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Machine learning enters Tour de France

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Machine learning technologies will be introduced at this year’s Tour de France to give cycling fans across the globe an unprecedented experience of this year’s event. 

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour de France, and Dimension Data, the official technology partner of the Tour de France, made the  announcement ahead of the race beginning in Düsseldorf tomorrow (July). The race finishes at the Champs-Élysées in Paris on 23 July.

Dimension Data’s data analytics platform, which was developed in partnership with ASO, incorporates machine learning and complex algorithms that combine live and historical race data to provide even deeper levels of insight as the race unfolds. Fans will also benefit from rider profiles to understand more about environments and circumstances in which riders perform best.

As part of a new pilot this year, ASO and Dimension Data are exploring the role of predictive analytics technologies to assess the likelihood of various race scenarios, such as whether the peloton will catch the breakaway riders at certain stages of the race.

Scott Gibson, Dimension Data’s Digital Practice group executive, said: “As more technology is introduced into sport, the viewing experience is transforming, and its popularity increases. What’s especially exciting for us is how we’re helping ASO to attract a new generation of digitally savvy fans, and how advanced technologies like machine learning are opening up new possibilities for providing the insights that today’s fans demand.”

At the core of the live tracking and data analytics solution are GPS transponders installed under the saddles of each bike. The data collected from these transponders is combined with external data about the course gradient and prevailing weather conditions to generate insights such as live speed and the location of individual riders, distance between riders, and composition of groups within the race.  This year, the solution will create and analyse over 3 billion data points during the 21 stages of the Tour, a significant increase from last year’s 128 million data points.

Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France at ASO, said: “Today, our followers want to be immersed in the event. They’re more digitally engaged on social media than ever before, and want a live and compelling second-screen experience during the Tour. Technology enables us to completely transform their experience of the race.”

The enhanced Tour de France solution uses a fully cloud-based, virtualised data centre which provides scale, and means fewer people are required on the ground to enable the solution. The cloud also provides geographic flexibility because it can be managed from anywhere in the world. This year, Dimension Data’s technical teams work together across four continents via hyperconnected mobile collaboration hubs equipped with the latest digital and virtual workplace technologies

Some Tour de France highlights include:

·       198 riders in 22 teams will generate over 150 million geospatial and environmental data readings along the 3,540km route.

·       The Tour de France live-tracking website, racecenter.letour.fr, which supported an average of 2,000 page requests per second in 2016, has been enhanced to support 25,000 page requests per second this year.

·       In 2016 there were 6,100 hours of TV broadcasts in 190 countries across 100 channels globally. Thanks to ASO, the number of TV broadcast hours will increase from 80 in 2016 to 105 this year and the race will be broadcast starting from the first kilometre of every stage.

·       Cybersecurity is a top priority for the Tour de France. During the 2016 race, Dimension Data’s cloud-based security system flagged 1,409,769 suspicious access attempts which were blocked.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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