“In Conversation With” is a video series where NTT i3 executives engage in conversation with some of our most visionary partners at NTT’s Operating Companies and global enterprise customers, futurists, and leading Silicion Valley technologists, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The explorations may be around current and near future developments in IoT, big data analytics, machine learning, AI, network virtualization, and security. At times, we also investigate the human impact of technology and the role our values and culture have on how we decide to use what we are inventing.

In this episode, Ravi Srivatsav (CPO and CBDO at NTT i3) joins Scott Gibson (Group Executive for Dimension Data’s Digital Practice) from the finish line at the Tour de France in Paris.  The topic: How big data, IoT, and the Cloud are transforming the Tour de France fan experience.

 

Ravi:

Hi Scott.  It’s great to connect with you during what I am sure has been a busy 3 weeks for you and the team providing the digital infrastructure as well as the second screen experience at the Tour de France.

 

Scott:

Ravi, it’s great to be on a call with you.  I know you are in San Francisco.  I am standing literally on the finish line of the 2017 Tour de France.  The finish line is probably 11-12 meters from where we are now.  It’s about 2 hours before the final peloton comes through.

 

Ravi:

I would like to understand some of the core technologies that went into putting together the digital experience for the Tour de France this year.

 

Scott:

We’ve (Dimension Data) been involved with AOS (the owners of Tour de France) as the technology partner for the last three years.  It’s all about helping the Tour digitally transform. We’re in this new age where the fan is digitally-savvy and data hungry.

We started in 2015 providing basic tracking of every bicycle.  Every second, we get a positional data point on the 198 riders in the race.  We’ve been able to complement that with other data sets to tell a new kind of story about the race.

There have been 5 key elements to use to deliver the data solution to the Tour this year.

It starts with IoT (Internet of Things). It’s about tracking every bicycle, every second. Our team had to put a lot of work into ensuring that the IoT system was 99% reliable with the ability to get us the data that we needed in the timeframe that we needed it.

Second, hybrid IT plays an important role.  We couldn’t do our work during the race without a cloud environment in place for storage and backup.  We needed a lot of CPU power and the loads on the CPU varied every day depending on where we were in the race.

Data in today’s age is all about security and protecting data from hackers. We had to put in an enterprise grade security environment around our data.

Fourth, we put together a team of people who could work together collaboratively.  We have the team in our truck on the tour working with the ASO and the media, a team in South Africa on the website, a team in San Francisco monitoring the cloud environment and CPU capacity, a team in London translating data into stories on the Twitter feed, and also a team in Melbourne supporting the race. This has involved teams and employees from all around the world.

 

Ravi:

So you have about 600 of these cool looking IoT sensors that went under the bike seats.  How did you get all of the data they generated into the cloud environment?  Obviously the Alps, where much of the race takes place, is not known for its traditional reception.

 

Scott:

We had to make a device that was very light for the cyclists who are fanatical about the weight of their bikes. The volume of data that is generated during the race has increased significantly.  In 2016, the second year of our involvement with the race, we had about 128 million data points over the course of the race.  This year it has been about 3 billion data points.

We created a radio frequency mesh network to move that data from the bikes to the motor vehicles.  It then piggybacks on the TV signal that relays it up to helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft.  From there it gets sent to a cherry picker on our truck where we back it up into the cloud and our data truck. It’s pretty complicated.  I like to call it the best outdoor stadium WiFi environment ever created.

 

Ravi:

So with over 150 million geospatial data points, 60 virtual servers, and data coming in from a constantly moving IoT network, were you ever concerned about scaling this?

 

Scott:

Yes we were, Initially. But there’s the power of the cloud. We knew that with all of this data and our ability to access and use our managed cloud services solution, we could bring up CPU power when we needed it.

 

Ravi:

Scott, this has been an amazing story of infrastructure, distributed software, as well as geographically disperse collaborative team members.

 


Next: Ravi and Scott’s conversation about the use of machine learning at the Tour de France. Or, click here to check out all of the videos in our “In Conversation With” series.

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