SEQUANTA Chronicles

Tour de France 2017, how sensors are revolutionizing the event?

The Tour de France 2017 ended last Sunday on the Champs-Elysées, a successful edition for the French cycling even if the race is won with no surprise for the 4th time by the British Chris Froome. With Warren Barguil, winner of 2 stages and best climber, and Romain Bardet, 3rd of the tour, the French generation has made us live strong emotions this year through, for most of us, our television. An enthusiasm increased by the on-screen TV inlays sharing key data of the Tour.

How is data captured ?

For the third edition, the organizer of the Tour de France worked with Euromedia company providing broadcast services on the biggest sporting events to set up a dynamic network of wireless sensors to capture some 10 million data about riders GPS location, the travel speed and the altitude, some real-time information collected every second.

Positioned at the back of the bikes, under the saddle of the 198 riders (22 teams of 9 riders), these sensors weighing less than 100g and developed by HIKOB, expert in wireless data collection, are powered by a rechargeable battery with a capacity which allows to last for several steps. Equipped with a GPS receiver and a radio frequency transmitter, data is transmitted via a specific wireless radio communication protocol, using on-board gateways embedded in cars, motorcycles and helicopters, transmitting to the aircraft relay the information to the control room.

Visualizing the race in real time

These data are then used by « France Télévision » TV channel showing inlays on the TV screen to communicate complementary elements to viewers. In order to enhance the television experience, Dimension Data generates visualization tools illustrating the distribution of riders during the race. Other companies such as Eurosport or TV data also generate live maps on their dedicated Tour de France page.

Data allow to obtain the personalized statistics of each rider, to identify the time and distance differences between cyclists and other positioning statistics within a group: is the cyclist often in front of the group, or is it rather sheltered back? The data also determine whether a runner stops on the course, probably because of a fall or mechanical boredom with his bike.

Enriching the viewer experience

Following the precise location of the riders, their speed of movement, the gaps between the peloton and the breakaway, the composition of the groups, detecting attacks, immerse us even more at the heart of the event and highlight the growing importance of personalized data on manifestation. The challenge is to keep the viewer on the edge of their seats especially during stages retransmitted from the beginning to the end this year. Fans want to be even more immersed in the event with an easy access to complementary data.

The technology contributes to an enriched experience and allows them to follow the steps with a fresh look and a better analysis of the race. Beyond the enrichment of television, the technological stakes are enormous. The technical exploit today is the deployment of a reliable and robust system capturing real-time data acquisition in an environment that is sometimes very difficult to access, constrained and in a context of mobility, guaranteeing a very high quality of service.

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