Thanks to live trackers under the saddles (seats) of each cyclist, a Raleigh-based global communications and data firm is transforming the viewing experience of this year’s Tour de France.
Dimension Data is using the new tracking technology to provide real-time information on all of the riders on the 22 teams competing that allows viewers to track cyclists via a live tracking website, know the live speeds at which the cyclists are traveling and the gap – in time and distance – between individual riders.
Aided by its partnership with Amaury Sport Organisation – which organizes the 21-day race – the company is providing insights into team strategy and individual cyclists that were never available to fans in the past.
“This top notch technological development will enable a better analysis of the race, highlight the race tactics, and also show how essential in this sport is each rider’s role within his team,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said in a press release. “It will now be possible to understand how to prepare for a sprint finish in the last few kilometers of a stage, feel the wind’s impact on the rider’s speed, and so much more. Our efforts combined with those of Dimension Data will permanently change the way we follow cycling and the Tour de France.”
Following each stage of the race, Dimension Data releases a “Day in data” video on its website recapping the stage’s elevation changes, top speeds, top performers, and more. In addition to allowing viewers to plan out their viewing schedule and focus on individuals for the first time ever, the company’s executive chairman Jeremy Ord noted that the technological breakthrough that allows the analytics to be collected during the course of the 3,360-kilometer race that navigates three continents and several mountainous and rural regions could have other applications in sports or medicine.
The tracking technology generates 42,000 geospatial points and 75 million GPS readings, and the rider data processed in Dimension Data’s cloud is spread across 60 virtual servers in three continents that consume more than 35,000,000 CPU cycles every second.
42,000 geospatial points generated
75,000,000 GPS readings provided
60virtual servers used to analyze data
35,000,000 CPU cycles per second consumed
But before even getting the information to Dimension Data’s cloud, Ord explained that the biggest hurdle in the process was finding a way to get the data from the transponders on saddles transmitted to helicopters in the air, then back down to a data center that allows the company to present the statistics.
“Dimension Data is bringing a new level of technical capability to the Tour de France in areas that will transform the technology landscape, including internet of things, real time big data analytics, Elastic Cloud Infrastructure, contemporary digital platforms, advanced collaboration technologies, and agile development practices. We’ll be their ‘Technical Tour de Force,’” the company’s group CEO Brett Dawson said in the release.
Ord explained that the company plans to continue introducing new features in future editions of the race, including making the data and tracking information easily accessible for people with smart phones so fans watching the action live for several hours could easily see the up-to-the-second information and tracking more attributes of each competitor.
By illustrating how fast riders travel downhill without protection and providing information about the locations, speeds and distances between cyclists when crashes occur — there have already been multiple crashes during this year’s competition, which finished its 11th stage Wednesday — he said that the company’s goal is also to increase the amount of excitement surrounding the sport.
“It’s going to change the nature of cycling completely,” he said.