A 5G-equipped drone flies over the field during the recent Spanish Open in Madrid. Image: European Tour
Drones, digital twins, and virtual reality apps aren’t the kind of gear you normally associate with golf. But it is exactly the tools that are being put to the test right now on the European sports tour.
At the recent Spanish Open in Madrid, European Tour and Ryder Cup technical director Michael Cole and his team worked with telecommunications giant Telefónica to test how drones could be used to provide better images and improve the quality of footage. television broadcasting. They tested a captive drone and a traveling drone, both connected in 5G.
“Integrating this technology into our processes was part of the use case we were testing,” explains Cole. “We wanted to examine how we could introduce the end-to-end capability of drones into our work processes and our workflow for production techniques.”
A digital twin in golf
Cole’s team pioneered another emerging use case at the BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth, England. Using a combination of virtual and augmented realities, the team built what they call a digital twin.
They created a life-size representation of the game on green bulletin board number 18. This digital animation shows shots, ball position, and comparisons between players. According to Cole, this animation allows viewers to see what is happening on the field and he is eager to explore the possibilities of extending this system.
“It was a proof of concept, so we worked with our developers. But obviously we want to work with other technology partners to advance this concept in the future,” he explains.
The smartphone is no longer persona non grata in golf
European Tour innovations in the field are not limited to drones and virtual reality. Cole says his organization works with partners on big data and mobility.
If you envision an innovation lab, you are unlikely to think of golf greens, but this is exactly where a growing number of IT companies are going to test their new technologies. Cole believes that this proof of concept brings enormous benefits to players and sports fans, but also a showcase for the potential application of digital technology in other industries.
“We are the quintessential innovation platform with which organizations can collaborate and use our platform to test new technologies,” he told . According to analyst Gartner, an innovation lab can drive digital transformation initiatives by streamlining the process from idea generation to implementation, and he says the lab is a great place to interact with external technology partners.
Each of the 40 circuit events in 31 countries takes place each year for a short period. According to Cole, the technological configuration of each of these sites resembles a temporary smart city, where connectivity, cloud services and sensors are essential for operational activities.
Add to that the huge global golf audience and the 700,000 data points Cole and his colleagues collect from players at each tournament, and you have a sport that has become the place to test new ideas.
“We can put our skills to the test for four days in a golf tournament,” he explains. “What’s more, I think there are key lessons that we can share across the industry as we can showcase emerging technologies in a way that becomes very real and very authentic.”
Leading technology partners such as Tata, Zoom, Capgemini and others are already helping the European Tour test their innovative ideas. Cole hopes other companies will join them soon.
“Now we collect seven times more data than before. It may not sound like much, but it’s about every move each player makes in real time. And it’s a real step forward for us in terms of ‘evolution.’ Mobile technology is very much on people’s minds when it comes to bringing new data-driven services to key sport stakeholders, Cole says.
By getting real-time information on player performance and quickly delivering it to fans via mobile devices, the IT team can help improve the quality of the customer experience.
According to Cole, the move towards data-driven mobility is a huge change in the sport in recent years. “Mobile phones were still frankly frowned upon when they entered the tournament arena,” he says. “They are now a critical asset for all viewers – they control access, they control the range of services we offer, and they are a valuable source of content.”
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