Bluetooth At Events

Our team is looking in to creating some type of electronic scouting method for use at events. I am aware that in the past teams could not set up WIFI networks and were not suppose to arrange for internet access. Because of these restrictions, I was wondering if anyone could tell me if Bluetooth was restricted as well. The only thing I can find from last years rules is section 4.4.1 which states:

4.4.1 Robot Wireless Control
 Robots may be operated via wireless control only on the competition fields and the practice field with the FIRST supplied radio; and
 Teams are not allowed to set up their own 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz or 5GHz) wireless communication (access points or ad-hoc networks) in the venue

Your best bet is using some hosted server and 3G or 4G smartphones for web access.

<R79> Other than the system provided by the ARENA, no other form of wireless communications shall be used to communicate to, from or within the OPERATOR CONSOLE
Examples of prohibited wireless systems include, but are not limited to, active wireless network cards and Bluetooth devices.

If your trying to set up the network with tablets(because they have bluetooth, wifi but not 3g) then I would set up bluetooth and just step out side of the arena to sync your scouting data. If you need real time both of the other suggestions were tried by our team and were highly successful.

You’ll notice that that rule you quoted (<R97>) is in the Robot section of the Game Manual, while the 4.4.1 rule that the OP posted is from the At the Events section of the Administrative Manual. While this does not preclude the rule from consideration altogether, it does diminish its usefulness in preventing Bluetooth networking. <R97> is intended for Operator Console communication, internal and external.

That said, I would encourage development of a system that doesn’t use Bluetooth; it may be possible that FIRST develops a game component that uses that band, in which case they would take measures to ban it. (Note that NXTs on Minibots had to have their Bluetooth disabled.)

One old classic method is to have paper reports go to a computer in the stands for entry. No wireless needed, and no wires needed either (except to keep the computer running).

My mistake EricH,
However further investigation on wikipedia/bing reveals that bluetooth sends data on the 2.4 GHz bandwidth. Still, OP, you should post this on the FIRST forums for a GDC member to answer with an official verdict because there is some gray area

The practical answer is that firstly, the Q&A is inactive between seasons so no ruling will be forthcoming (until the next set of rules are in force), and secondly, the rule is clear as is, so interpretation isn’t really needed. There’s no interpretation of “802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz or 5GHz) wireless communication (access points or ad-hoc networks)” that includes Bluetooth.

Legalistically, the robot rules only really make sense if they apply strictly to the robot (and its control system)—so unless FIRST says otherwise, don’t worry about unless your controls are configured to speak Bluetooth. And even if you could get an answer, the Q&A is supposed to clarify rather than add new things to rules—so unless FIRST changes that for 2012, expect that an official will give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re clearly following the rules, even despite a Q&A response to the contrary.

The technical answer follows from references like these: HP, Cisco, a trade magazine.

Your question is about Bluetooth. The only good answer is that we won’t know until the 2012 rules come out. But maybe.

Last year we were unable to to get permission to establish a local (not connected to Internet) wifi network for our scouting server, so we just used wires. The router/switch/hub runs on 12 Volts DC and operated the whole day on a single robot battery. The scouts sit near each other anyway, so it wasn’t a burden.

At CMP we didn’t have AC in the bleachers, so we used a 12V-110V inverter and a specially-prepared (for safety) marine deep-cycle battery to run the printer and ‘emergency’ laptop chargers; laptop batteries were charged in the pit, and the server was another laptop.

Last time I was at a regional I looked at the sheer number of bluetooth devices transmitting and it was over a hundred. I suspect many people don’t know how or simply neglect to turn off the functionality when they don’t need it. We saw everything from Wii motes that people were using for scouting to people’s laptops and phones. Given you have to pair with device names that might make things a bit interesting especially if you get dropped and have to rebuild your network.

On a side note, what wattage inverter did you use Don?

Thanks for all of the input! We were hoping on using Bluetooth so that we could use tablets and not have 3g service on them. I like the idea of using LAN with a switch, but that would mean we would need to move to some type of computer. Right now we are still in the planning stages, I really do not want to spend a lot of time designing a system that we won’t be able to use. I like the idea of creating a Bluetooth sync, where we could just step out and sync data between the devices if Bluetooth is indeed banned, because we could just use that as a backup if the need arises.

I know at events (st. louis included), I used my lapop’s bluetooth chip and my cell phone’s 3g in the pits to download a file from my email inbox for a slideshow to play in the pits.

The rules last year specifically disallowed wireless communications categorized as IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n.

Bluetooth is classified as IEEE 802.15.

You should be good (assuming the rules do not change).

Matt,
If you look at Bluetooth specifications you will find that it is intended for one master and up to seven slaves with typical distances of less than 10 meters. If this meets your requirements, then there doesn’t seem to be anything in the 2011 rules that would prevent it’s use.