The European Tour’s trailblazing crowd monitoring system that was successfully tested at the BMW Championship at Wentworth this year is to be extensively used at the Ryder Cup writes Ross Biddiscombe
Utilising a technique known as ‘beaconing’ the course technology infrastructure aims to give operational benefits for the organisers, whilst providing fans with a better experience at the event and also provide added value for commercial partners.
The science of crowd movement has been studied for decades, but has become more sophisticated in the last few years because of the rise in sales of smart phones which are traceable through GPS and beaconing network tracking software.
The Tour’s chief technology officer Michael Cole says that having an integrated fan experience is essential for golf event attendees. “We value all of our fans and are striving to offer them a tailored and personalised experience on site, trying to ensure they have all of the information they could need at their fingertips,” he says.
Traditionally used to extensively track people moving around giant shopping malls, crowd monitoring and location-based services is fascinating for golf events because the fans are spread around such a large area and the European Tour’s Ryder Cup app has many uses.
“For example, it can help with information about how many people follow the top players or how many fans queue at the most popular food stand or visit the tented village at any time,” says Cole. “We will also have an extensive venue map with over 100 points of interest, along with a live scoring feature and near-live video highlights clips which can be watched at Le Golf National or by fans anywhere else in the world.”
After the Wentworth testing, one of the most interesting uses of the crowd monitoring system will be its ability to contact fans directly and move them to better viewing spots. For example, if one grandstand is half empty and another has a long queue, if requested, an alert can inform fans where to go. Accessing the on-course wifi will allow that kind of two-way communication and, if fans tick a consent box, they can also receive live text communications about offers and tournament-specific information from Ryder Cup commercial partners.
Cole says it is part of the Tour’s philosophy to be an early adopter of this kind of new but tried and tested technology. “Many sports are starting to think about crowd monitoring and context-based marketing, especially in the US. However, most sporting contests are in stadiums where things happen in a relatively small area, but we have more than 50,000 people-a-day at the Ryder Cup on a 150-acre site.” He hopes that the Tour’s system will be agile enough to deploy at tournaments every week of the schedule.
A similar crowd monitoring app was used at the Wimbledon Championships this year and received a lot of praise and that has given Cole plenty of confidence in the Tour’s own system in Paris.
“The models for crowd movement have come from the retail industry, so we have to work out how to use them for the benefit of everyone and, of course, with general data protection regulation (GDPR) compliance being introduced this spring, we want everyone to know that we are protecting the interests of fans and taking the use of all our data very seriously,” he says.
The Tour is working with Hewlett Packard Enterprises, its new technology partner for the Ryder Cup, on this and other digital-based projects to engage with fans and provide a range of new commercial services to its partners.
Cole says apps are here to stay for golf tournaments even though connectivity is typically limited at many courses. He believes the services will evolve, especially in the area of e-commerce: “Fans’ interaction with apps will become further personalised and artificial intelligence (AI) will play its part in ensuring fans get the relevant information and content they want and need as quickly as possible.”
Pictured above: The European Tour’s trailblazing crowd monitoring system was successfully tested at the BMW Championship at Wentworth this year
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