The J-Chip project

The Buffalo Bicycling Club (BBC)  is a non-profit group that organizes and promotes road bicycle racing in Western New York. The BBC purchased an RFID chip-timing system from J-Chip USA (manufactured by MTS Systems of Japan) in 2011, known as the J-Chip.

After nearly a year of testing and configuration by volunteer members of the bike club, the J-Chip timing system remained unusable for timing bicycle races.

We examined the system shortly before the first race in April 2012, checking the configuration and features. While the J-Chip receiver and mat worked perfectly, producing race results depended on the software used to score the results. Once the operation of the J-Chip receiver was proven, we turned our attention to the laptop and software used to report the results from the receiver.

The software originally provided with the J-Chip system, Brand-X, was designed for foot races and lacked many of the features necessary for scoring bicycle races. We were fortunate to learn of a software program called CrossMgr, developed by Edward Sitarski, a professional programmer and Canadian UCI official.  CrossMgr had been widely used since 2008 to successfully hand score many cyclo-cross bicycle races worldwide, so few changes were necessary for road bicycle races.

Integration between CrossMgr and the J-chip receiver began with Ed Sitarski adding a data import feature to CrossMgr. With the data import working, we were able to setup the J-Chip receiver and timing mat at the first club race in April 2012, less than 10 days after receiving the unit.

Within minutes of finishing the first race, CrossMgr successfully imported all of the timing results and produced a complete report of the bike race, showing lap times for every rider. CrossMgr already featured an HTML report with GPS accurate lap animation, so results could be directly uploaded to the Internet.

During subsequent troubleshooting sessions with Ed Sitarski, we were able to identify the correct command to allow sending real-time data from the J-Chip receiver to CrossMgr, allowing real-time race results to be displayed in CrossMgr.

This feature was taken to the next level when real-time web updates were added to CrossMgr. Using an available wireless connection at the Cobblestone Criterium races in downtown Buffalo, CrossMgr issued updates to a web page in real-time, adding rider times and average speed on every lap.

Spectators with web enabled smart phones were able to view race results in real-time as riders passed the start/finish on every lap. To simplify access to the results web page, CrossMgr prints a QR barcode on the printed results, allowing smart-phone users to scan the code and jump to the web page or any other page specified by the race director.

With the high precision and sensitivity of the J-Chip receiver, bicycles could be timed to the one-hundredth of a second at speeds exceeding 30mph.  At a typical sprint speed of 34mph, the timing provided resolution of 6-inches between riders. This level of resolution surpassed previous methods of race scoring that relied on visual spotting, hand scoring and video review.

Many other enhancements were made to CrossMgr based on the results and operation of the J-Chip receiver at races. In addition to scoring road races, CrossMgr was enhanced with over 50 revisions to provide support for criteriums, individual time trials and team time trials. CrossMgr continues to provide outstanding support for cyclo-cross races, whether or not chip timing is involved. New for 2013, CrossMgr has added USB camera integration to provide finish line photos.

Revisions to CrossMgr have made it a versatile and effective tool for scoring every type of road cycling event, ensuring that the Buffalo Bicycling Club will be able to use J-Chip timing for all 33 road, criterium, cyclocross and time trial events every year.

As a result of the success with the J-Chip timing unit at BBC races, the club has purchased 50 additional RFID chips and begun renting the timing system to other bicycle race promoters for use with their events.

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