Portfolio » Bata Positioning System


We first started developing a tracking system in 2002, for use in the Batavierenrace. After a chaotic race in April 2002, we decided to start developing a system that would give us more insight into the race proceedings. Our idea was to combine GSM, GPS and the internet into a system capable of displaying the location of our runner live on a webpage. This system becamse the Bata Positioning System, or BPS.

Since public mapping services still had to appear (Google Maps first surfaced in 2005), we had to build our own. Hardware that combined GPS and GSM was not available either at the time. After a few months of hard work, the result was a highly innovative live tracking system.

The first version of BPS was deployed during the Batavierenrace of 2003. An improved version of the GPS tracking system (BPS.2) has been used in subsequent Batavierenrace (2004, 2005 and 2006) as well as other event like the The Outdoor Challenge (2004 and 2005) and the Elfsteden Roeimarathon (2005 and 2006).

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2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, lbs, live

2002 – 2005


The Batavierenrace is a relay race between Nijmegen and Enschede. The race is held over a distance of 185km and is divided into 25 stages. With over 300 teams participating, this leads to a world-record 7500 participants. We first participated with our own team in 2002.

The race starts at midnight, and especially the first half of the race is very chaotic. After the start, the race heads east from Nijmegen towards Germany. Imagine 300 teams driving through Germany in their own van to the next checkpoint in the darkness, in an effort to pick up their runner and drop the next runner without losing time! Almost eighteen hours, 200 kilometers and two restarts later, the teams finish on the campus of the University of Twente. After the race, it’s time for the largest student party in the Netherlands.

Enter BPS

During the race, you essentially don’t have a clue what’s happening, or where any of the runners are. We started developing the BPS as a tool to get more insight into the race proceedings. The first version of the BPS was used in the Batavierenrace of 2003, with the first version of our hardware (this is way before complete GPS trackers were available). This hardware contained a complete mobile phone, through which GPS messages were transferred to the server every minute by SMS.

Using maps from Falk, we built a simple map interface that took each view from one of the larger files stored on a server. To view a demonstration of the first version of the BPS in action, please click the image below (the link opens an animation of approx. 1 Mb).


Our experience with, and responses to, the system were very positive, so we decided to continue the effort. In the year leading up to the 2004 race, a second version of the BPS was developed. For BPS.2, we developed a new version of the hardware, based on a Sony-Ericsson GSM/GPRS module, improved the infrastructure and developed a new user interface. The new hardware used GPRS instead of SMS for data transfer, although SMS was still used as a fallback. Also, the new hardware cut size and weight by a factor of four.

The user interface of BPS.2 used a map that combines a number of small tiles. This interface preceded well-known mapping sites like Google Maps by more than a year, but operated very similarly (although it contained less JavaScript functionality).

A minor version improvement, BPS2.1, also featured aerial photographs, kindly sponsored to us by Aerodata.

The second version of the BPS system was used in events like the Outdoor Challenge (2004 and 2005), the Elfsteden Roeimarathon (2005) and the Batavierenraces of 2004, 2005 and 2006. Because we were all busy wrapping up our studies at the time, BPS never outgrew its status as a hobby project; however, it did prove to be the foundation for SMARTposition.


Köbben, B. J., D. Boekestein, S. P. Ekkebus & P. G. Uithol (2007): Bata Positioning System – A real time tracking system for the world’s largest relay race (PDF)