Evolving the connected tournament: A conversation with Michael Cole on the 2023 Ryder Cup
NOVEMBER 9, 2023 • BLOG POST • PHIL MOTTRAM, EVP AND GM, HPE ARUBA NETWORKING
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Organizers of premier professional golf events like the Ryder Cup are seeking to provide frictionless and immersive fan experiences, supply data-driven insights to commercial partners and improve operational efficiencies via next-gen innovation
- From live course visualizations for spectators to a giant video intelligence wall for tournament organizers, the Ryder Cup is advancing the sport of golf by applying a host of technologies, including the groundbreaking integration of private 5G and Wi-Fi
- To get more details, I checked in with the Ryder Cup CTO Michael Cole for his perspective on leveraging HPE GreenLake and HPE Aruba Networking solutions for innovating at the 2023 event and beyond
Turning an ancient Roman landscape into a next-gen experiential playing field
As if providing the latest in immersive experiences for any premier sporting event weren’t challenging enough, organizers of the 2023 Ryder Cup did so in the Roman countryside on the 350-acre (142-hectare) stadium golf course, complete with a restored 11th Century castle, at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
Whether it’s delivering on-course action, facilitating fast and secure clubhouse purchases, or supporting live streams via the mobile app, 2023 Ryder Cup organizers have partnered with HPE to deploy a groundbreaking HPE Aruba Networking integrated private 5G and Wi-Fi network with new ultra-secure capabilities, greatly expanded coverage, and enhanced experiences. Additionally, event organizers are using the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, including HPE Aruba Networking Central and the new HPE GreenLake Sustainability Dashboard, to manage their solution. Together, the technologies provided the connectivity, servers, and storage that enabled driving innovation forward.
To gain some perspective on how Ryder Cup organizers are leveraging HPE technologies to make the tournament more connected and engaging than ever before, I checked in with Michael Cole, Chief Technology Officer of the European Tour Group and Ryder Cup Europe. Here are some insights from our discussion.
Michael, can you us provide a little background on the Ryder Cup and why it’s unique in the world of sport?
One of the world’s largest sporting events, the Ryder Cup is a 96-year-old team competition between the top professional golfers from Europe and the U.S. Held every two years over three consecutive days, the event tests the physical and mental skills of participants, draws more than 250,000 onsite spectators, is broadcast to more than 600 million global television viewers, and is accessed on our mobile app by millions.
That’s a very impressive undertaking. I understand that fan expectations have changed significantly from the last time your organization hosted the event, could you tell us more about that?
The last time Ryder Cup Europe hosted the event was 2018, prior to skipping a year due to COVID-19. At that time, the only mobility requirement was connectivity, as everything else was “nice to have.” Today, spectators – no matter where they are in the world – expect us to provide frictionless experiences and exceptionally rich content, both live and technology-enhanced, to make every second of the action deeply relevant. The expectations of our commercial partners have also changed, as they now want greater intelligence and insights for making data-driven decisions.
As you’re clearly serving multiple different types of event participants simultaneously, what are some of technologies you’ve introduce to meet the new expectations of these various groups?
Because the scale of the Ryder Cup is vastly larger than anything else in golf, and the European events are held at different pastoral venue each time, it essentially requires us to build a temporary smart city—that is fully redundant and without a single point of vulnerability—from the ground up.
Further, due to the historical and archeological importance of the 2023 venue, we were limited in the amount of cable we could run. So, we committed to making 2023 the most sustainable, cable-free wireless competition in the history of the event in order to recreate the culture and emotion of Rome through next-generation innovation. This included using the latest in Wi-Fi 6E and also innovating by introducing the first solar-powered access point possibly in sport, and definitely at the Ryder Cup.
We also broke genuinely new ground with the combination of world-class Wi-Fi6E and private 5G technology. Private 5G brings huge operational benefits, providing us with a fully private network, unaffected by spectator demand for high-bandwidth applications. It resulted in full-course coverage for cellular devices providing critical services like security, stewarding, ticketing, and scoring. In the past, these services might have relied on the under-pressure local telecoms networks.
From a fan perspective, could you share a few examples of how data is enabling you to innovate spectator experiences, whether an individual attended the event or viewed it remotely?
We’ve recognized innovation goes beyond connectivity and data, to intelligence and generating valuable insights from the data we can gather. From a fan perspective, we introduced new features around visualization, shot commentary, and probability outcomes. This enabled spectators to see exactly the distance of a drive, distance to the pin, and the live the ball. We also rolled out a player locator feature on our app. It not only provides an interactive map, enabling fans to follow their favorite players, but also actually permits clicking through for that player’s score and other information.
Naturally, all of the exciting innovations you just mentioned require new behind-the-scenes approaches. What are some ways you’re improving operations using various the digital technologies that your HPE solutions support?
Operationally, we tracked spectator traffic to improve flow, minimize queuing times, and enable commercial partners to quickly deliver various services. For our media partners, we introduced more detailed weather information by tracking and recording up to 15 different weather measurements every three seconds across every hole.
Another innovation we debuted is a floor-to-ceiling video intelligence wall for managing the many data sources and providing us with insights around how all of the various technologies are operating as an event unfolds.
Having introduced so many advances this year, you clearly have a robust vision for the future. Can you give us a glimpse of that future, as you continue to evolve the connected tournament?
As the European Tour Group organizes, manages, and televises multiple premier professional golf competitions across Europe every year, our HPE GreenLake and HPE Aruba Networking solutions will be critical to ongoing innovation because we now have a wide range of new capabilities.
For instance, our tournaments typically draw 300 to 600 individuals to the site for TV production alone. Moving forward, we’ll be exploring how we can use technology to manage some aspects of television productions remotely. In addition to generating efficiencies, which is incredibly valuable to our business bottom line, remote production will also be beneficial to broadcasting personnel, as they won’t need to be on the road as often. Additionally, it’s also the right thing to do for the planet, as we’ll be reducing the carbon footprint of all that travel.
We’re also looking forward to realizing many benefits from extending wide area coverage with private 5G to remote areas at the courses where we play, enabling us to easily and securely continue innovating our operational capabilities and fan experiences.
Finally, as our organization is also one of the first to use the new sustainability dashboard on the HPE GreenLake platform, we’ll be applying the key insights it delivers on IT energy consumption, carbon emissions, and electricity costs, which are delivered from across our technology estate. The data and insights will allow us to make innovations that improve overall sustainability at every event we host.
As Michael’s story illustrates, helping our customers innovate today and tomorrow is critical to enabling their businesses to thrive. It’s all about forming a relationship with them, learning about their business drivers, and then focusing on engineering solutions that meet their goals.
We want to thank Michael for sharing his insights. We invite you to find out more about how the HPE partnership with the Ryder Cup is delivering frictionless experiences with HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, including HPE GreenLake for Aruba, HPE Aruba Networking Central, and the new HPE GreenLake Sustainability Dashboard, to determine how they can help you accomplish your business objectives and goals.
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