Space technology helps triathlons to be fair and worry-free
Parsec timing uses Galileo data to measure distance between cyclists
It has been the main source of frustration among many triathletes for years: the rules and arbitrage regarding drafting on the bike. The company Parsec Timing is aiming to solve this problem once and for all, by using space technology to make triathlons fair and worry-free.
Parsec Timing recently started incubation in the ESA BIC Noordwijk program. Founders Jeroen Visser (creative director) and Jesper Verhey (CEO) themselves are avid triathletes with a competitive mindset. That’s why they’ve come up with Solo, a hardware device and a software system that automatically checks if a person is illegally drafting. Solo is basically a digital referee system for triathlons. When you’re cycling, in most triathlons, it’s illegal to stay too close to the cyclist in front of you because of the reduced wind benefits, saving time and energy during the race. Rules vary per race, but i.e. with a regular full distance triathlon you must keep 12 meters distance, and you are allowed to go closer only for a maximum of 25 seconds for the purpose of overtaking. Now, that distance is measured by human estimation, by referees on a motorcycle which is not trustworthy at all.
Parsec timing will equip every bicycle with a GNSS-enabled Internet of Things device. A software platform for referees automatically tells if someone is drafting or not, and the device itself gives a signal to the cyclists if they are too close as well.
Jesper: “With space technology like Galileo’s satellite system, we enable high accuracy (<1m) and high frequency measurements (once every second). It has a network connection and a long battery life. The components aren’t new, but the application and combination of it is. Our challenge with the device is to make it portable, lightweight and small, while at the same time it needs to look cool and it needs to be affordable.”
Combining sports and space technology opens up many new possibilities. The trend in positioning and tracking has been ongoing for a while now, think of all the smartwatches and wearables, it has completely changed the way we practice sports. However, there is still a lot to be gained in terms of accuracy; with the help of GNSS, an almost exact positioning can be determined. Which offers again many opportunities within the sports world, not only within Triathlon. Also with the help of augmented reality, a lot is possible, such as getting live feedback on your position within the competition.
The market and partnering
The market itself is challenging. To make it profitable they need to work with partnerships, as a large share in Triathlon is organised non-profit. Right now The Dutch Triathlon Union (Nederlandse Triathlon Bond – NTB) is their most important partner. Next to that, for the development of their hardware they work with Protoworkz. With ESA they are looking to leverage smarter positioning algorithms.
Parsec Timing has reached multiple milestones so far. They received the innovation fund from NOC*NSF, the prototypes of hardware and software are working and of course last but not least: getting into the ESA BIC Noordwijk program.
"As an incubatee of the ESA BIC Noordwijk program we have access to ESA, which is basically our missing link. We know the market, we have a great idea, we made a device, but the space part really finishes it. We already received some valuable insights just talking to some people from ESA. With all the knowledge and expertise present in the area we will certainly manage to move things forward successfully. That’s why we are so excited to be here. And we are both space enthusiasts, so being here is also a bit like a kid's dream coming true.”