Eye On The Hog

The Olympic Curling drew to close today, with the USA claiming gold at Sweden’s expense. Life – which had been on hold for the duration of the gold medal match – returned to normal across the US, and we were left (our lives newly bereft of granite and little sweeping brushes) with just one question following an arty close-up camera angle between ends:

Why are there LEDs on top of the curling stones?

This does seem to be a ridiculously technologically advanced addition to what is a sport basically involving some lumps of rock and a bit of ice.

And occasionally, some meldonium.

But I digress. Often.

In previous times, the LED question would have burned away at my brain for some arbitrary time period – let’s say about four years. But now we have Google, and the household’s curiosity could be put to bed long before even the Swedes were.

The answer (well obviously, durr!) is Eye On The Hog.

EotH is your goto system for Hog Line Violation Detection.

And it’s not new:

The concept for an electronic hog line violation detection system came from Professor Eric Salt at the University of Saskatchewan. He offered the concept as a fourth-year design project for a group of electrical engineering students. The original design team included Professor Eric Salt and students; Jarret Adam, Jason Smith, Johanna Koch, and Kevin Ackerman. Startco staff had some early involvement as Eric approached his long time friend Joe Dudiak of Startco to mentor the students. The U of S design had a permanent magnet at the bottom of the rock and a magnetic field sensing strip imbedded in the ice cable connected to a display. The initial in-ice sensing strip was assembled in the Startco facility in the winter of 1999/2000.

After the students graduated, Startco was approached to finish the design and to take the product to market. Although the design was extensively modified, Startco pays royalties to the U of S and the students for sharing concepts and contacts. After over a year of research and development Startco released the Eye on the Hog system.

Neil Houston of the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) expressed interest in the project from the beginning. The CCA was the first organization to purchase the system for use in their competitions.

I did actually wonder what the system was for making sure that the curlers (curling term) didn’t hold onto their stones (curling term) a bit too far. I’d assumed that there were judges at the side of the sheet (curling term) at the hog line (curling term) to ensure that there was no contact twixt curler and stone beyond that which was allowed.

How wrong I was. It’s all electronic, thanks to EotH.

And once you have seen the LEDs, you can’t unsee them. Of course, you only ever see the green ones in use, because theses are athletes at the top of their game (curling) and they release the stones well before the hog line. But in a competition of such fine margins, we’re lucky that Professor Salt and his team was on hand 20 years ago to help us out in detecting curling cheats.

I wonder if he came up with the drug testing idea too?