How Dimension Data is revolutionising the Tour de France in 2017

Dimension Data has brought machine learning to the Tour de France, providing deeper race insights for cycling fans around the world.

Dimension Data’s data analytics platform, which was developed in partnership with Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), organisers of Tour de France, incorporates machine learning and complex algorithms that combine live and historical race data to provide deeper levels of insight as the race unfolds.

Fans also benefit from rider profiles to understand more about environments and circumstances in which riders perform best.

“There is no part of the sports experience that won’t be radically impacted by advances in technology,” says Scott Gibson, Dimension Data’s Group Executive – Digital Practice.

“Technology is radically transforming sport, and you can already see this with the emergence of eSports and the integration of IoT into sports such as cricket and tennis, which is giving fans real-time information.

Tour de France has a 6 hour TV production for three weeks and needed to consider how to stay relevant in a digital world.

As part of a new pilot this year, A.S.O. and Dimension Data are exploring the role of predictive analytics technologies to assess the likelihood of various race scenarios, such as whether the peloton will catch the breakaway riders at certain stages of the race.

“As more technology is introduced into sport, the viewing experience is transforming, and its popularity increases,” Gibson added.

“What’s especially exciting for us is how we’re helping A.S.O. to attract a new generation of digitally savvy fans, and how advanced technologies like machine learning are opening up new possibilities for providing the insights that today’s fans demand.”

At the core of the live tracking and data analytics solution are GPS transponders installed under the saddles of each bike.

The data collected from these transponders is combined with external data about the course gradient and prevailing weather conditions to generate insights such as live speed and the location of individual riders, the distance between riders, and composition of groups within the race.

This year, the solution will create and analyse over 3 billion data points during the 21 stages of the Tour, a significant increase from last year’s 128 million data points.

“Today, our followers want to be immersed in the event,” said Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, A.S.O. They’re more digitally engaged on social media than ever

“They’re more digitally engaged on social media than ever before and want a live and compelling second-screen experience during the Tour. Technology enables us to completely transform their experience of the race.”

The enhanced Tour de France solution uses a fully cloud-based, virtualised data centre, which provides scale, and means fewer people are required on the ground to enable the solution.

The cloud also provides geographic flexibility because it can be managed from anywhere in the world.

This year, Dimension Data’s technical teams work together across four continents via hyper-connected mobile collaboration hubs equipped with the latest digital and virtual workplace technologies.

Some Tour de France highlights also include:

  • 198 riders in 22 teams will generate over 150 million geospatial and environmental data readings along the 3,540km route.
  • The Tour de France live-tracking website, letour.fr, which supported an average of 2,000 page requests per second in 2016, has been enhanced to support 25,000 page requests per second this year.
  • In 2016, there were 6,100 hours of TV broadcasts in 190 countries across 100 channels globally. Thanks to A.S.O., the number of TV broadcast hours will increase from 80 in 2016 to 105 this year and the race will be broadcast starting from the first kilometre of every stage.

“The Tour de France solution is an interesting showcase to demonstrate to our clients what we can do in all sorts of verticals and to show what is possible in the digital sphere,” Gibson adds.

“There is no such thing as a digital strategy. Rather, it’s about how you engage the customer. Disruptors aren’t the ones that own the technology, but the ones that own the customers.”

The challenges associated with the Tour de France solution illustrates the same challenges that many businesses face today as they consider moving into the digital world.

“Data analytics is the new oil, and your level of insight into your data is now critical to how you respond to your clients,” says Stephen Green, CTO for MEA at Dimension Data.

“As we give insight into riders, the live data is mixed with historic information to create dynamic profiles on riders that allow us to forecast winners. Similarly, many companies have lots of legacy data as well, and we can help them trawl through this and make it relevant to the work that they are doing today.”

In terms of hybrid IT, people in the workforce are expecting instant solutions, but for businesses, this can be a problem and most large enterprises that intend to deploy a solution are unlikely to see it go live in under 18 months.

“Scalability of growth is met through hybrid IT, and we want to assist companies to get deploy solutions in a more real-time fashion,” adds Green. Instant computing power and scalability to deal with unpredictable race environment – it’s an incredible feat considering the volume of data we are talking about.

“The Tour de France solution demonstrates how instant computing power and scalability enable us to deal with an unpredictable race environment, which is an incredible feat considering the volume of data we are talking about.”

Cybersecurity is a top priority for the Tour de France. During the 2016 race, Dimension Data’s cloud-based security system flagged 1,409,769 suspicious access attempts, which were blocked.

“It’s become more important than ever to safeguarding companies’ most valuable assets – data – in ways that don’t restrict business, or in this case, the race,” says Green.

“We had to do a lot of wok in locking down the environment, which required us to move it into the cloud and invoke all our cloud-based security.”

Finally, the Tour de France solution demonstrates the effectiveness of the digital workplace, keeping commentators, live reporters and data scientists productive by helping them work in ways they want.

“We showcased the art of the impossible – people working in a data truck, and out of the London office. It is a distributed workforce brought together in a digital workspace where they are able to collaborate in real time,” concludes Green.

“This is the most relevant discussion we are having with our clients – how we are creating dynamic and highly connected environments.”

For more information, visit the Dimension Data’s Tour de France microsite.

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How Dimension Data is revolutionising the Tour de France in 2017