May 23, 2016

The IoT is Poised to Become a Tour de Force at the Tour de France

For over 100 years the Tour de France has been the apex of accomplishment for the world’s greatest cyclists. But at the 103rd annual race this July, a new contestant is poised to fundamentally revolutionize the sport: The Internet of Things.

Change has come slowly to this storied race. Traditionally, a network of individuals, scattered across the roadside and armed with stopwatches and radios, were responsible for tracking contestants’ times. This imperfect system was fraught with potential problems: humans can err, radios can malfunction, stopwatches can be asynchronous, and opportunities for cheating abound.

Coaches and trainers, too, have had little performance data to analyze, other than what they could measure by eye. This lack of information has also been a problem for fans watching at home.  As camera angles quickly change and shots of congested swarms of riders are pieced together, millions of viewers can be left trying to fill in the blanks themselves.

But all that is changing:

Late last year, Dimension Data became the official technology partner for the Tour de France. Partnered with IBM’s streaming analytics platform, InfoSphere Streams, it can provide real-time insights to address the major issues that accompany this old-school sporting event.

This year, bikes and riders alike will utilize sensor technology to gather real-time data and transmit it simultaneously to coaches and trainers, broadcasters, television crews and fans – who will all be able to follow the action on mobile apps.

This would not have been possible even a few years ago. Neither 3G cellular technology nor Wi-Fi possess the speed and range necessary for connecting and transmitting large amounts of data simultaneously, to so many parties over such a large area. However, 4G LTE can provide the performance and connectivity needed to transmit large volumes of data for real-time impact, and over a substantially wider area than its predecessors. The result: seamless streaming of data across miles of racing terrain.

Coaches and trainers will gain valuable insight into how their riders perform under varying road and weather conditions. Based on data, they’ll be able to craft new strategies for how riders interact in a pack or spread out. They will also be able to use the biofeedback from wearable sensors to enhance their riders’ performances.

Timekeepers may or may not be phased out. But, should they falter, the bikes’ GPS sensors will provide foolproof calculations on each rider’s progress.

Finally, these advancements will bring an additional layer of enjoyment for fans craving details, like how their favorite rider moves through the pack, bike speed, road conditions and more.

For cycling enthusiasts across the board, pairing 4G LTE with IoT-connected devices is cause for celebration.