Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling
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Transforming Sports and Entertainment with Data

 

Big Data becomes the future of sport and entertainment as IoT takes us closer to the action.

Firstly, congratulations to Welshman Geraint Thomas! 2018 winner of the worlds most famous cycle race, the Tour de France. Only the third British rider to win and the first Welshman, Da Iawn!

This year’s Tour de France has been a bit of a revelation to me. I love watching boring sport on TV, a long weekend of Cycling, Snooker or Golf are pretty much my idea of heaven. Yawn, I hear you say but I love the tedium and the laconic, quietly humorous but aged commentators and I love the fact it takes patience, knowledge and insight to enjoy the intricacies and strategies behind long-form competition.

However, I am of a certain age and the 21st century sees a different kind of audience that demands more information at a faster rate and on new platforms beyond broadcast TV. Innovators in their field, Dimension Data invited Tech Trends to the 13th stage of the Tour this year to see how they are changing the way the Tour is covered and how their groundbreaking data gathering and digital storytelling is engaging a new audience for this 115-year-old race.

The 21st century sees a different kind of audience that demands more information at a faster rate and on new platforms beyond broadcast TV Click To Tweet

Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling

There’s a limit to how many TV cameras can follow 176 riders as they fly through the French countryside at an average speed around 25mph. TV is not great at picking out your favorite rider or team for more than a few fleeting seconds per stage while the commentary jumps around, desperately trying to highlight moments of interest in the constantly shifting patterns and tactics of the many race teams. It wasn’t until after the day’s racing that some of the facts and figures came out and could be studied and discussed and any real insight into the sport enjoyed. Well no more. The owners of the Tour, A.S.O. saw the need to revitalise and modernise the race and after partnering with Dimension Data in 2015 have not looked back.

The owners of the Tour, A.S.O. saw the need to revitalise and modernise the race and after partnering with Dimension Data in 2015 Click To Tweet

Thanks to a small GPS transmitter under the saddle of every Tour competitor, getting involved in the race in real time, following individual riders and understanding the larger race as a whole, as it unfolds is now a reality – and boy has it made a difference! Pulling the Tour de France into the 21st century has been down to the incredible work of a dedicated team at Dimension Data who designed and manage the data gathering infrastructure and use machine learning and predictive analysis to share the intricacies and unique stories of the Tour with fans around the world.

CTO of Dimension Data Australia, Debra Bordignon explained the evolution of the partnership. Now in the forth year of the partnership, Dimension Data plays a major role in the technology behind the Tour de France experience. To put this into context, the first year of the relationship saw Dimension Data handle data analytics for the race. By the second year, it also took control of the sensors on each bike. This allowed each bike to seamlessly transmit data via the cloud to the race nerve centre – Dimension Data’s big data truck. From there it went live to an ecosystem of broadcasters and sports commentators as well as to a dedicated team of data experts responsible for producing data visualisations for the Tour’s social media channels. Last year Dimension Data brought some new technologies into the mix in the form of predictive analytics and machine learning which we used to predict likely stage results, adding deeper insight and colour to the race commentary with the ultimate goal of increasing the engagement of cycling fans.

A small GPS transmitter under the saddle of every Tour competitor lets spectators get involved in the race in real time, following individual riders and understanding the race as it unfolds Click To Tweet

In a nutshell the rider’s under saddle sensor gathers GPS data, transmits it via the existing broadcast TV network to a nearby helicopter which then passes it onto the Data Truck that is the beating heart of the system and from where Dimension Data communicate with their global teams, work their data magic and share the details and stories of the race with the fans via on-screen TV graphics, online platforms and most importantly, social media.

Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling
Photo Nicolas Dormont 2018
From the Big Data Truck, Dimension Data communicate with their global teams and share the details and stories of the race via on-screen TV graphics, online platforms and most importantly - social media Click To Tweet
Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling
Photo Nicolas Dormont 2018

Third party data, including 3D terrain maps and weather information, is mixed in to add context and better inform the fans about what is happening and what might happen in the near future. Predictive analysis has really taken off in 2018 as fans want to see what is happening right now and how it might affect the overall race.

We take historical data, such as past performances of individual riders and previous race outcomes, and combine that with live analysis of race stages. This allowes us to make predictions of race scenarios, such as whether the peloton is likely to catch the breakaway or not, Explained Data Scientist Rob Webster.

Third party data, including 3D terrain maps and weather information, is mixed in to add context and better inform the fans about what is happening and what might happen in the near future Click To Tweet

In 2017 the system proved to be more accurate than even Dimension Data’s experts anticipated. Over the 21 stages of the race, it knotched up over 70% accuracy for predicting the Top 5 riders Click To Tweet

In 2017 the system proved to be more accurate than even Dimension Data’s experts anticipated. Over the 21 stages of the race, it knotched up over 70% accuracy for predicting the Top 5 riders. However, the objective was not to create a perfect model for race predictions for a live sporting event (with crashes, injuries and good old mother Nature to contend with) that would be impossible and detract from the exciting and dynamic nature of the race. Concluded Bordignon

The speed at which they are able to transmit, analyse the data, interpret it and share the stories the data tell is a matter of seconds which is vital to fan engagement. These days, a younger audience expects the information they want in their hands now and Dimension Data has helped the A.S.O. engage a new generation of fans aged between 18 and 35 which now makes up 73% of the Tour de France’s 6.5 million-strong social media audience. Data is opening up the sport to a new demographic that will hopefully follow and support the race well into the future. This shift from TV dependent audiences to younger, digital-savvy fans is clear in the figures.

Traditional Broadcast TV

  • Viewers per stage: 12M+

Digital Channels

  • Online Video Views: 71M
  • Unique Website Visits: 12.6M
  • Online Race Centre Visits: 9.1M
  • Social Followers: 6.5M
  • App Downloads: 1.4M

Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling

During this year’s Tour, we’ll be crunching over 150 million data points, meaning fans will have access to an incredible amount of information about their favourite riders, teams, and stages. If the breakaway group during Stage 5 of the Tour is set to outpace the peloton, we’ll know about it, and so will Tour de France supporters across digital and broadcast, as data visuals flow seamlessly between all channels and platforms. Explained Peter Gray, Senior Director of the Sports Practice & Technology at Dimension Data

During this year’s Tour, we’ll be crunching over 150 million data points, meaning fans will have access to an incredible amount of information about their favourite riders, teams, and stages Click To Tweet

The success of the A.S.O.’s partnership with Dimension Data and the new ground they have broken in sporting data gathering has seen the launch of Team Dimension Data which now includes the UK’s most exciting rider, Mark Cavendish and with the advanced data solutions at their disposal guiding their training and strategy I wouldn’t bet against them doing very well in the next few years.

Alice Bonasio VR Consultancy MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented Poppy Crum Tech Trends AI Data dimension tour france cycling
Photo Nicolas Dormont 2018

For sporting companies, sponsors and entertainment providers around the world, there is a lot to learn from the advances seen in the Tour over the last few years. Customers and fans want to consume content on their own terms, in their own time, and on their platform of choice. The days of drip-feeding your audience tantalising snippets of information in an attempt to keep them engaged for longer are long gone.

A lot of successful businesses know the importance of making their customers’ experience as easy and enjoyable as possible but companies will be left behind if they don’t understand and cleverly utilise their own datasets to better drive, predict and augment consumer engagement. Tech Trends can see the day when sport and entertainment are dominated by data and the video feed comes second to the advanced, visual delivery of information and story-rich real-time data.

Tech Trends can see the day where sport and entertainment are dominated by data and the video feed comes second to the advanced, visual delivery of information and story-rich real-time data Click To Tweet

For companies looking to leverage Immersive technologies such as VR/AR/MR/XR Tech Trends offers a comprehensive range of Virtual Reality Consultancy Services.

Tom Atkinson is a Digital Producer & Photographer at R3Digital and Reviews & Dept. Editor at Tech Trends. Connect on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @R3Digital