Athletic Timing Live Field Events and Race Videos Case Study
In 2021, Athletic Timing equipped four timing crews with tablets to provide enhanced live event coverage to spectators in the stands and at home.
The three AthleticLIVE features implemented with these devices are:
- Full race videos: A video of every race is recorded using AthleticLIVE's purpose-built app. As soon as the race concludes, the video is uploaded to AthleticLIVE. The video is displayed online shortly after the upload completes, to allow meet fans both in the venue and across the country to view the event.
- Live field results: The AthleticFIELD app records the result for each attempt in a field event, and serves as the link between the field event and the outside world. AthleticFIELD pushes live data to the web and in-venue scoreboards, so that fans can follow the event jump-by-jump and throw-by-throw, while watching the standings update in real-time.
- Field event videos: The AthleticFIELD app allows for the operator to record a video of each attempt, prior to entering the athlete's mark. These videos are posted to AthleticLIVE in near-real-time next to each attempt in the field series.
In the 2021 season, Athletic Timing used these features at over 80 meets. All features were rigorously tested at all levels, from high school league meets to Division I collegiate meets. This system made its debut at the Hayward Premiere, University of Oregon's first meet at the reimagined Hayward Field, and was used at several high-profile meets, including the Oregon Twilight, Oregon State's High Performance Meet, and the University of Idaho Invitational. Additionally, the system was used at numerous smaller collegiate meets, and it finally passed the ultimate test at The Outdoor Nationals, creating over 147 race videos and 2600 field event videos at the four-day event.
Athletic Timing spent $1,570 per timing crew in equipment, including tablets, tripods, and accessories. Usage costs (LTE data) came to $3,240 for the 25 meets worked by a single timing crew. Total startup and operating costs for the season amounted to $4,810. Typical client charges for adding race videos and live field events to a meet came to $1,525. That means that the equipment costs and the yearly usage fees were covered by the first four meets. For a complete breakdown of the costs and pricing, see Just the Numbers at the end of this article.
Athletic Timing elected to use LTE data (cell phone network) for connectivity, rather than be dependent upon facility WiFi or a timer's finish line WiFi hotspot. While some venues may have excellent WiFi coverage, at many venues some field events are located far away from any buildings or other infrastructure that may provide a WiFi connection. Athletic Timing uses Ting, which is an MVNO operating on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. Ting's Flex plan is a simple plan where charges are easily predictable. In 2021, the charge structure was as follows:
- Device usage is $10/month/device
- Data is $5/GB, regardless of which device on your account consumes it
Ting also provides the following benefits:
- There is no throttling of connection speeds if a device exceeds a certain data consumption level
- There is no limit to the number of devices that can be on one account
- Devices not in use (i.e., during the off-season) may be deactivated to avoid the $10/month usage charge
An exception to LTE rule is the race video device. At many venues, the ideal spot to film from is the center of the stands, in the vicinity of the press box. This is an ideal place to pick up facility WiFi. In addition, some facilities will have a hard-wired ethernet port available to connect to the facility's network. This will provide the fastest upload speeds of any connection method. It's well worth it to have a $20 ethernet dongle available for a few of your tablets.
Athletic Timing originally purchased unlocked (may be used with any compatible wireless carrier) Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0" 32GB tablets, at a cost of $160 per tablet (as of this writing, at the end of 2021, it appears the price may have increased). These tablets work very well, although Athletic Timing has purchased iPads for subsequent equipment sets in order to take advantage of their better cameras.
Only a small sampling of accessories is really necessary to get the job done. The most important accessory, Athletic Timing learned, is a silicone case with hand strap, similar to this.
Other important accessories:
- A tripod and mount to allow smooth panning and quality video for the race video tablet. ($85 for tripod and mount)
- An RJ45 Ethernet dongle for connecting tablets to wired networks ($20)
- A 6-port USB charging station to charge all devices from one outlet ($25)
Athletic Timing's standard practice is to require that the facility provide meet volunteers to operate the tablets. As Athletic Timing progressed through the season, the following things became clear:
- An additional member of the timing crew is necessary at meets where live field events are in use. This person acts as a “volunteer coordinator” to keep an eye on the events in progress, train volunteers, and act as a general troubleshooter.
- It only takes a few minutes to train someone to operate the tablet for field events, although it's very helpful if the person is at least passingly familiar with the event, or at least familiar with how field events work in general. The volunteer coordinator ought to come back and check on the event once it's time to go to finals.
- The volunteer coordinator should also set up the race video tablet before the meet and train that volunteer as well. After a few minutes of training, just about anyone can handle this task. The app walks you through each step and has the events listed in order.
The preparation for race videos is minimal. Point AthleticLIVE Local to the folder where your EVT and PPL files are located, and define a password so that others who have downloaded AthleticFIELD cannot upload unauthorized videos. On the tablet, simply enter the meet ID and the password, and the app will show you the list of events and allow you to associate a video with each one. If the timer makes updates to the order of events, the number of heats, or the participants in each race, the app will prompt the operator to reload the schedule.
Live field events
Preparation for live field events is slightly more involved than that for race videos, but still should take less than half an hour for everything but the very largest meets. For Online Sync, all data passed between your meet management system and the tablets goes through AthleticLIVE servers, rather than a local network. This is the easiest option, and the one that Athletic Timing used at all but some of the very largest meets. This option simply requires that tablets have a connection to the internet, rather than any kind of local networking. Preparing Online Sync requires that you upload a copy of your EVT and PPL files to the AthleticLIVE Meet Administration Portal. Once that's done, you'll need to spend a few minutes configuring each event. Configuring each event involves setting parameters like the measurement system (English/metric), indicating whether wind readings should be collected, the number of attempts for each competitor, the number of competitors to take to finals, and similar items. Once all these items are configured, AthleticLIVE provides a unique six-character code for each event that gets entered into the tablet to call up the event.
Just the Numbers
Athletic Timing set four timing crews up with the following equipment:
Qty 8 Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0” (2019 Model, WiFi+Cellular, 32GB)
$160 x 8 tablets = $1,280
Qty 8 tablet cases with hand straps
$20 x 8 tablets = $160
Tripod for race videos
Tablet mount for tripod
RJ45 Ethernet dongle for connecting the race video tablet to facility network
6-Port USB charging station
Total equipment costs for one crew
Device charge ($10/month x 3 months, March-May)
$30 x 8 tablets = $240
Data charges ($5/GB x avg data usage/meet of 24GB)
$120 x 25 meets = $3,000
Total data charges for one 3-month season
Year one setup costs and data charges: $4,810
80 meets Athletic Timing worked in 2021 requested race videos. Over 150 meet hosts have requested this for 2022 based on what they saw at meets in 2021.
Live field events
80 meets Athletic Timing worked in 2021 requested live field events. Over 100 meet hosts have requested this for the 2022 season based on their experience in 2021.
$45/field event x 14 events (M/F are separate) for OR HS meets = $630/meet
$45/field event x 16 events for collegiate = $720/meet
Field event videos
Over 90% of the meets who requested live field events say yes to this.
An additional $50/field event added to the above = $95/event
14 events HS = $1330/meet
16 events collegiate = $1520/meet
2021 Athletic Timing approximate revenue for race videos, live field events, and field videos for 80 meets: $122,000 or $30,500 per crew