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UNISYS Wireless Golf Scoring System

Unisys' wireless Golf Scoring System went mobile at this year's U.S. Open. Here's how the company ensures the system's reliability, predictability and performance.

Whatever it is that drives their obsession, they know that speed can stand in the way of their primary goal: to provide rock-solid scoring services for professional golf tournaments around the world. So Unisys limits the wireless network's bandwidth to 2 Mbps, less than one fifth the maximum speed of an 802.11b network. It works because Jeff Schroeder, technical manager for global sports marketing at Unisys, designed the wireless applications used by the scoring system to behave like they are traveling over a 28.8-Kbps dial-up connection.

Why all this concern about speed? Because an 11-Mbps wireless connection is more finicky than a 2-Mbps link, and on a tight schedule finicky is not an option. Schroeder is as stingy as Scrooge when it comes to bandwidth. A good example of his spendthrift ways is his approach to managing the wireless networks. Off-the-shelf wireless management applications tend to blast packets about in a willy-nilly fashion that is unacceptable to the miser of wireless golf scoring. So Schroeder wrote a monitoring tool that sends about eight packets every 20 seconds to find out the status of the access points and the access points associated with the target access point.

That Was Then...

Week after week, year after year since 1985, Unisys has been helping the United States Golf Association (USGA) provide scoring services for all its tournaments, including the U.S. Open, which wrapped up on June 15 in Olympia Fields, Ill., about 23 miles southwest of Chicago. The service has changed over the years, but not as dramatically as you might expect. Until just two years ago, Unisys was using a UHF-based system with equipment from Norand. Walking scorers kept the scores on paper and passed them to greenside scorers at the completion of each hole. The greenside scorers uploaded each golfer's scores to a central Unisys server using a wireless dumb terminal.

In 2001, the Norand equipment was retired. Intermec Technologies Corp., which had acquired Norand, stepped into the partnership with Unisys, bringing significant 802.11b experience and a slate of 802.11b equipment, including access points and wireless terminals based on Microsoft's Pocket PC platform. Walking scorers still kept the scores on paper, but the greenside devices were now communicating, via the 802.11b wireless standard, with one of the 20 or 30 Intermec MobileLAN access 2101 access points strategically placed throughout the course.

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