The International Chess Federation (FIDE) is the governing body of the sport of chess that regulates all international chess competitions. It includes the National Chess Federations of 190 countries as affiliate members and manages international player rankings.
Monitoring such a high volume of global activity is a challenge. To improve transparency and visualization, FIDE began using digital boards in major competitions, but the existing boards, based on NFC readers on each board square and in each piece, cost thousands of dollars.
Professor Simon Lissin, an entrepreneur and chess afficionado, contacted IMDT with an idea: to create a digital chess board that would be accessible to all competitive chess clubs. In order to be marketable globally, it would need to cost <$30, work with any set of chess pieces, communicate with cellphones via BL and meet FIDE regulations so it could be used in FIDE competitions worldwide.
The IMDT team, lead by CTO Amnon Tadmor, started with a brainstorming session to figure out how to manage the low cost and long longevity constraints of the product specs. The solution they developed is based on an optic element in all 64 squares, that can identify where the pieces are by sensing light.
Using an advanced algorithm, they identify each move according to where the piece started and where it ended up.
IMDT implemented the end-to-end design, including the hardware and mechanical designs, firmware and the Android app. The team chose to use phototransistors, which are significantly less expensive than NFC, and enable the use of any kind of pieces, meeting the product specs. One of the challenges was working in different light conditions, but the IMDT team overcame the challenge by changing amplifier gains in the hardware, along with correlated change in the firmware decision threshold.
“The solution met the extremely strict specifications that we defined and was thoroughly tested. The IMDT team is made up of high-level hardware and software engineers, who are very professional,
talented and inventive, and are easy to communicate with. They are not afraid to tackle the most challenging problems and are very good in generating innovative ideas and approaches.” Professor Lissin