TraQCentral – From The Starting Line
Our story begins with volunteering and how interests in both bicycle rides and amateur radio started us on this journey. Those diverse interests may seem like a strange combination, but it actually makes a lot of sense. There is a long tradition of the Amateur Radio Service helping out at non-profit rides, runs & road rallies. Their donation of personnel, expertise, equipment and time most certainly improves the communication & safety level event organizers know they must provide.
As members of local radio clubs, we volunteer and help with both organization and race-day logistics. Communication and location tracking are the key capabilities we provide. By setting up both mobile (i.e Support & Gear Vehicles) and stationary (i.e. Rest Stops/Water Stations) resources with ham radio, organizers communicate more effectively and can track the location of each resource.
The marriage of Amateur Radio Service with Non-Profit organizations is a success story full of accomplishments. By no means do we intend to under-value their importance. However, after years of volunteering, it became clear there were opportunities for vast improvement. A more comprehensive system would have to resolve the distinct problems we identified with an amateur radio only solution…
- The tracking technology used by ham radio (APRS) was inconsistent and required considerable infrastructure.
- Location of support personnel was not accurate and reliable.
- Tracking weaknesses led to slow and inaccurate responses.
- Ineffective or no communications with participants during the event.
- Location of participants requesting assistance difficult to determine.
A total solution would have to be one that could fully function on its own or coexist and compliment the amateur radio service. As software application developers, we knew the tracking technology had to be readily available, reliable and extremely accurate. Mobile phone & GPS technology was the clear choice. From talking to organizers, we knew a singular solution to manage all aspects of the event was a must. It would require easily accessible dashboards with accurate data and intuitive features. Most importantly, the system had to improve the safety and overall experience of participants.
System design began in early 2016. By the Fall of 2017, the core system was completed and we had our first successful beta test. Development continued throughout 2018 and 2019 with many features additions & system enhancements driven by event organizers. Testing at live events were very successful and well received by event organizers and race-day managers. Both volunteers and participants (especially those that requested assistance) were impressed with the pioneering concept and the apps ease-of-use.
After several years of software development and live trials, TraQCentral was officially released in the Spring of 2020. It could not have been accomplished without the help of our friends and collaborators. Their guidance throughout the product’s evolution, especially with enhancement recommendations, has been pivotal. We are forever grateful. A special thanks goes out to Big Shark Bicycle, Tour de Cure, Bike MS, Trailnet and Pedal the Cause.
A footnote to 2020: As you can image with releasing a solution for events with at least 100 people, 2020 did not turn out as expected. As difficult as 2020 has been, we have not lost our focus or our resolve. TraQCentral is still the only solution of its kind. We took advantage of an off year to continue development. A multitude of system enhancements have been completed. More feature additions are ongoing. A new and improved TraQCentral is ready for 2021 with the return of in-person events.