This guide will walk you through the basics of setting up a timing line using the ChronoTrack Active Extension for the MiniTrack and Pro2 controller. In order to successfully time a race with the Active Extension, you'll need:
- Active system enabled MiniTrack OR Pro2 Controller
- ChronoTrack Active Extension and Active Extension System Cable
- Active loop wire
- A ChronoTrack Active Tag for each athlete
- Plastic stakes, gaffer's tape, or duct tape to maintain the position of the loop, depending on the line's location
- Gators, rubber mats, carpet, or some other means of protecting the loop
Line Configuration and Setup
With ChronoTrack's passive RFID system, we always recommend having a backup in place for all key timing locations. This remains constant for the Active extension. The Active Extension's excellent performance should afford 100% read rates, but lightning can still strike, so having a backup system in place in case one goes down is very highly recommended. Because tags undergo a 1 second rest after a signal burst, primary and backup lines should be at least 20 feet/6 meters from each other.
The active Extensions operate using a Loop ID and a specific Channel. When using a primary system and a backup system, make sure that the Loop ID and Channels on each system are different. If the Channel and Loop ID are set to be defined automatically by the controller, no manual configuration will be necessary.
When setting out the Active loop, be sure to maintain a minimum distance of 1-2 feet/.3-.6 meters between the long sides of the loop as shown in the picture below.
If you're setting the loop up on concrete or asphalt, be careful not to place it over or within five feet of any metal such as manhole covers or drains. Generally, duct tape or gaffer's tape will be sufficient to hold a loop in place on a road or sidewalk as in the picture above. For grass, dirt, sand, or mud locations, use plastic stakes at the four corners of the loop to keep it in place. NEVER use metal stakes.
Once you've set out your Active loop, place gators, rubber mats, or some other protection over the loop to keep it from getting snagged or crushed by athletes.
It is not recommended to place the loop INSIDE gators since the channels would place the long sides of the loop too close together.
Once you've placed protection over the loop, connect the loop's banana plugs to the loop slots in the Active Extension and make sure the black Wireless Antenna is screwed in tightly.
Next, connect the Active Extension to the Controller's Active port using the Active Extension System cable. Make sure the plug is firmly inserted into the Controller and the other end is tightly screwed onto the Extension.
If the Controller is not powered on already, power it on. Whenever a MiniTrack detects the presence of the Active Extension, it will automatically turn on Active mode. For Pro2 Controllers, you will need to manually toggle the Active Extension on through the Settings > Readers menu.
Once your Active Extension is powered on, you're ready to collect reads from Active Tags.
Configuring the Active Extension
Once your Active Extension is plugged in and powered on, there is some configuration necessary which may include some testing to identify the best settings.
Set Loop ID
Each Active Extension used at the same timing line should have its own unique Loop ID number so that the Active tags know which extension to send their data to. The default setting for the Loop ID is Auto, which means that nearby Extensions will detect each other and set their Loop IDs differently.
If you get a "Duplicate Loop ID" error, you can manually set your Loop ID using Menu > 8 > 3 and use the left/right arrows to set a value on the Mini. For the Pro2, go to Settings > Reader > Active to set the Loop ID.
Set Channel ID
The Active Extension uses a 2.4GHz signal to receive communications from tags, and the Extension will sweep the area to check for other Extensions in the area. By default, the Extension will automatically set its Channel to an unoccupied setting.
If you get a "Duplicate Channel" error, you can manually set the Channel number using Menu > 8 > 2 and use the left/right arrows to set a value on the Mini. For the Pro2, go to Settings > Reader > Active to set the Channel.
Set Power level
Unlike the Passive RFID system, 100% power may not always be the best setting for your Active System when your focus is high accuracy. Reducing the power will also reduce the read area, but reducing the read area will make for more accurate times.
There is no magic number for optimal power, so we suggest you test with tags worn on various parts of the body, or bikes, etc to find what works best for you.
Power levels can be adjusted on Menu > 8 > 1 for the Mini and Settings > Readers > Active on the Pro2.
Collecting and Streaming Data
As Active Tags come in range and are activated by the loop, they will transmit to the Active Extension and reads will be collected into data files identical to those from the passive system. While the Active Extension is active, the controller will continue to behave as it normally does in every way. You can connect to the server, view and acknowledge errors, and perform time syncs as you normally would.
Tips and Warnings
- Warning: If the timing location is near water or mud, place the Controller and Extension as far as possible from any moisture danger. This may necessitate extra loop length. Just remember that the total length of a loop wire should not exceed 82 feet/25 meters.
- Warning: There are a couple of things commonly used at races that will cause interference with the Active system.
Power Cables - Because the Active Loop is made from copper wire, nearby power cables may cause interference. To avoid this issue, do not run power cables within 5 feet/1.5 meters of the Active loop.
WiFi Hotspots - Because the active system operates using the 2.4GHz band, nearby WiFi hotspots or routers with a WiFi radio can cause interference with the system. There are two ways to avoid this issue. (1) Disable the WiFi Radio in the router so that it is not transmitting a network. (2) If possible, switch the router to operate in the 5GHz spectrum.
- Warning: If the black Wireless Antenna on the Extension is ever broken, do NOT attempt to switch it out with an antenna from a Pro controller. The antennas operate with reversed polarity from each other and are not interchangeable.
- Tip: It's a good idea to keep a couple of spare Loops and Wireless Antennas around in case of mishaps on race day.
- Tip: Vehicles may drive over the Loop if it is securely fastened to the road or staked to the ground and protected with mats, carpet, etc. However, you should avoid allowing vehicles to drive over the Loop whenever possible to ensure no damage occurs due to rough roads, rocky dirt, or other possible abrasive surfaces that could compromise the Loop.