05 AM # 
The QR reader cmorse suggested, and I installed, shows you the url, and gives you the option of copying it, going there, or cancelling.
Oct 13, 2016 10:05 PM # 
What are the orienteering apps that use QR codes? Are any better than the others? (not being able to skip controls, for example, seems like a bit of a problem)
Oct 13, 2016 10:36 PM # 
MOBO is one such app. It's intended for permanent courses that can be done in any order. Results are published online by the app writer, who charges for including a course in the app apparently to cover server costs. The app can also use NFC tags.
Oct 14, 2016 11:07 AM # 
iOrienteering is the one I use. Author willing to make adjustments.
Oct 29, 2019 12:34 PM # 
Hi everybody! Thinking of doing permanent courses in Montreal area. QR with iorienteering app looks like the best option with a quick search. Any recent experiences? Advise? Thank you!
Oct 29, 2019 3:46 PM # 
Look at Livelox as an option.
Oct 29, 2019 4:30 PM # 
Andrea, is it being used for permanent courses?
Oct 30, 2019 12:07 PM # 
Or maprun
Oct 31, 2019 9:11 AM # 
I think Livelox is a post-analysis tool.
Oct 31, 2019 2:11 PM # 
Anybody with experience with permanent courses here?
Oct 31, 2019 3:08 PM # 
In April of 2018, iOrienteering switched to Sporteering, and users were informed that it would be best to convert old courses to the Sporteering format. I had just gotten done laminating QR codes for a new park, and redid those in another park that had faded in the winter.
Alternative: use old style letters that those without smartphones can write down somewhere and then verify against a solution somewhere on a club's website or such, as well as use a downloadable course map from the club's website, on a screen or paper, and Livelox for post-run verification for those who want to use technology. I mean, if you ran, saw the control and know you were in the right place, you can wait until post-race to verify whether you were really there - kind of like with e-punching - you can't see what you did until the end, too.
What I actually liked about QR codes was the hope that a park would create semi-permanent courses rather than permanent courses, so that the constant foot traffic to a control does not develop new trails, as is the concern with some parks.
Oct 31, 2019 7:35 PM # 
MapRunF, the new revision of MaoRun might be a good option.
Oct 31, 2019 8:02 PM # 
After all that's been going on in China, I'm not surprised by a rebranding of MaoRun. :-)
Nov 1, 2019 2:34 AM # 
Those seem to drift away from Orienteering (not talking about China), I would love to have something that combines an actual printed paper map and an easily scannable permanent or semi-permanent controls with QR codes. Sporteering comments?
Nov 1, 2019 10:53 PM # 
Terje Mathisen: here in Norway have a few thousand controls each year, spread around the country, all the maps can either be printed out or used on a cell phone.

Each control is marked with a QR code, as well as a letter combination as backup.
Nov 4, 2019 2:36 AM # 
Terje, who makes the controls for it?
Nov 4, 2019 6:39 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@snailontheslope: Stolpejakten (lit. "(fence) post hunt") was started in Sarpsborg (where the WOC event center was located) with support from local businesses. After a few years this grew into a more or less country-wide effort, still free for all participants with the costs picked up by national banks and others. Each control is just a square post with a color code and a marker around the top part. That marker has both the QR code and a backup 3-letter code printed on two sides.

I'm guessing they have central printing of those markers but I don't know for sure, I would have to ask Nydalens' stolpejakten responsible.

The controls are NOT permanent though, a new set is put out each spring and picked up again in November, i.e. in a few days.
Nov 6, 2019 12:35 PM # 
Terje, the Norway way resonates best with what I want to do here: free and accessible for all, semi-permanent, paper map can be used, done with help and in collaboration with municipalities. Left them a message, hope to get it work!
Nov 6, 2019 1:49 PM # 
@Terje It actually started in Karlstad, Sweden under the name The Norweigain one later split off and joined forces with another brand (started by IKHP in Jönköping but by then had been taken over by the Swedish federation). The backend developer for Stolpjakten is now working with i think. But the shell of the app for iOS & Android is still hosted on Github.

It isn't very useful without the backend I am afraid.

But the setup is pretty simple. Each control has a sticker with the control number, a unique identifier and a QR code containing the control number & the unique identifier Eg. 12AA (Control 12 code AA). We made these control & identifiers in excel and uploaded them to a QR code generator online.

Then we had the app where the user created an account. Once logged in they got access to the map & control descriptions (but you could skip map & descriptions) and a QR code scanner. When visiting a control they just scanned the QR code or manually selected the control and typed in the identifier. This was then checked against the server to see if it was correct (we built in offline support in the app also).
Nov 6, 2019 6:06 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Hollowell: Thanks for that info! We actually have both apps here in Norway now, but is (by far?) the largest. Nice name btw, any relation to the IOF boss?
Nov 7, 2019 5:31 PM # 
No worries, It was fun project to work on :) did not know that more apps had arrived. I am indeed related. He is my father :)
Nov 7, 2019 7:37 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Orienteering is still an activity where, by far the easiest way to get into it, is by choosing the right parents: Find a pair who are already orienteers.
Nov 7, 2019 7:41 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Hollowell: My father was one of the earliest organizers of Sørlandsgaloppen, the original 6-day event in Norway. One of the things he introduced was computerized entry, start lists and results, by getting friends in Porsgrunn OL who worked in Hydro's IT department to write Cobol sw to handle these functions.

I wrote the first PC-based results sw for Galoppen around 1982/83, and ran all the races for an 8-year period, with approx 25K starts/year.
Nov 11, 2019 10:58 PM # 
All, I have been in regular contact with Robert, who runs the iOrienteering site. You are right that he has hoped to push folks over to Sporteering. Sporteering doesn't work like iOrienteering does. Robert would like to have someone take over iOrienteering and I have submitted a white paper to OUSA to consider doing this. It would be ideal for permanent courses. Also, you can imbed the QR code onto a paper map, which is needed to load the course code and run the course. Anyone can set up a course and load it up. When participants are finished, they can upload their results and compare, if they registered as a user. The course setter can retrieve their email contact and invite them to club events - a great way to get new orienteers interested in orienteering at a club level. Ads can be included for compasses, O gear, etc, if desired. The app is downloaded when you scan the map initially. iOrienteering most closely approximates true orienteering since it requires a paper map, but doesn't have a digital map that is georeferenced which shows runner position on the map (I think this is NOT proper orienteering, but more like geocaching). Also, if you acquired a map from proper source or authority, it give permission to use that course (great for scout camp courses or other private property locations). We used QR code orienteering through iOrienteering at the recent World Scout Jamboree held in the USA. It worked well, once we got it set up correctly and was a great way to introduce ANYONE to orienteering. You could run the course with traditional punch or QR codes or both. If you are competitive, iOrienteering is probably not your choice, since you still have to carry a smartphone. Other than that I really like the website and app. We just need someone that is willing to host it, maintain it, update it and fix occasional bugs. Lots more to be said. I would be happy to share my white paper with anyone on tech committee who is interested.
May 13, 2020 2:51 PM # 
@BSACompass, any word or status on the potential cooperation between OUSA and iOrienteering? I see a recent entry on the iOrienteering Facebook page asking for suggestions for improvements, testing help, and the possibility that an updated website and apps may be coming soon.

Our club in NE Ohio (NEOOC) is currently testing iOrienteering for use in "no touch" Orienteering events. In the new COVID-19 world, this maybe
the way to get park systems to permit events in our area. With online registration, emailed start times, monitoring by text, etc. we think we can put on a complete O event (note this means our normal "recreational" local events, but still with competitive, challenging advanced courses). As things ease up, this is still a viable way to run some events with controls deployed for a week or two.

So we are hoping that iOrienteering does not go away. Actually, we talked last year on this subject and met at the World Jamboree for a short time. I think that iOrienteering provided for a very successful orienteering experience there. Kudos to the WJ team!

That is why I suggested it to our club.

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