Major match scoring in a perfect world

I noted a column in the Outdoor Wire about how the scoring system in the shooting sports is broken, because the way we do it now doesn’t allow for real-time spectator participation. I agree 100% with the column, and it dovetailed nicely with another rant I had about technology in the firearms industry, specifically timers.

The CED7000 Pro is a really good timer. By the standards of any other consumer electronic, it’s ancient technology tottering along. In an age of tablet computers that weigh less than a volleyball and have more computing power than my 90s era desktop, it’s ridiculous that our very best timer is something like this.

Here’s what match scoring would look like in a perfect world: you’d have an all-in-one device, about the size of an iPhone that records the time, then allows you to enter the scoring (points down, target hits, whatever). You’d have all the different shooting sports profiles entered into the device, so you could select “USPSA Match” and go to work. You wouldn’t need pen-and-paper score sheets, because this magical device would use WiFi, so that all the scoresheets would be digitally pushed to each device from the central scoring PC. In the software backend, you’d have the central scoring PC that pushed the data on shooters (class, name, shooter number, division) to the devices, and each device would be digitally “assigned” to a stage so that the data coming back would go to the correct spot.

So when a shooter finishes his run, the RO goes through and scores it, enters the data on the Sorcery Device, the shooter views his scores and hits a button labeled “Accept”, and the score is magically submitted to the database. The central scoring computer would be linked to a monitor or something so shooters could see live progress of how the match was progressing.

The crazy thing is that we have the technology right now to do that. Even if we didn’t use a magical all in one device, we could get a 75% solution with the use of iPad/iPhone technology and a good scoring app. But I’ll tell you right now why it won’t happen, and this makes me sad: $$$$

Building the technology, and more importantly building it right and robust will cost money. No one is going to do that kind of work for free, and the people who have the technical skills to do it would rather make money doing something else than building an amazing technology that would receive limited implementation. Because local ranges and clubs aren’t going to drop $50 on software and $1000 on the devices necessary unless they’re an especially progressive and forward thinking club (shout-out to ENPS who are squared away). So, how could this work? If it was top-down. For example, if IDPA bought a program like this, and then mandated that all major matches buy the program and be compliant by 2015, providing co-op dollars to help ease the cost. That would work. That would be a game changer. I actually hope that IDPA’s partnership with the cool bros at RangeLog turns into something like this, because if there’s anyone that could build this scoring app and do it right, it’s RangeLog.

Admit it, you’d love to see this kind of scoring system used. It would make matches so much interactive, to the point where being a match spectator might actually be fun!

23 thoughts on “Major match scoring in a perfect world”

  1. Having used iPads and paper I think the electronic benefit is for stats. How many spectators are there? Now a top down push is just plain a bad idea in a volunteer sport which has 3 or 5 people set up a match that 70 or so shoot. The scoring applications work well to me as an RO. As a shooter I like paper.

  2. You can find your 75% solution at PractiScore.com. It is a pretty good product I’ve been using for some time and it’s free. Now if they integrate a shot timer and work out real time syncing of scores it will be 100%.

      1. We used it for our last three club matches last year. It works pretty well, main complaint is competitor entry. That took the majority of our time. Online registration so this can be done before hand would make match day easier. We bought little Kindles for our entry devices, they need to be faster, it’s easy for a good score keeper to move faster than the device. I’d also like to see background sync. As a technical note, Androids have a really poor clock API so it’s hard to get an accurate shot timer out of them. Hopefully, that will improve. I’d settle for a separate bluetooth shot timer interface. Ya gotta have two range officers no matter what, so two devices aren’t that bad.

        1. I think the best bet would be for someone to write an app that uses Android/iOS that has a good UI, and interfaces with a program on a “master” PC. The Master PC creates the scoring database, which would be created via online registration, and then on match day pushes it to each of the stage devices. The RO runs the timer, and the scorekeeper runs the iPad.

  3. You lost me at CED 7000Pro is a good timer. Mine crapped out almost immediately and had nonstop problems. Then after I spiked it as hard as I could into the ground in frustration is stopped working altogether, but that part I’ll take responsibility for … it was a blessing because I didn’t have to keep trying to make it work after that.

    1. Actually, that was the point I was getting at. The CED7000 Pro is considered a good timer by many in the industry, but as consumer electronics go it’s basically garbage.

  4. If it were a pure software solution I think you’d find a lot more success. Specialized, rugged hardware is a much more difficult field to make a hobbyist solution for.

  5. I think I am missing something – for our summer league we use Nooks with Practiscore. I think it does everything you talk about except a large digital display, but we do crowd around it and look at hit % and score. Rain use is a little fussy I suppose. I suppose UI is a little clunky…

      1. Unfortunately, I don’t know what “rooted” means in this context. We used WiFi. Don’t know if that means anything.

      2. Yes they have to be rooted, but by far the best solution I’ve seen for digital score keeping in sunlight.

        We did the generic tablet thing for a while, bright sun made it very hard to see the screen to tap out the scores. The converse of that is the screen refresh for e-ink is much slower so you may think it didn’t register the tap but it just hasn’t updated the screen yet.

        The nook was a serious win though over the visibility problems.

        Practiscore could be much better though.

  6. Nooks do need to be rooted but the idea is you can get them really cheap and have plenty available and not hurt the wallet when they get dropped. PractiScore runs on most Android and all iOS devices but cost for hardware may be an issue. I just keep old iPhones and iPads for the purpose. I agree the UI could use some changes and the fact the sync isn’t real time bugs me. Integrating with a Bluetooth shot timer would be a big plus. I’ve been casually looking at how to get times out of my CED timer and into something else but no luck yet. I agree the CED isn’t the best quality. Mine locks up now and then and always says it is half charged. It just isn’t built well and the interface isn’t very intuitive. Still, I see the integration of timing, scoring, displays and the web is right around the corner. As soon as someone figured out they can make money after doing the R&D.

  7. I bet if USPSA put up a $$$$ prize some tech geek would slap that together in no time. Give it to a bunch of college programming students and the could do it for a senior project. Sell it for a reasonable cost as an app, say $5 and it would make them a little money and be a good résumé builder.

  8. Have you guys been to a hospital lately?

    It seems like the staff can’t do anything without checking the wristband of the patient and asking for their DOB. IIRC, the wristbands have a barcode or something like a QR code on them. Consequently, the RN or phlebotomist has a laser gun that they use to scan the bracelet’s barcode. Let’s say at the start of the shooting season your local USPSA/IDPA/SC club prints a similar bracelet. The local club gives it to you at the start of the shooting season. You go to the first stage and the RO/SO has a timer and scanner all in one device that is WiFi enabled. Before he gives you the “Make ready!” command, he scans your bracelet. The device’s screen shows “Caleb Giddings, A _ _ _ _ _ , Master, SSP ???”. The RO/SO presses a button to confirm the information. Then proceeds with all the commands. At the end of your run, it spits out a time just like before, maybe it asks the RO/SO to confirm the time. Then the rest of the scoring can proceed. Once that is all done, you as the shooter can visually verify the points down or Alphas, Charlies, Deltas, etc. If you’re satisfied that is correct, then your signature is letting the RO/SO scan your bracelet a second time. And instantaneously your scores are sent via WiFi to the stats shack. The screen the displays “NEXT SHOOTER?” In theory, you could have a larger flat screen monitor mounted on the outside of the stats shack that shows results in basically real time.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be a wrist bracelet either, it could be like a fob on a beaded chain, a lot like those reward “cards” for Walgreens, PetSmart, or Panera bread that go on your key chain. Attach it to your holster/belt/mag puches, or back of your hat. When the match is over, just stick it inside your range bag or attach it to the outside. You’ll be all set to check in for next month’s match. There may be some smart phone apps like Red Laser that could do something very similar.

  9. That’s what I mean!!! Pretty easy with some out of the box thinking and tweaking some existing technology!

  10. The other thing that would be really slick is at sign up. Just have one of those laser type scanner guns you see at any checkout lane connected to a large flat touch screen. Walk in through the front door of the stats shack, scan your bracelet or key fob, the touch screen asks “Caleb Giddings, A _ _ _ _ _ ?” and has two “buttons”: Yes or No. Hit yes, then the next screen asks “Which division are you shooting today?” with buttons for: open, limited, L-10, etc. Then it asks you “Which class?” or “Are you still: GM, Master, A class, etc (pick one)?” then it could ask you which squad you want to be on. Then you pay your match entry fee to the one and only stats person right before going out the back door. Then you’re on your way to join your squadmates or your first stage.

  11. Brad — your concept would work, even as a card stock shooter tag printed out at shooter check in. So long as you can adequately verify the shooter’s ID to connect today’s match with his “permanent” record (i.e., the same validation you need to do it NOW), you don’t need an expensive, easy to lose, “permanent” electronic ID. A B&W barcode or QR matrix (those square pixel blocks advertisers are always telling you to scan with your smartphone) can be read with almost any computer with a built in camera (like your smartphone or almost any tablet out there (even the cheap sketchy ones from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Slave Labor Camp and Toy Factory #336).

    Scan shooter tag, input score, shooter presses “Accept” button on screen. Wehether it is “realtime” wirelessly, or requires the RO to go do an upload to the local laptop for “official” match compilation doesn’t really matter, except in speed of public display of scores.

  12. Yep! Exactly! For major IDPA matches, the Beach Bunny software would print out a sheet of bar code labels for each shooter. And each competitor would get their own personalize sheet at check in. On the sheet would be 1 label for Stage 1, one label for Stage 2, one label for Stage 3, so on and so forth. The shooter shows up to stage 5 and peels the stage 5 barcode sticker off the sheet and sticks on the front white copy of the scoresheet.

    So my idea is just the next evolution of that. Move the bar code or QR code from a label to a bracelet or key fob instead that stays with the shooter. Then tack on a wifi enabled smart phone with the appropriate scoring app plus barcode/QR code scanner app, and VOILA! no more paper scoring, and no more tedious entering of shooters’s names say like into a PDA. The other advantage is no more having a guy run around on an ATV to pick up the paper scoresheets to bring to the stats shack. Then the stats people no longer have to squint at people’s chicken scratches: is that a four? An eight?

    The hardware is out there already. I’ve seen it in use at a hospital and at Home Depot. Now it is a matter of some enterprising person to write the software.

  13. Just put the barcode on the shooter’s nametag/number printed out for that day. Minimal cost, doesn’t require anything really new, can be pinned to the shooter’s back or hat if you like (although someone like Larry Correia might have to doff cap to get scanned if Caleb is his RO {grin}). Nametags are cheap, and readily replaced if something goes wrong. Anything more sophisticated (even prinatble bracelets, much less a “permanent” tag) is just going to be harder and more expensive to replace when one (inevitably) goes missing or doesn’t read in the middle of a match.

  14. There is a very simple and very complex solution. Design your own app! The complicated part would be to get the funding to do it.

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