What the Tour de France can teach us about digital transformation

Five technology lessons from the greatest cycling race in the world


By Simon Walsh, NTT Ltd. CEO, Americas

The Tour de France is the world’s great cycling race and a landmark on the global sporting calendar. As the official Technology Partner to race organizers Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.) we’re continually looking for ways to help them achieve their business goals of revolutionizing the fan experience and using technology to digitally enhance their event operations.

While a bike race traversing 3,400km across France may appear to be a million miles from the challenges that other organizations face, we’ve found this isn’t necessarily the case.

As we continue to co-innovate with A.S.O. we’ve identified key areas that have enabled them to accelerate their digital transformation.

Track everything of value
Much has been written about how the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionize organizations, providing them with new and innovative ways to monitor individual aspects of the business in real-time. During the Tour de France, we track not just the individual riders but also vehicles and other critical assets for A.S.O. The technology and the business requirement underpinning this is the same whether you’re tracking cyclists in France, an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. or cattle in Argentina.

The increase in the functionality of sensors enables organizations to monitor an increasing number of variables, from the health of a dairy herd to power production on an offshore wind turbine.

The remoteness of the application shouldn’t impact the ability to monitor the status of whatever is mission-critical to an organization. Leveraging emerging network technologies such as private 5G allows you to track the status on critical assets in real-time.

Increase end-to-end visibility
Increasingly it’s no longer enough to monitor systems in isolation; every asset is linked to specific business processes, interconnected to deliver against specific business objectives. At the Tour de France, we created a digital twin of the entire race, mapping not just the route but all key points including the arrival and departure villages. With full visibility of all aspects of the event, A.S.O. can proactively manage the entire event from their smart event app.

The benefit of end-to-end visibility for any organization lies in the ability to map quickly and easily understand the business impact of any incident, assigning priorities based on this.

Leverage data to provide real-time analytics
During the Tour de France, our data analytics platform generates 160 million data records per stage. Only some of this data is, however, critical to operations and needs to be visible in real-time. Prioritizing critical data and embracing edge-computing ensures that there are no delays in providing access to this information.

Real-time data helps any organization make quicker, more informed decisions – just as A.S.O. need to get relevant information to fans and race organizers as fast as possible, so too do business owners want information about their customers and their processes. Insight into what data needs to be exposed to which stakeholders is critical to successfully monitoring any digital business.

Machine learning is a big part of the innovative fan experience at the Tour de France. Building on the core analytics platform and algorithms, we’ve added a combination of telemetry data, race results, rider data, course information, weather conditions, and seven years of race results to predict race outcomes. Extracting these insights has allowed A.S.O. to deliver an innovative customer experience and grow the reach of their fan base.

With the amount of data generated by all organizations continuing to explode, they need to tap into the power of modern AI and ML systems to expose insights that can be used to evolve organizational strategy, directing their innovation efforts and ensuring that they’re able to continually evolve their customer experience.

Combine services to advance your business objectives
The value that any system provides is related not just to its purpose but also to the value created by its connection to other systems. At the Tour de France, the data we collect and analyse from the cyclists, fans, and devices is critical to A.S.O.’s event operations. The same tools and services we leverage to enable an exceptional fan experience provide the foundation for the digital transformation of their event operations. A complex fabric of technologies architected to support an event that moves every day. The same principle applies to almost any other market with data forming the foundation of increased business value.

Embrace agility
2020 was a challenging year for every organization, without exception. Last year the Tour de France was delayed and when the riders lined up at the Grand Départ in Nice, restrictions meant that many of the traditional support services had to be delivered remotely.

By adopting a cloud-first strategy, a decision that was made well before COVID-19 was even on the horizon, they were able to shift their support operations to a remote model, leveraging a global skills base and ensuring that there was no disruption to critical business systems.

This agility is key to any digital transformation journey, as disruption is now the norm rather than then exception, and all aspects of a digital transformation process should be weighed against their ability to withstand any potential storm.

Throughout our partnership with A.S.O., we’ve been able to explore new technologies that aren’t only applicable to the Tour de France, but also deliver value to all of our clients as part of their digital transformation journey.

We’ve seen how, in working with the City of Las Vegas, they’ve been able to take superficially simple data collected from streetlights and speakers and turn that into actionable insights, enabling them to improve the lives of all their citizens. The same goes for all our clients as we look to explore innovative solutions to assist them on their digital transformation journeys.

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