The Tour de France has always been a difficult event to cover. While sports like football and rugby take place in a fixed location, the world’s most famous cycling race takes place across an entire country.
Organizing and broadcasting a race that lasts three weeks and spans 3,400 km is a complex undertaking, especially when the peloton crosses difficult environments like the Alps or the Pyrenees. And this task is becoming more and more complex.
Each stage is broadcast live on television and digital is an increasingly important channel for the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO), custodian of the race, both from an operational point of view and fan engagement.
Digital Tour de France
However, collecting and processing all this data in real time is difficult when the tour is in constant motion. In recent years, The Tour and its technical partners have strived to collect as much data as possible as quickly as possible so that it can be used to provide immediate information to fans and give organizers greater control over the race.
Since 2015, NTT has been responsible for much of these efforts, providing organizers and broadcasters with more accurate information and statistical analysis that can be provided to viewers.
“Technology plays a vital role in helping us innovate at the speed fans expect from their mobile and cloud-based apps, while providing event insight, rich analytics and smart digital solutions,” said Yann Le Moenner, CEO of ASO.
“Since 2015, we’ve made a host of digital enhancements to the event to create the best ‘connected fan’ experience. This year is no different, delivering a data-driven experience on any device, anywhere in the world. “
For this year’s race, NTT created a “Digital Twin” – a digital representation of a physical space or object created from real-time data – of the entire race.
Digital Twins have been deployed in several industries such as manufacturing, where they can be used to simulate production changes or to train personnel without impacting the physical plant. In the sports sector, Digital Twins could transform venue management by allowing operators to simulate security procedures, crowd control measures or any number of scenarios.
Adoption will increase as sports stadiums become more connected and smarter, but as we’ve already noted, the Tour de France is never static. The data is therefore generated from various sensors along the route, on the bikes and in the caravan, and processed using edge computing.
Edge Computing brings processing capabilities as close to the point of collection as possible to reduce latency and improve accuracy over traditional cloud computing. Edge processing can take place in a regional data center, mobile phone mast, or edge server.
The digital twin of the Tour de France provides organizers with real-time visibility into key locations, resources and riders, making event management easier, especially in remote areas like the mountains. Meanwhile, NTT will also use its advanced capabilities to provide immediate race data to team vehicles for the first time. The company qualifies this innovation as “the largest connected stadium in the world”.
“The digitization of the Tour de France began in 2015 by capturing rider data to provide real-time updates,” said Peter Gray, senior vice president, Advanced Technology Group, Sport at NTT.
“Each year we have been able to take the technology to the next level, this year we are creating what is essentially a digital twin of the event. It’s a very dynamic and changing environment that requires immediate access to information to ensure continuous and smooth operations, resulting in more informed and engaged fans.
The Tower remains a national obsession in France but attracting new audiences and ensuring its smooth running remain key priorities for ASO. The “largest connected stadium in the world” will contribute to this.