Orienteering Technology

The challenge of orienteering has always been the same – navigating between controls (checkpoints) using a map and compass – and like other sports, modern technology can enhance the experience for competitors and spectators.

Showing you’ve completed the course

The most basic way to confirm someone has completed an orienteering course is by placing a unique pin punch, or combination of letters, at each control. People punch their card or note down the code to show they’ve visited that control – a simple system which is still used in low-key events, training exercises and permanent courses.

Now though, most orienteering events use electronic timing systems which give more detailed information – such as split times between each control – which competitors can compare to see where they’ve won and lost time. You use an electronic key or “dibber” which you tap in at each control and which registers you’ve been there. Beginners usually hire these from the organising club.

Common electronic orienteering systems

SPORTident is the most widely used system in Scotland, while several clubs still use and maintain an alternative system called Emit.  Post-event organisers usually publish split times as well as overall positions.  Winsplits is one of the most popular sites and it is easy to see where you gained (or lost) time between controls.

Using GPS in orienteering

While you’re not allowed to use GPS to help navigate an orienteering course, you can use GPS to record data to use in post-race analysis and see where you went right or wrong. Many competitors now use devices such as a Garmin Forerunner and download tracks in Routegadget or similar, and the SOA has GPS trackers clubs can use at major events to help display athletes’ positions in real time on big screens or through Live Streaming.

Virtual Orienteering using your smart phone

Smartphone apps such as MapRun let you run permanent orienteering courses whenever you want, without a need for physical control points to be in place. Instead, you use either the map on your phone or a paper version and your phone beeps when you reach each control’s location. At the end of the course you can compare your results with others online – in a similar way to how cyclists compare their fastest segments in apps like Strava.

If you’d like to know more about MapRun or setting up courses with your club, get in touch with Sarah Dunn in the SOA team.

MAROC was one of the first Scottish clubs to embrace MapRun – setting up 15 courses in 2018 – and you can learn about their courses here: https://www.marocscotland.org.uk/using-the-maprun-app-for-orienteering-training.

SOA technology available for orienteering clubs to use

While most clubs have the equipment they need for regular events, the SOA has extra technology which can help enhance larger orienteering events.

  • GPS trackers – The SOA has a limited number of GPS trackers which typically are used at major events to display athletes’ positions in real time.
  • Start Clocks – The SOA owns Start Clocks, which clubs can use. These paired devices include one clock for the start line and one for the pre-start/call-up line, with an audible countdown in the last few seconds before a competitor starts. Various apps are also available for iOS and Android devices which replicate these clocks.
  • Radio controls – Unmanned remote units which relay information back to a central point, typically the commentary team. The SOA owns and maintains several of these, with options for communicating with the central point including cable, radio and mobile networks up to 4G.
  • Satellite broadband system – The Scottish Orienteering 6-Day Event Co Ltd owns a system which can be used in areas of poor or heavily used mobile phone signal to support radio control telemetry, GPS tracking, results uploading, and limited video streaming.

Contact Colin Matheson if your club would like to use these systems at an event.