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Cycling 2.0 – how the Tour de France is reinventing itself using big data

John E Dunn | July 1, 2016
Cycling's had a difficult few years. Can technology ride to the rescue?

The challenge of making all this work is still staggering. Fans expect data and TV coverage to work hand-in-hand at events such as Formula 1 but, Foster, suggests, that only succeeds because the race is in a fixed location. Tour de France stages, meanwhile, can stretch to 240 kilometres or beyond across difficult terrain and through any weather.

"The original challenge we had to overcome was delivering a robust platform in any location. One day we might be in the middle of a city in France then next on the top of Mont Ventoux. The quality of that delivery has to be the same regardless of the environment," says Foster.

Other upgrades include the huge mobile datacentre to handle the greater data throughput and analytics that have been refined to better work with the underlying GPS data on which everything rests.

The operation of this platform is 24x7, which at first sounds a bit perplexing given that stages only take a few hours of every day. The reason is that Dimension Data's team works on the platform to support global coverage and that means employing teams in the US and Australia as well as France itself.

This year the data feed will only be offered through a conventional web portal but in the next year or two the Tour should extend this to a mobile app, Foster predicts. This will be critical for the Tour 2.0's success. For the bulk of fans unable to consume it live on TV or on a computer (the stages happen during the working day in Europe) a live mobile feed will be essential.

For the 2016 Tour, Dimension Data will not only coordinate the data feed but sponsor fellow South African cycling squad Team Dimension Data, complete with cycling notables Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot, all possibles for individual stage wins.

Not all of the attention has been welcome: in the first few months after announcing its Tour partnership with ASO in 2015. Dimension Data's corporate network was on the receiving end of more than 10 million reconnaissance scans looking for weaknesses that could be exploited to disrupt coverage. This year, the company is well aware that it will once again again be prime target and has taken steps to harden itself against attacks.

Source: TechWorld


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