Scouting with the cloud

Hey cd. I’m looking at redoing my teams data collection and bi system and right now we have our system completely offline. We have our scouters fill out forms on tablets. That result is saved to a flash drive and brought to another computer where we compile the data for our drive team. I was wondering do teams use lte pucks or other cell connections at comps to use things like google sheets for scouting? I have heard some teams do. What do you do if it’s to slow. I know it’s hard to pull up match replays at the comps my team goes to but that could just be me

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Don’t rely on cell service, and you can’t use anything that makes a wifi hotspot

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We use sheets offline then update every now and then.

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We use Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Tableau Public for online scouting. I’m not sure how long we’ve been using this approach, but it’s been at least five years. We use cell data with scouters’ personal phones for data entry and we use cell data by tethering phones to laptops for data management and in-pit analytics. In the time we’ve been doing this, there has only been one case where cell data speed/availability at the event has been an issue and that was this past year at the new Electric City regional in Anderson, SC. As far as I know, we did not miss any data collection at this one event, but there were times when we wondered if we would get a form to load in time for a match or get the analytics to pull up in a reasonable time to inform the drive team. In all other cases, it’s been a simple and convenient system to get data rapidly and continuously from the stands to the pit.

We’ve never been entirely satisfied with Google Forms for data entry because there is no “plus/minus” form element for numeric input. Radio buttons and short text elements are available and can be used for numeric input, but these are still cumbersome compared to simply clicking a plus button each time a scoring action is completed.

I expect that we are going to work on a new front-end this season to replace Google Forms with a custom web form that includes plus/minus buttons. The back-end plan is less clear. My guess is that we will try for two options. The first option would be online writing to Google Sheets via cell data if we can get the Google Sheets API to work from probably a Node.js server. The second option would be an offline mode with 2D bar codes to transfer data to Google Sheets in case we find ourselves at an event with inadequate cell data.

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We use paper forms feeding a laptop with a USB-connected hotspot. Coach gets the data on their phone either from the sheet or from someone screenshooting it to the group chat. It’s proven reliable at venues where we operate, but YMMV.

We use Android studio and some tablets we have to make the app, then we upload the data via cable to a scouting laptop where we can visualize it in Tableau. We are looking through alternate ways to scout in the offseason though…

A few years back, I definitely would have given the same advice. And, if your venue is a school, I think it definitely still applies.

I would say that, in 2022, most large venues that host sporting events or concerts or whatnot have figured out the cell coverage issue. We’ve had success at four different venues with it now. Further, if you have enough students with unlimited data and a willingness to use it for the team, having a diversity of providers also buys you some robustness.

Not saying it’s totally OK to roll the dice. I’d recommend showing up with paper backups regardless. But I do think it’s a surer bet that cell service will be available now, and it’ll only get better with time.

You can use a QR code and a handheld code reader to collect the data and transfer it to the computer you are using to connect to the cloud via cell service. You can read more about this system in these whitepapers: Scouting App Systems - Citrus Circuits

Another example of this kind of system that is available for teams to use is deployed at https://scout.iraiders.org/ and open sourced on Github. This is a well-written responsive web app that can be configured for future games using a simple JSON file.

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Our team, 1706, uses a bluetooth system on tablets, see https://www.chiefdelphi.com/t/team-1706-scouting-summary/411247. We have the files transfered from the tablets to a host computer and compile the text files from there. It has worked really well for us and never requires a cellular update since Google Sheets allows for offline modifications.

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None of the 4 venues I did FRC events in this season had good cell service for my T-Mobile phone. I’d advise against it still for that reason.

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