I have spent some time at, and after, various competitions thinking about how the remote to the fencing scoring machine could be improved. Being trained a mechanical engineer makes that second nature, if it was not there before one entered technical University. I have been tossing various ideas about, never thinking everything through or writing my thoughts down. However, after a recent competition my thoughts have finally come together. Let me present them, in three levels:
- Minor improvement. The remote comes equipped with a wrist strap, so that one does not have to worry about dropping it. Also, the button for random assignment of priority also rearms the remote, and sets the clock to one minute. I have seen it happen that the overtime minute went in its entirety, and after it ended there was a discussion whether the referee had rearmed the remote – no lights went off, and the guy with priority was then awarded then but the coach of his opponent claimed that the lack of lights was due to the remote not being rearmed by the referee. It is wholly unnecessary to leave this kind of argument a possibility when one could do away with it with a simple technological fix.
- Major design change. The remote comes equipped with two velcro (or magnetic) straps, so that the referee can strap it to the back of his hand. The start/stop button, and only that button, is on a part of the remote that projects from the remote and is held between the thumb and index finger of the hand on which the remote is strapped. The referee operates all other buttons with his other hand. The reason for putting the start/stop button in a place of its own is that it is the only button which needs to be operated in a time-critical manner, all other buttons can wait the few seconds it takes to move the other hand over to the hand on which the remote is strapped. In this way, the remote does not interfere with hand signals, and it is possible to write notes on the score page without putting down the remote. The feeler gauges for foil and epee could possibly be strung onto the remote, so that the referee does not have to pick them up and put them down for every bout.
- Remote of the 21st century. This remote is strapped to the back of the hand also, but it does not have any physical buttons. Instead, the entire visible side of the remote is a touch-sensitive screen, as if it were a large smartphone. At the top of the screen, there are three buttons that are always visible. One used used to set the weapon. The second is used to toggle between poule, DE and team matches. The third is used to toggle between match control and filling in results. The referee first sets the type of bout, and then the lower part of the screen is automatically customized to the rules applicable for that type of bout. The button configuration is optimized for each type of bout, lessening referee workload and taking away a whole lot of possible user error modes.Once the bout is over, the referee toggles the remote to results filling in mode. Then, the remote asks if the result should be used as is, or if there should be some change. During this, the poule table, DE strip, or team match form becomes visible on the screen, whichever is applicable. The referee then fills in the score on the remote, removing the need for the score paper and clipboard altogether. Once the poule, DE match, or team match is over, the referee pushes a send button, and the DT gets all the information instantly.