At the Welsh Six Day, they had e-punching at the string-O. This seemed
a bit odd. My six year old son (who personally thinks string O is a bit on
the lame side), got his first set of splits. We could compare with all
the M16s who were running the string O that day (and in true pack running
fashion, he did try to run faster when they blew by).
They were testing the newish Emit system which I called "proximity punching".
You just have to wave your Emit card near the control. I tried to test how
far away you could be and have it still register -- at as far away as 70cm
from the control it still registered a punch for me -- I never determined the
maximum limit, tho I suppose that is documented somewhere. To me, this seemed
a bit far, no need to really go to the controls anymore. Perhaps the next step
is carrying a camera-enabed cell phone, with pictures of the bags sufficing.
This feature will come in particularity handy when the control description says
"top of cliff", and you stupidly navigated to "foot of cliff". If you've been
training to be tall, you may be able to correct the error with a quick wave of
the hand, while your shorter and less agile competitors will have to waste 20
seconds getting to the top. Of course, when SportIdent was introduced, in
true reactionary fashion I was worried that the beeps would give controls
away -- but I've only noticed this happening once or twice, so I guess that
was a decent tradeoff.
The way this was presented at the control site was a square panel the size
of the side of a control bag, tied to the side of the bag. The panel was
colored to look like a traditional O flag. This panel just as easily could
have been hung by itself, but viz would have been different coming from
different angles. There was a small light in the center of the panel which
went off when it registered, tho there was no beep. It was more difficult
than SI to see if the light went off, tho it was faster than the old SI
cards (as an aside, I got to use the new SI cards at WC, and they are sweet,
no more annoying delay). However, the card itself had a little readout that
would tell you the last control you punched, split, and total race time.
Being able to query the last control you punched would help in the cliff
above if you could not see the code, and in cases where you weren't sure if
the light went off. I tested taking controls out of order, and the system
handled it as SI does, without letting on that you made a mistake.
Ironically, one of the places where this would be cool -- at the finish so
you did not have to slow down, it was not implemented. You still had to stop
and fit the thing into the box. I'm not sure if that is a limit of the
system, or just the way the organizers had it set up. My guess is the latter.
I believe Emit has applied to the IOF for this to be an official punching
system. I'm sure it will be fine -- its just fun to be a reactionary. I
just don't like it that different people could run different distances into
the flag, even if it is trivial absolute distances. Could this be a decisive
factor in a sprint if 100ms timing is used? I guess it is just like pin
punching, it is a skill that can be mastered and optimized where some
(albeit small) amount of time is at stake.