NTT saddles up for Tour de France digital twin

World-famous cycling event to see ‘unique’ concept in communications designed to bring together people, processes and technology over 3,400km, ensuring the continuity and resilience of the race

As the crème de la crème of world cycling gets back on the saddle for the Tour de France, official technology partner NTT, working with event organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), is to create a digital experience and new services for the race.

Last year’s event defied the pandemic, but it was moved from its traditional mid-summer slot to August and September. This year’s Tour is back in its traditional slot and will run from 26 June-18 July.

But because of ongoing travel restrictions and Covid-19 safety measures, NTT has been engaged to create a digital twin of the event and, together with ASO, will create what it says will be the world’s largest connected stadium, a concept unique to the Tour de France.

Based on the internet of things (IoT) and edge computing, the Tour de France digital train will take the form of a mobile stadium that picks up and moves every day for 21 days, across 3,400km, visiting some of the most remote locations in France, from the picturesque countryside to the harsh landscapes of the Alpes and Pyrenees.

Creating a digital twin of the event will enable operations staff to gain real-time visibility and, ultimately, streamline operations to ensure the continuity and resilience of the race. NTT will use a broad range of IoT sensors, edge compute and networks, integrated into its smart platforms and mapped against a geolocation model of each stage of the Tour. This will enable real-time visibility of key locations and assets, Covid-19 contact-tracing and in-the-moment updates of caravan and race arrival times.

In another first for 2021, NTT will use real-time analytics at the edge to provide immediate race data back to official race vehicles. This will deliver a live overview of the race situation, even in remote areas or the high mountains.

Millions of data points will be collected and brought to life through stunning, insightful visualisations and digital experiences for fans, as well as new services to support the event operations for the three-week race. A race centre will act as the official live tracking site that provides race updates including rider live tracking data on and on the official Tour de France mobile app.

A LeTourData service will provide data-driven insights and AI predictions on Twitter, Instagram and TV broadcasts while a 3D tracker will generate an immersive augmented reality app that provides 3D views of the stages.

The Tour de France Fantasy by Tissot will be a fantasy sports game integrating data insights and machine learning to provide insights on the riders to watch while the NTT Media Wall will take the form of a rich media display at the race villages, featuring data insights and visualisations from LeTourData as well as live race updates.

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By providing a hybrid environment of physical servers, virtual servers, containers and serverless functions for different workloads, all deployed via automated infrastructure as code, NTT says it will be able to support the broad array of fan and operational services as required by ASO. This will all be monitored by NTT’s Services Portal.

Peter Gray, senior vice-president, advanced technology group, sport at NTT, said the digitisation of the Tour de France began in 2015 by capturing data from the cyclists to provide real-time updates, and now the bar has been raised substantially.

“Every year, we have been able to take the technology to the next level, and this year we are creating what is essentially a digital twin of the event,” he said. “It’s a highly dynamic and changing environment that requires immediate access to information to ensure continuous and smooth operations, resulting in more informed and engaged fans.”

Creating a digital twin of the race also meant greater connectivity of devices and vehicles, as well as more applications and platforms accessing services hosted in the cloud – whether public, private or hybrid, said NTT. This not only includes understanding where different data lies, but how to gather it and use it effectively to create better experiences, whether it be the fans, the media or the cycling teams.

“A recurring theme for many organisations as they navigate the pandemic is how to ensure their customers’ changing needs and requirements are met,” said Gray. “The ability to adapt has been at the heart of our seven-year partnership with ASO. We are helping to constantly innovate the Tour de France, an event millions of passionate fans from around the world eagerly anticipate.

“Each year, the stakes increase as we create new ways to reach and engage more people in new and exciting ways, which is no easy feat when you consider the complexity of the race.”

ASO chief executive Yann Le Moenner added: “Technology plays a vital part in helping us innovate at the speed fans expect from their mobile- and cloud-based applications, all the while providing event insights, rich analytics and intelligent digital solutions. Since 2015, we have brought a whole host of digital enhancements to the event to create the best ‘connected fan’ experience. This year is no different, delivering a data-driven experience across any device, wherever you are in the world.”

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