March 20, 2017

Stewarding: there’s an app for that . . . soon

Anyone who has competed as a soloist or with a band – and that’s 99% of you reading this – will understand that a competition is often only as good as its organization, and “organization” often means two things: the draw and the stewarding.

Maël Sicard-Cras, a resident of Glasgow and a native of Douarnenez, Brittany, is a competing soloist and a piper with the Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band and, by profession, a software developer. He recognized the potential to improve the whole draw and stewarding process and has put together a mobile app, still in beta-testing mode, that has already streamlined a few complicated contests in Scotland.

The recent Duncan Johnstone Memorial Solo Piping Competition at the National Piping Centre assembled 75-odd B- and C-Grade contestants in several events, with a number of progressive tuning rooms and orders of play.

But the usual battalion of stewards was reduced to a small platoon thanks to his new app, and, by all accounts, the event ran like a Swiss watch, with competitors knowing exactly who was playing what, where, when, and for how long.

“The app idea came to me as a competitor, because I wish I knew how long I had to get ready, or when would my first performance be,” Sicard-Cras said. “I also realized that during pipe band competitions, a lot of people end up missing performances because they don’t know where or when they happen. So I came up with a solution.”

His smartphone app is operated by the event organizers and stewards. With it, they can update anyone interested on performers’ statuses and times, even with a “scoreboard” overview of all events shown on a publicly-viewable screen – all in real-time.

“This concept can be easily used by organizers to improve the smooth running of their event,” he added. “In the context of big solo competitions, for example, you don’t have to run around to find out times or stewards; you just check your phone.”

At the Duncan Johnstone, all times and performer statuses of all running events were on one screen located at the entrance of the National Piping Centre, helping to take off much of the burden and stress from stewards and competitors alike

“One of the principles of the app is to use estimations for performance times in order to get times predictions as correctly as possible. For example, 16 minutes for a piobaireachd or seven-minutes for an MSR (taking into account tuning time). But the app will intelligently update these estimations based on actual performance times during the day, hence making time more accurate as the day progresses.”

Competitors off in the distance in the first tuning room simply check their phone to see if the second or final tuning room is free. A player in final tuning can see exactly how far along the competing player is in his or her performance, allowing timing to be brought down to a fine art.

Sicard-Cras’s app is not yet available to the public, but he expects hope to have it ready by the late 2017 or early 2018, after he has added more features and refinements based on feedback.

The effectiveness of the app on the day of an event will, of course, depend on Internet connectivity, so a strong and steady signal will be essential. And currently, the app requires manual re-inputting of names and draws, but Sicard-Cras plans to offer a central website where organizers can create their own events. “People could enter from the website, and their account will have a portfolio of tunes they’ll manage and choose from to submit their entry. If organizers prefer to use their own websites or spreadsheets, I’d help them set up the entries.”

The app itself will be available for free on all major app stores, and the service provided to get the event set up and usable with the app will come at a fee.






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