This year, Tour de France spectators are set to benefit from the use of IoT technologies, big data and machine learning to take their viewing experience up a gear.
Tour de France technology partner Dimension Data is introducing machine learning in the coverage of this year’s race to give cycling fans around the world a more immersive spectator experience.
Big data on big climbs
The application of machine learning and predictive algorithms will give followers of the Tour de France unprecedented access via the event website and across social media to information on riders’ race positions and likely performance on future stages.
Dimension Data has been measuring a variety of metrics and tracking Tour de France competitors in the past two battles for the yellow jersey. Previous performances on the tour, race statistics across the season and rider profiles built up through five years of tracking are all coming together to power the company’s predictive platform.
That past data will be referenced with real-time race information, using GPS devices installed beneath each bike’s saddle to track the speed, position and the gaps between individual competitors. Added to that is the application of third-party data, with real-time information on weather conditions and the gradients of climbs and descents.
In total, Dimension Data’s solution will create and analyse over 3 billion data points during the 21 stages of the Tour.
The company believes that its algorithms can calculate the likelihood of possible race events. Although the team stops short of guaranteeing race outcomes, “because anything can happen at a live sporting event,” the #DDpredictor will offer predictions on events such as whether the peloton (the main group or pack of riders) will catch breakaway participants.
These moments are often the turning points that decide stage results, so plenty of competitors’ backroom teams will no doubt be watching with interest, too.
Dimension Data’s Scott Gibson sees it as a way to appeal to a new generation of spectators. “As more technology is introduced into sport,” he says, “the viewing experience is transforming and its popularity increases.”
“What’s especially exciting for us is how we’re helping [Tour de France race organizer] ASO 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.”
Transforming the Tour de France race experience
Twenty-one days of riding across 3,540 kilometres can make for exhausting viewing for Tour de France fans. The race director Christian Prudhomme envisages the application of technology as a way to keep spectators engaged from start to finish. “Today, our followers want to be immersed in the event,” he said.
“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.”