After two painful summers of restricted viewing and fan attendance, the Tour de France 2022 is (confusingly) set to roll out from Copenhagen in Denmark on Friday.
The 109th edition of the world’s greatest cycling race will be more technology-adept than ever thanks to the ongoing partnership between the Tour and NTT.
The official technology partner to race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) since 2015, NTT has played a huge role in helping modernize La Grande Boucle. It has some grand plans in store for this year’s race as we'll explain below. You can also find out how to watch a 2022 Tour de France live stream here.
Last year saw NTT develop a ‘digital twin’ of the race in order to allow the ASO real-time visibility of key locations and assets, as well as up-to-the-moment updates of caravan and race arrival times.
The digital twin was created using IoT sensors, edge compute and networks alongside its own platforms and mapped against a geo-location model of each stage, and now the initial kinks have been ironed out, an upgraded version is set to be deployed for this year’s race, as well as boosting online experiences such as the ASO's live Race Center tracker system for fans.
“We're now taking the learnings that we had from that through to this year and expanding that solution out as well,” Tim Wade, VP New Ventures and Innovation at NTT, told TechRadar Pro.
“We’re just trying to make it better for the people who work with the ASO, and their partners, so that they can have a better and more efficient experience while they're working throughout,” he added.
With settings for the 23 stages varying from the windswept Danish coast to mountain-top finishes in the Alps and Pyrenees, having a flexible and mobile way to handle all the data being produced by the race each day is key.
Using small sensors mounted beneath the saddle in the race, NTT is able to provide real-time data on speed and GPS location of each rider in the race to the ASO and its broadcast partners every 400 milliseconds.
Wade notes that the ASO’s partnership with Orange, as well as some hefty portable generators, pays dividends in some of the more extreme stage finishes, particularly as the NTT team on the ground at the race numbers only four.
It isn’t just the male competitors who will be under the TV microscope this summer though, as NTT is also the official technology partner for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift for 2022.
The race marks the first time in over 30 years that a women’s Tour de France has taken place alongside the men, and Wade says that NTT is now looking to bring all the tools and services it would for that event to the new one as well.
This includes the Race Center hub, which brings together social media and commentary updates, as well as the LeTourData platform, which will provide fans with data-driven insights and AI predictions across Twitter, Instagram, and TV broadcast.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the first female Tour De France for 30 years,” Wade notes, “and the goal for us is to help bring digital equality across to the women’s race…making sure there's parity across the two events."
“Being able to broaden out and make all the changes from the digital twin work that we're doing - that is next level from last year.”