Check your Track is a new feature in RaceDirector that allows you to view any recorded track in RaceDirector. We use the standard GPX format. In this blog I describe the different GPX sources and how they can be used in RaceDirector.
GPX a standard that works
The GPX format is the GPS Exchange format. It is based on the general XML standard. An XML schema describes the elements and the structure of the GPS Exchange format. As file extension the abbreviation .gpx is used – details, see Wiki. The advantage of a standardized format is that it can be assumed that the data is always stored in the same format. If this is the case, it facilitates the interaction of different applications without much development effort. In this article I would like to present the results and possible applications of RaceDirector.
GPX, Mapbox and RaceDirector
We have implemented the GPX format by default in the RaceDirector upload, i.e. GPX files could be uploaded from selected loggers into RaceDirector so far. Now that we use Mapbox, we can display any point on earth in RaceDirector. In combination with the fact that there is a standard GPS format and that this format is used more and more, new possibilities are opening up – some of them even undreamt-of for us. To get an overview, I have combined the RaceDirector functions in a matrix.
What is the difference between “Check Your Track” and “Analytics/Comparison”?
If we don’t offer a dedicated racetrack (specially designed racetrack) in RaceDirector, we use the geographic data from Mapbox. Advantage: Any point on earth can be displayed. Disadvantage: Analytics and Comparison are not offered with “Check Your Track”. Thus a meaningful function is lost, but all your recorded data can at least be viewed.
GPX, RaceDirector and Trails-Platforms
We set out on a search and tried to find out if there were platforms where users could upload their recorded trips – whether by bike, motorcycle, car or on foot. In fact, there are very good platforms that are used by many users. Here are a few examples:
In the context of our research we found these blogs, where you can find a very good summary or overview:
Check your Track
In most cases, the data of the platforms listed above are data that actually only show the distances roughly (with a low sampling frequency and accuracy). In some cases, the data does not contain a time stamp, which is not really necessary for their function. We thought it would be cool if this data could be displayed in a 3D environment including motion and introduced “Check your Track” in RaceDirector.
Thought done! We have adapted our RaceDirector upload logic a bit and introduced the function “Check your Track”. As you can see, it works! I.e., if we download GPX data from e.g. GPSies and then upload them into RaceDirector, these trips are dynamically displayed in a 3D landscape.
Important note at this point! We use the data of Mapbox to display the environment. The satellite images are also provided by Mapbox. Currently the resolution of these data is not so high and therefore these pictures look very blurry when you zoom in. This is of course a question of performance. If the images were available in high resolution (e.g. à la Google Earth) the RaceDirector app would be overwhelmed by the computing power. However, this is not due to our programming, but to the very high computing power required. We assume that the Moore’s Law is valid and that this topic will be solved in the medium term.
What data can be used in “Check your Track”?
Basically all GPX files can be viewed with a timestamp in “Check your Track”. To prove it, we took a look at the motorcycle app MyRide from Yamaha. This app offers, like most of these apps, the possibility to view the driven rides with a 2D map and to export the position data. I mention this example because it is nice to look at the data in a 2D graphic. But we think it looks cooler in RaceDirector where you are able to see the ride in a dynamic 3D environment.
Another app that works fine is the Harry’s LapTimer app. The GPX data displayed there can also be easily exported and viewed in RaceDirector.
Another cool example of how it works is Radtoto. Here you can find all the stages of the big bike tours (Vuelta, Tour de France, Giro, …). Radtoto makes the routes available as GPX files. These data have to be time stamped and can then be viewed in Check your Track.
RaceDirector compatible loggers
In the videos below, I’ll show you what RaceDirector looks like when you use RaceDirector compatible loggers where no RaceDirector racetracks are available. In this case it is not necessary to use the GPX format. For example, it can be a CSV file for AIM or GoPro.
All information about RaceDirector compatible loggers can be found on the RaceDirector website.
What if my GPX file does not have a timestamp?
There is also a solution for this! GPSies offers this e.g. out of the box. This means that before the download the user has the option to set the time stamp for the file – see picture below (field “km/h”). There the user can decide which time stamp the GPX file should get. If you select e.g. 80 km/h the vehicle will move in RaceDirector with the defined speed.
With e.g. AllTrails, Radtoto or MyRide this does not work out of the box. You have to use an online tool that adds a timestamp. Don’t worry, it’s for free, is available online and works wonderfully. Here is a short video:
As soon as the file has a timestamp and is available as a GPX file, it is suitable for RaceDirector! Eureka!
The everlasting and annoying subject of “sampling frequency”
Sure, the higher the sampling rate (see blog “GNNS – What can it do?“), the better the display in RaceDirector. It turns out, however, that through our calculation (spline calculation), the display of position points with a low sampling frequency (e.g. 1Hz) can also be displayed attractively – without jerking. We ourselves are astonished that this factor/parameter is less of an evil than expected for an appealing display. In the videos below, you can see two examples which were recorded with 1Hz sampling frequency and had no time stamp. Only a year ago it would have been unthinkable from our point of view to present this appealingly in RaceDirector.
In this video we downloaded a trip from AllTrails and added a timestamp.
In this video we have downloaded the ninth stage of the Vuelta of Radtoto and added a timestamp.
Low sampling frequency and no time stamps
These two parameters are the worst case for the representation in RaceDirector. If one of these two parameters is not available or the data quality is poor, the display is conditionally good. It has been shown, however, that time stamps can be easily added and that our spline calculation solves the “too low sampling frequency” problem very well. But what remains and can never be solved by RaceDirector: If the data is inaccurate, the display is inaccurate -> Garbage In = Garbage Out
GPX data from airplanes, drones, ships, etc…
Of course you can. It doesn’t matter which vehicle (air, water or earth) it is. The GPX data contains the necessary position data (incl. altitude and speed). Currently RaceDirector only works with motorcycles, cars and kart. An extension is possible, but is currently not on our roadmap – here we lack the time and money 🙂
What do I do with the data in RaceDirector?
We are technicians and are happy when something works technically. For example, we are happy when a GPSies trail can be dynamically displayed in RaceDirector. What we didn’t think about or didn’t think about at all is the benefit and the business model. Therefore we are interested in your experience and opinion. Is there any added value for you if you can watch your rides or those of others in RaceDirector? Do you need it for the preparation of a planned trip? Does it help to get a better feeling of a race track?
Where are we going?
We are excited about the fact that all GPX data can be displayed in RaceDirector. Unfortunately, we feel that we are the only ones with a higher pulse. So if you want to share your opinion with us, we are happy – whether negative or positive. Apart from that, we’re wondering where this technology is going? Is it just a technical spinning of a few freaks or does this topic have potential? Also here we are interested in your opinion.
Preview for the next blog
In the next blog I describe the function “Fly Around The World”. It’s not the focus of RaceDirector, but the result is very impressive.