Geo-information systems applied in competitive orienteering


PhD, Associate Professor Yu.N. Mironova1
Yelabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University, Yelabuga

Keywords: geo-information system, competitive orienteering, GPS-navigation, check points, digital chipset.

Background. The notion of geo-information system came in use in the late XX century and since then the geo-information systems have been integrated in many sciences and industrial sectors, with the process being facilitated by the rapid advancement of ъ computer systems, data processing and communication technologies. However, many promising applications of the geo-information in sports, athletic training systems, physical education, sport medicine, competitive event management etc. are still virtually unexplored, and this is the reason for the current topicality of the relevant studies.

Objective of the study was to overview the modern geo-information technologies applicable in the competitive orienteering events.

Methods and structure of the study. We have analyzed the available literature on the subject to find a few studies (6-8) providing some insight into these issues, with the notion of geo-information system considered as such by some other studies (9, 4, 5 etc.), and the geo-information systems practical application issues addressed by the third group of studies [1, 2, 3, 7].

Study results and discussion. The more advanced are the modern geo-information systems, the wider they are applied in sports to trace the processes on the sport grounds, find the best routes for the sport teams, analyze sport facilities location maps and reinforce safety systems applied in competitive events. One of the studies [3], for instance, analyzes the geo-information tools applicable for analyses of the footballers’ performance and field control during matches and offers, among other things, FootballGIS software to rate the team game level with the individual performance rates for each player including game advantages and weaknesses.

The fast progress of the GPS-navigation systems and services including the inbuilt navigation functions offered by the modern mobile phones opens up a new window of opportunities for sports. Prior to a competitive orienteering event, for instance, every competitor receives a special digital chipset to track his/her movement on the distance. The Chelyabinsk region pioneered in applying the modern data processing and tracking systems [10] in the municipal competitive orienteering events, with the German electronic chipsets SportIdent being widely applied in the events.

Modern orienteering sport requires special spatial data processing and analyzing tools for the competitive process. Prior to every competition, areal maps shall be analyzed and the track data visualized on the maps to give the competitor necessary guiding data, color marks, legends and tips. It is also helpful to have a virtual model of the terrain available on the computer – which may be described as a mathematical model with the core data of the competitive terrain, its spectral specifications and different objects found on the track. The model is designed to facilitate the interactive visualizing procedure and simulate race across the terrain. The list of cartographic software tools for the virtual modeling of terrain is presently limited enough: it includes VirtualGIS, Multigen, ArcView 3DAnalyst, Panorama GIS software tools etc.

For the terrain presentation being realistic and usable enough, the virtual model shall provide the following data: [4]:

  • Terrain specification data (digital model of terrain);
  • Raster scans of the terrain (scanned maps or aerial photographs);
  • Vector data;
  • Legend;
  • 3D objects within the terrain (models imported from other software tools); and
  • Extra raster scans or animations.

No special training is required for the 3D modeling, with the process inputs limited to 2D maps and altitude matrix. These input data are generally sufficient for the 3D model design for any competitive location. Then the model shall be tested on a real-time basis to mimic the athlete’s race across the terrain; and it is also possible to find the easiest track and memorize the reference points and terrain on the way.

The modern GPS navigation and geo-information tools are also being widely applied in the modern cross-city orienteering events [7]. The cross-city orienteering provides the means to learn more about own city, build the map reading skills and improve the ability to analyze situations and find ways in unknown places, with the competitions accessible for a wide range of enthusiasts from the newcomers to professional qualifiers for the European and World championships. The competitors are required to find a check point in the city using a 1:40 000 map.

Presently the Saint Petersburg government hosts Sprint Tour SPB training and competitive events with participation of the university students who appreciate the events for the opportunity to know more about the city, visit its historical sites and parks. The competitors’ maps indicate potentially dangerous locations, areas closed for access, private property, flowerbeds, green zones and other important objects on the track. In major competitive event the competitors have GPS-sensors to have their progress traced and indicated on large screens in the starting and finishing areas and online.

Therefore, the applied geo-information systems give the means to:

  • Produce the cartographic materials compliant with the rules of competitions for use by the competitors, referees and event service staff;
  • Help competitors get ready for a competitive event using a 3D model of the terrain to find the optimal track and prevent possible errors; and
  • Improve the safety standards and popularity of the events using GPS-sensors for the progress visualizing purposes.

Conclusion. Applications of the modern geo-information systems in sports are highly promising and beneficial as they make it possible to improve the service quality in the existing competitions and design the new ones. The GPS-sensors applied in the process give the means to closely monitor competitions and even prevent violations and/or accidents in some cases, particularly when the competitions take place in the hard-to-reach zones. The modern geo-information systems may be applied to facilitate the precompetitive training, with the 3D models of the terrain used to detect difficult locations and efficiently plan the track. Such competitions may provide an impetus for the competitors in their studies of the modern geo-location methods, satellite navigation/ positioning systems [11], digital/ paper maps processing and analyzing methods and different modern geo-information systems.


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Objective of the study was to overview the modern geo-information technologies applicable in competitive orienteering events. It gives a brief description of the relevant computer systems and the best ways to apply them in practical competitions and considers the relevant problems. Prior to a competitive orienteering event, for instance, every competitor receives a special digital chipset to track his/her movement all over the distance. The competitive orienteering events in the Chelyabinsk region are managed with application of the German electronic chipsets SportIdent. Modern competitive orienteering is ranked among the extreme sport disciplines that are required to be served by 3D process analyzing systems covering the subject area. The 3D model building process requires not too much time, with only a 2D map and an altitude matrix of the competitive area required for design of the 3D terrain of the area. Then the model may be tested on a real-time basis to simulate the competitor’s track across the terrain. The GPS-navigation and geo-information tools are being widely used in the modern cross-city sprints, with the GPS-sensors making it possible to track the process and even prevent violations and/or accidents in some cases, particularly when the competitions take place in the hard-to-reach zones. Therefore, the applied geo-information systems are highly beneficial for some modern sports.