An Australian family business is bringing leading edge mapping technology to equestrian sport.
CrossCountry App for iPhone helps riders memorise and measure their courses. It creates a course map using GPS overlaid on a Google satellite map and automatically calculates minute markers. While walking the course, riders can pause to walk their lines, add photos, videos and comments to quickly review before they ride. Carrying a phone in their pocket is much easier than pushing a measuring wheel.
The App is the brainchild of Jose Diacono who has twenty five years of international experience in computer mapping. She is a rider, equestrian volunteer and a member of the Sydney International Three Day Event committee. CrossCountry was designed by her daughter Helen, a web designer and serious eventer, and programmed by son James a mathematician and software developer. Having seen many clever and increasingly accurate location based smartphone apps, Jose realised that a cross country course with its gentle terrain and open skies is the ideal environment for GPS satellite tracking. With many Australian events out in the country, it had to work out of mobile phone or internet range. CrossCountry App works anywhere in the world.
"I think it will revolutionise the way courses are walked by competitors and is a great resource for competitors, coaches and officials alike" said Gill Rolton, Chairman of the Equestrian Australia Eventing Committee and Event Director of the Australian Three Day Event (Adelaide).
CrossCountry took four months to develop and was released in late September 2011. It was a credit to the exhaustive testing that it sailed through the strict Apple accreditation process without a hitch. “We decided to go with Apple because they are the leading smartphone and very popular with riders and officials. They have a superb development and delivery environment – everything from documentation to testbeds, legal waivers, sales reporting and financial systems. This has helped us create a premium app that works the way users expect,” explains Jose Diacono. Using the native Apple environment means the App runs faster, saves battery life and has familiar iPhone features like the barrel you use to select time in the alarm clock.
Following Apple’s Graphical User Interface (GUI) rules, Helen made the App easy and fun to use. Users intuitively know what to do. Happier customers needing less support is critical when your users hail from the UK, US, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, Mexico and South Africa. Riders have downloaded the App on the morning of a competition and gone straight out to walk their cross country course. There is an introductory video and ‘getting started’ on the website.
“At first we thought CrossCountry would only be used on iPhones, but once we saw a course on an iPad 3G (3G means it has GPS) we realised how valuable that would be to course designers and officials” explains Jose Diacono. While iPod Touch or iPad Wi-Fi users don’t have the accurate inbuilt GPS required to create a course they will be able to download courses with the next release which introduces course sharing. Alternatively they can add a third party GPS such as bad-elf who have approved CrossCountry as their first compatible Equestrian app. Another ‘future’ is exporting courses for paper course maps.
Australian riders have been quick to adopt the new technology. 20 testers including Olympic Gold Medalist Stuart Tinney put a beta version through its paces at the Sydney International Three Day Event. Stuart gave it a particularly thorough workout and suggested improvements that were implemented in the final release. Olympic Silver Medalists Shane Rose and Clayton Fredericks are also using CrossCountry. “The riders and officials have been incredibly supportive and full of ideas” says Jose Diacono. Technical Delegate Vince Roche gave CrossCountry its first international run in Indonesia. Testers ranged from the techno-savvy to the techno-phobe. For many, it was their first App. Riders who don’t have an iPhone are saying they will get one just for CrossCountry.
Riders and officials are satisfied with the accuracy after comparing it with a measuring wheel and seeing how accurate the track is over the Google Map showing permanent jumps.
If riders walk the wrong way with a wheel they must reverse to where they think they went wrong. CrossCountry can erase a track and remeasure much more accurately and can measure straight through a water jump.
The software automatically smoothes out spikes caused by erroneous GPS coordinates or when you receive a phone call or sms.
When the track is finished CrossCountry calculates the final position of minute markers relative to the optimum time, so they are precise even if (as usually happens) you have measured a different distance to the course designer. When Technical Delegate Vince Roche measured the course at Wallaby Hill Farm in October, CrossCountry gave him exactly the same distance as the course designer “3625m absolutely on the dot”.
CrossCountry App does not replace walking the course on foot. It helps riders plan how they will ride the course, deciding how they will tackle each jump. Then they can quickly browse the course, swiping through the photographs and comments before they ride and achieve a smooth pace on course.