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European Tour's Vision To Create the Connected Golf Course Through the Internet of Things


European Tour on its vision to create the connected golf course through the internet of things By Heather McLean, Editor

Monday, December 9, 2019 - 17:28

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Golf's European Tour is on a path that will see the internet of things (IoT) taking a leading role in how the association transforms the game going forward. The IoT is going to influence the future of the European Tour's operational side, for broadcasters, for players and referees, as well as for fans on-site and at home.

The smart city IoT concept is being utilised by the European Tour to create a roadmap of evolution to connect everything on any tournament site, from player strokes to overflowing dustbins. Millions of new data points will be generated which will in turn have the potential to inform commentators and broadcasters and further engage existing and new fans, as well as improving the game itself.

Commented Michael Cole, chief technology officer at European Tour: Golf is complicated by its nature and technology has a key role to play in underpinning that complexity. It is a sport that provides a platform of great opportunity, because of the challenges it has to address on that complexity.

On the latter, he explained: We don't have a single field of play; we have 18 holes, [so] have 18 fields of play. We don't have a stadium environment; we have typically up to 40,000 to 50,000 people roaming what could be up to 300 acres of a venue [with up to 70,000 attendees at premium events]. We are totally about temporary overlay. More often than not we are playing our tournaments at Greenfield sites where we have to build that town and that infrastructure. This complexity doesn't happen in any other sport, so we need to address the underpinning technology in a different way.

Our strategy is one of a three staged vision. The first is to create what I call the connected course, because if we can create an underlying platform - call it the stage - then actually we have a mechanism for connecting not just people but players, and things, through the internet, and that is a key objective in our vision.

We want to go from building a small town to a smart city. That is the goal. And that is where everything is connected then everything is possible

The second one is how we can work with the vast array of data that is now being collected across our tournaments. That data creates intelligence and insight that we can utilise around the operations, around our commercial partners, around our own marketing teams to drive real benefit as well.

And then the third phase of that strategy is how we can industrialise a technology solution and how we can repeat it time and time again, 46 tournaments, 31 countries, and the only way we can really achieve that is delivering it through the cloud, what I call tournament as a service (TaaS), he said. And that allows us to deliver ubiquity of services from the cloud in a consistent way wherever we're playing those tournaments. That's a little bit about the complexity of the game, and the key role that technology has to play in that complexity.

The untold story

Cole continued: Golf has suffered for many years, I believe, in being an untold story and the true role that technology plays. I think we're about to change that. We're going to take this from being an untold story to being a told story. In this vanguard of innovation [European Tour is] going to be considered one of the leading adopters of that innovation across the sporting industry.

As an organisation, the European Tour is, transforming its, perhaps, under investment over the last 20 years , Cole stated. But the tournament side is all about digital transformation and that absolutely is about that smart city environment. The analogy I would use is when everything is connected then anything is possible. We can physically connect the fans, the players, the commentators, and any moving item, into this wonderful platform and use that connectivity to drive real intelligence. So we can be far more efficient in our operations, far more effective in how we go about delivering tournaments, and equally we can look at the commercialisation of that and where we can drive our consumer-based revenues.

He continued: The vision is to create the smart city environment, the IoT, with everything delivered through the cloud; that's where we can get that ubiquity of world-class delivery, whatever the tournament, whatever the country. Now that's a fairly bold vision to have and we're not going to get there overnight, so we will look at how we can phase it in. We may consider for our premium events an uplift in terms of technology, but over time, why wouldn't we roll out the smart city concept to all of our tournaments?

Fast advancements

Since 1972 the European Tour's methods of scoring data collection have evolved from collecting by tournament, then round by round, then hole by hole. The latter version, which most recently would involve walking scorers of around 80 volunteers using handheld devices, collecting scores hole by hole, generated 20,000 to 25,000 data points.

Now, with a new data collection scheme for scoring in a deal announced with IMG in February this year, things are changing, said Cole, who added, we will have around 60 full time professionals on the course, collecting up to 15 data points on every stroke for every player in real time.

That is a huge leap forward, said Cole. That equates to anywhere up to 700,000 data points in any given tournament, and that creates huge opportunity. The difficult part in this jigsaw is actually collecting that data off the course.

He said the European Tour has been trialling a system to retrieve data from courses for 12 months, and that is now set to go live in January 2020. We now have a huge opportunity to take
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