Realtime tracking technology aims to bring racing to the digital generation
GPS transmitter placed in saddlecloth provides location to within 25cm
French racing is about take a bold leap forward with the introduction of a new 'immersive' tracking system, which its backers hope will attract technology buffs and stats freaks alike.
Epiqe Tracking will be available through a free-to-download app and will be introduced to coincide with the Grand Prix d'Amerique at Vincennes in Paris this Sunday, the foremost race in the trotting calendar.
While GPS tracking has been used in plenty of other racing jurisdictions, the information and modelling of a race has taken time to generate, while the products have remained the preserve of racing enthusiasts and punters looking for more detailed statistics.
The French model has taken longer to develop because it has to suit thoroughbred racing and trotting. But it will have the advantage of providing real time data, enabling users to select from a choice of viewing formats including graphics-rich television coverage and a computer game style 3D point-of-view.
The initiative forms the key development for year three of Epiqe Series, a marketing strategy that aims to bring the key parts of the racing and trotting year back into the mainstream of French life.
300 millisecond delay from transmitter to screen
In presenting the Epiqe Tracking concept to an invited group of media and racing professionals in Paris, officials stressed how technical innovation had enabled other sports to reach new audiences.
In order to achieve the required level of precision – the location of the transmitter is exact to within 25 centimetres – the two racing authorities have entered into a partnership with two specialist technology companies, Mac-Lloyd for the tracking element and Thales to handle the big data part of the project.
"The two problems were firstly to get the accuracy down to a matter of centimetres and then to have the data relayed in real time, in effect around 300 milliseconds from the transmitter to the screen. That has never been done in sport, not even by the NFL, who have invested a lot in tracking technology.
"The other great challenge was size and weight. We have developed a transmitter which weighs 150 grammes, whereas previously to get down to centimetre-accuracy, the smallest model available weighed five kilos."
3D 360 degree view
Epiqe Tracking is being rolled out progressively to France Galop's racecourses, with successful trials already carried out at Chantilly and the system due to be in place for the reopening of Longchamp in April.
Racing is already a data-rich sport but its presentation is arguably not something that is recognisabe to the digital generations which the sport aims to capture.
For those seduced by the presentation of Formula One or America's Cup yachting, the enhanced television graphics are an obvious attraction.
But it is the computer animated views which those behind Epiqe Series hope will really capture the imagination of technology fans, with the application availalble not only for smartphones and tablets but also for virtual reality headsets, providing a 3D 360 degree view of a race.
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