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Tour De France 2017: How AI Will Deliver Predictive Insights For Cycling Fans

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Tour de France 2017 organisers and Dimension Data are boosting Big Data platform with machine learning

Tour de France organisers will step up their use of artificial intelligence (AI) during this year’s race as they look to make media coverage (in particular television and social media) more engaging through the use of additional statistics.

The race is one of the most challenging to cover but attracts significant television audiences. This year, the number of broadcast hours will extend from 80 to 105 as every kilometre of the event is made available to television partners.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and its partner Dimension Data have used an analytics platform for a number of years, but for the 2017 edition of Le Tour, machine learning and complex algorithms will match live data from the course with historical information to predict what might happen.

Tour de France

Tour de France AI

This will not only provide seasoned fans with more information but also beginners to the sport who perhaps need the nuances of road cycling to be better explained.

“Today, our followers want to be immersed in the event,” said Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France. “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.”

Each of the 198 readers has a GPS transponder underneath their seat, collecting information and pairing it with external datasets such as gradient and weather to provide stats such as speed, distance and which riders are in which groups.

The number of data points analysed this year will be three billion – a huge increase from the 128 million assessed in 2016. This, Dimension Data claims, will result in predictions as to whether and when the peloton will be caught by the chasing pack.

Tour de France Big Data Truck

All of this is managed via a cloud platform and virtualised data centres so it can be accessed anywhere in the world. For the 2017 Tour, Dimension Data will work together across four continents, minimising the number of people needed on the ground.

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

“What’s especially exciting for us is how we’re helping 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.”

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