Dolphin Timing System update

For teams using the Dolphin Timing System for swim meets, please see below from USA Swimming.


Dolphin Timing System Waiver Extension

To: LSC General Chairs, LSC Officials Chairs, Rules and Regulations Committee, Times and Recognition Committee, Board of Directors, USA Swimming Officials, USA Swimming Coach and Club Contacts

This memo extends the waiver granted on October 3, 2020 to May 31, 2022 to give the Technical Task Force formed by the Board of Directors additional time to verify the functionality, reliability, and consistency of the Dolphin Timing System.  The Task Force will also be evaluating other WIFI timing systems with the view of verifying their functionality, reliability, and consistency.  The Task Force is targeting early Spring 2022 to complete its review of these systems and if appropriate, to propose changes to the Rules and Regulations to allow for the use of approved wireless timing systems at USA Swimming sanctioned meets.

Below is the language from the original waiver.


This memo addresses the use of the Colorado Timing Dolphin Timing System functioning in the Semi-Automatic Timing (Synchronized Start/Manual Stop) mode, which Colorado Timing describes as: “Connect the starter unit to any CTS electronic start system. All stopwatches will start timing with the start system signal. Each stopwatch stops when the lane timer stops it. These times are wirelessly transmitted and saved for immediate access by your meet management program.”

The working group has spent untold hours investigating this system and whether USA Swimming should approve it.  This must be based on a conclusion that the system is reliable, and the possible points of failure do not pose a meaningful risk that the times will not be accurate.  If this system is approved, then the times from any swims would be an official time usable for entry and recognition purposes.

The following USA Swimming Rules address the semi-automatic timing system:

Rule 102.24.2 B provides: “B Semi-Automatic — A timing system activated by a starting device and stopped by buttons pushed by timers at the finish touch of the swimmer.”

Rule 102.24.3 A (2) provides: “(2) Semi-Automatic, with three (3) or two (2) buttons per lane, each operated by a separate timer.”

Rule 102.24.3.B (2) provides: “(2) Semi-Automatic with one (1), two (2), or three (3) buttons, each operated by a separate timer.”

Rule 102.17.3 provides, in part: “Lane Timers — Officials assigned as Lane Timers may simultaneously operate two dissimilar devices (one watch and one button) but not two similar devices (two watches or two buttons).”

Rule 102.17.3 B provides: “B Stand directly over the assigned lane at the finish to observe a touch above, at, or below the surface of the water and stop the watch and/or push the semi-automatic system button when any part of the swimmer’s body touches the wall.”

Furthermore, Rule 102.24.4 addresses how to determine the official time and speaks to buttons.  See also, Appendix 1.

Several weeks ago, we established a working group to review this timing system with the view of determining if it was acceptable for use at approved, sanctioned or observed swim meets.  It should be noted at the outset that USA Swimming has already acknowledged the use of this system in non-sanctioned, virtual or other meets.  In that regard, USA Swimming added a non-sanctioned (virtual) meet classification in SWIMS to help bridge the gap, during these trying times. We have added functionality on the website so there are times searches specific to meets/times from non-sanctioned meets. USA Swimming’s staff and volunteers are daily seeking to find ways to help teams when they don't have timing systems to run meets.

Regarding the Dolphin system, the Rule applicable to semi-automatic timing does not support that the Dolphin system is an acceptable timing system.  There are several reasons but the most obvious is the language of the Rule itself, which states:

"B Semi-Automatic — A timing system activated by a starting device and stopped by buttons pushed by timers at the finish touch of the swimmer."

These "buttons" are hard wired to a timing console.  Attached as Exhibit A is the diagram from Colorado Timing that illustrates this system.  This diagram shows the Colorado timing system, using a cable to which the starter system, the touch pads and the buttons are attached.  This is a closed wired system.  The semi-automatic mode is operated without touch pads.  When the semi-automatic system is used, the buttons are the primary and a manual watch or watches are used as backups.

The Dolphin semi-automatic system is a wireless closed mesh system.  Attached hereto as Exhibit B is a diagram from Colorado showing the Dolphin system.  Unlike the hardwire system with a single timing console and buttons, the Dolphin system basically has multiple timing systems using wireless communications.  This fact clearly differentiates the two systems and brought into question the consistency, reliability, and functionality of the Dolphin system to properly report official times.

The essential components of the Dolphin System are the following:

Starter Unit – (Connected to the Start System) THE TIMEKEEPER – Responsible for sending the start signal and synchronizing the time between all devices during the race.

Base Unit – Connected to the PC – Responsible for recording and writing the times so the software can save them and also constantly synchronizing the time between all devices during the race.

Watches – Responsible for reporting the time when the button is pressed at the finish and also synchronizing the time between all devices during the race.

For example, each Dolphin watch is itself a timing system and when run with two per lane that means there are at least 12 (6 lane pool), 16 (8 lane) or more microprocessors gathering the times not one as in hardwired, cable system with one timing system as depicted in first diagram.  Importantly, the watches communicate wirelessly "over the air" to the starter unit and the base unit which is attached to a computer with software which later speaks with Hytek or some similar program.[1] The system is started by an electronic start system, such as the Infinity or Championship Start System, which has the starter unit attached and the starter unit sends a wireless signal to each watch.[2]  The procedure requires the watches to be reset before the next start.[3]  Once the race is completed, the watches send the times over the air to the base unit, which then communicates to the computer, which then is normally imported into Hytek or some other program for further processing.  We understand that once the race is completed and the information sent to the base unit, the information is not stored in the watches.[4]

Based on our review, we find sufficient grounds to grant a limited waiver of the requirements of Rule 102.24.3 as it relates to the use of the Dolphin Timing System (used in the Semi-Automatic Timing (Synchronized Start/Manual Stop) mode) for official times until August 31, 2021, during which time data will be collected to further verify the functionality, reliability, and consistency of the system and to address possible changes to the Rules and Regulations to allow for wireless timing systems.  See Rule 202.4.13

Should you wish to further discuss this waiver, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Clark R. Hammond
USA Swimming Chair, Rules and Regulations Committee


[1] Colorado Timing notes that its wireless system may be impacted by cellphone and Wi-Fi systems working in the same environment and that it is important to make sure the wireless channel being used for the system is correct.  The Dolphin system has 16 channels for the operator to choose from which would allow for this issue to be a non-factor so long as the operator ensures the right channel is being used before the start of the meet.  Additionally, Colorado Timing warns that the base unit should not be obstructed by walls or other obstacles that may interfere with its ability to communicate with the watches.  This is a critical factor on the reliability and consistency of the system.
[2] When used in a semi-automatic mode, the starter unit is constantly synchronizing with each watch and base unit.  In essence, the watches are always in sync with the starter unit and base unit.
[3] The timer does not reset the watch for the next race.  The starter resets the watch.  We have learned that if the Dolphin watch is stopped accidentally and the timer notices this before the race finishes, the timer can restart the watch and the time it will continue as if it has not been activated.  This feature is an important aspect to determining the system reliability and functionality. 
[4] The working group intends over the coming months to further investigate the reliability of the wireless system due to the multiple communication points where the system might fail.  However, the working group feels that the information gathered to date indicates the communications is reliable due to the mesh closed system being used.