Before you can score your race on race day, you must use ChronoTrack Middleware (Fusion, StreamManager, SimpleClient) to access the data on your Controllers for processing and streaming to your scoring platform (E.g. ChronoTrack Live, RunScore, Race Director). If you want to be able to offer live results and athlete updates in CT Live, pulling the data from the controller on a USB drive won't work.
The Pro2 Controller offers several different connection options to choose from: Cellular, LAN, and WiFi. LAN and WiFi will allow you to connect either directly to a nearby computer or to the ChronoTrack CCS Server via a compatible router or WiFi hotspot.
Timers just starting out may find it difficult to choose which connection method works best for them. Each option has its own set of pros and cons, and one method may work better than another depending on the situation. This guide offers a brief overview of each possible connection method with links to specifics on how to use each option.
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Online Connections - CCS Server
The ChronoTrack CCS Server allows you to access data from internet-connected Controllers live from anywhere with an internet connection using any of our middleware offerings - Fusion, StreamManager, and SimpleClient. To connect your controller to the CCS Server, you can use Cellular, LAN, or WiFi, but some additional configuration and cost may be associated, depending on the method you choose.
Pros and Cons of Server Connections
- Stream and access Controller data from almost anywhere without the controller being nearby
- Access and process data from any internet-connected device*
- Provide live updates and results for all points on your course
- Simple to set up**
- No physical connection to the Controller necessary
- Process data through SimpleClient, StreamManager, or Fusion.
*StreamManager can be accessed on any internet connected device. Fusion requires a Windows PC or a Mac.
**Routers and WiFi hotspots require a one-time configuration process
- The built-in modem only supports GSM carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile in the US)
- Cell signal in very remote locations is often unreliable
- You must maintain a data plan from a cellular provider (~$10-$20 per month, depending on the provider). If using the built-in modem, you will also need a data-only SIM card for each Pro2.*
- Router and Hotspot connections entail additional up-front hardware costs
- If the Controller is connected online but your computer has no internet connection, you can't process the data. The inverse is also true.
*The amount of data streamed by controllers is approximately 100 reads/kb of data, so you can stream 100,000 reads using only 1MB of data.
Built-in Cellular Modem (GPRS)
The built-in Cellular modem in the Pro2 Controller is arguably the most simple and most-used method for transmitting data from the Controller to CT Live or other scoring platforms. It involves the least special configuration and additional cost, requiring only a data-only plan from a GSM carrier.
WiFi - Hotspot
If you need to use a non-GSM carrier for your controller connections, a WiFi hotspot is the easiest way to open up your connection options. Some very minor one-time configurations of the hotspot and the controller are required.
One additional benefit of a WiFi hotspot is the ability to connect multiple controllers to a single Hotspot, reducing associated cost and equipment.
LAN - Router + Aircard/Hotspot
For live CCS Server connections, this is the least-used connection method for a Pro2 due to its complicated nature and better alternatives. It is easier and more cost-effective to use either the built-in cellular modem or a WiFi hotspot. If you have a reliable hardline internet connection, however, the reliability of a hard connection to the internet can't be beaten
Direct Connections - Offline
Connecting directly to a Controller is useful for smaller races with a single, common start and finish line, or where you can collect and process the start data and then move to the finish before athletes start coming in.
If you are using a local-based scoring platform such as Race Director or RunScore, an internet connection won't be necessary for your controllers or your computer which allows greater freedom to run events in remote locations where internet connectivity may be unavailable.
Direct connection to a Controller is not ideal for live scoring of remote split points where you cannot be present to collect and process data. This means that you cannot offer live athlete updates or results for split points unless the Controllers are connected to an internet-connected laptop.
You must use Fusion or the Classic Data Suite software (CCS Lite and SimpleClient) to process data when the controller is connected directly via LAN or WiFi, and the computer must be specially configured to interface with the controller. Compared to Online methods, setup is slightly more complicated, and it's not as easy to switch between computers when using this method since each computer must have Fusion or Classic Data Suite installed and configured before data can be transmitted. If you have a dedicated scoring computer, however, the process is greatly simplified and effectively becomes "plug and play" if the settings remain the same.
Another possible drawback to local connection methods is the necessity to be near the Controller. You can have up to 300 feet of continuous standard Ethernet cable. For distances greater than 300 feet, you must have a repeater to maintain the integrity of the signal to prevent loss or corruption.
Pros and Cons of Direct Connections
- Hard line connection eliminates the problem of poor or no signal
- No need for an internet connection if using a local-based scoring program
- No need to purchase a cellular data plan
- Requires static IP configuration on the connected computer
- Not viable for live scoring of multi-line races
- Switching to a different computer for data processing can be tricky
- Limited range for ethernet cables
LAN - Local
A "hard" LAN connection with an Ethernet cable is one many people prefer since it isn't susceptible to signal strength issues and unless the cable is cut or intentionally disconnected, the connection will remain unbroken.
WiFi - Local Ad-hoc Network
This method of connecting a controller to a computer directly is rarely-used, and not recommended. Windows 10 has imposed limitations that make connecting to an Ad-Hoc network very difficult. As such, we generally recommend that you use WiFi connections only when Online and direct LAN options are impossible.
WiFi signal also can be susceptible to interference from nearby objects and conflicting signals. If connection is ever broken between the controller and the computer, there will not be 'gaps' in the data once the connection is re-established. The data will continue from the point where the connection was lost.
Given the limitations and drawbacks to direct WiFi connections, we have given some warnings here. Only use this method if the other methods would be unfeasible or impossible.