A chat with Peter Swift about GPS tracking

Author: Morten Haugseggen/Victoria Fleming     Photo: Hanne Nordskag     Publish date: 02.02.14 16:18

There are many different opinions regarding the GPS-tracking system that Femundløpet have used this year. We have interviewed Peter Swift, who is responsible for the GPS system, about his experiences with this years equipment.

- What do you think about this years GPS-tracking system?

- The GPS system has mostly gone to plan.

Swift goes on to clarify that, like last years race, this race tests the GPS system to its fullest. The system is not a production ready system that has been used for years. So things will be changed and parts shifted out.

We wish to combine the GPS tracking and timekeeping together in a single system. This would simplify the process a lot. To achieve this, it is essential that we run tests like these and gain experience with the equipment. It will also lead to changes in the way we present the race data to the visitors and participators.

- Have you had any problems?

- The GPS devices send data over the cellular network, so where we lack coverage we get no tracking data. This is why it can take a long time between each update. This is the only problem we had with the GPS tracking system.

We have also had to triple the server capacity on the website to deal with all the requests. This is essentially why people have experienced problems with the website. We had about 35,000 unique queries on each server, this is a relatively high number.

Peter Swift went on to say that faster updating of the site is difficult with today’s technology. Battery life is what sets the limit for how frequently updates can actually occur.

Luckily these are problems that are either easily solved or that new technology will eventually eliminate. Swift is therefore more focused on the benefits that the technology provides rather than its disadvantages.

- The GPS worked very well for the junior racers. Especially when the weather started to get difficult, it was comforting to always know where each musher was.

In terms of safety, the GPS system has led to a significant improvement. Hopefully we will see a similar improvement in user experience during next year's race. Our online fans deserve it!