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Taking data to new dimensions

Smart cities should transform lives and it is data that can help to achieve this

Topically, data is even helping us to find a bike to ride
Topically, data is even helping us to find a bike to ride

For cycling fans around the world, July is all about the Tour de France. And as well as one of the most captivating and glorious sporting spectacles, this year’s event is also a great demonstration of how you can use data and analytics to excite people. Dimension Data, the official technology partner of Tour de France as well as a team sponsor, is using machine learning and complex algorithms that combine live and historical race data to provide deeper levels of insight as the race unfolds.


Live tracking is also playing a key part with GPS transponders installed under the saddle of each bike. Data collected from these is combined with external data about the course gradient and prevailing weather conditions to generate insights such as live speed and the location of individual riders, distance between riders and composition of groups within the race.


It reports that its solution will create and analyse more than 3 billion data points during the 21 stages, up from 128 million last year, while 198 riders will generate over 150 million geospatial and environmental data readings along the 3,540km route.


The company’s treatment of Le Tour should resonate with those responsible for planning and implementing smart city programmes.


Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation, said followers want to be immersed in the event and are more digitally engaged on social media than ever before. "[They] want a live and compelling second-screen experience during the Tour," he says. "Technology allows us to completely transform their experience of the race."


If those responsible for smart cities are going to engage citizens in their applications and programmes, they need to apply the same thinking and aspiration and show individuals how data and technologies such as predictive analytics and machine learning can be truly transformational to their daily lives.


In terms of set-up, Dimension Data’s approach could also be seen as a microcosm of the technology infrastructure behind some smart city operations. It uses a fully cloud-based virtualised data centre which provides scale as well as the flexibility for it to be managed anywhere in the world. Cyber-security is a top priority, with the company stating that during the 2016 race, its cloud-based security system flagged 1,409,769 suspicious access attempts which were blocked.


Smart cities should transform lives and it is data that can help to achieve this. Dip into many of the stories on this week and we can see this starting to happen: from Billund Airport’s use of passenger visibility technology to Clemson University’s smart building system that allows it to track energy data. Meanwhile, Manchester’s CityVerve ‘platform-of-platforms’ is collecting data from around the city to improve the life of citizens.


Topically, data is even helping us to find a bike to ride. Manchester has become the first European city to implement the Mobike bike share scheme. Intelligence built into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform helps locate the nearest Mobike. The GPS-equipped, distinctive silver and orange cycles may not be the racing spec of those ridden by the likes of Messrs Froome, Cavendish and Contador in Le Tour, but they help to get you where you need be, quickly and easily. Happy cycling.


Sue Weekes,

News Editor

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