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From space to sport: SA engineers redefine golf

South African innovators use radar in a world-first to transform a R200-billion industry

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The golfing industry, a $US13.4 billion market according to the 2019 World Golf Report, has undergone significant shifts in design thinking and player engagement. Golfing estates and institutions have been looking for intelligent technology platforms that enhance the golfing experience as these have become the definitive marker by which leading clubs are measured.  In South Africa, the engineers that developed the most sensitive radio astronomy receiver in the world for the MeerKAT and the Square Kilometre Array, have turned their expertise towards this popular sport, creating a distributed radar system designed to accurately track balls across the range and the field. The solution, Inrange, has already been successfully installed at Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range in London, the busiest range in the country, at the Flying Tee and at the Leadbetter Academy World Headquarters in Orlando, Florida. 

The core members of the team from EMSS Antennas, of the Alphawave group, applied their skills to the development of Inrange, an intelligent technology platform designed to enhance the golf experience through gamification and smart tracking. Inrange is an advanced system designed to pull together the threads of innovation, technology and sporting expertise into an immersive experience that appeals to all levels of golfing player, from newbie to professional. 

“Technology, designed specifically to enhance the golfing experience and improver player capabilities, is now providing players across all ages and abilities with rich insights into their performance,” says Nick Longley, Co-Founder, Inrange. “Players can use the data provided by this technology to track how they are playing, identify what they are doing right, and optimise their skills for on-course performance. They have access to information that allows them to refine their skills whether or not they are professional players or people looking to improve their game. Smart technology allows for players to enjoy purpose-driven practice that challenges their skills and their experience.”

For the golfing courses and estates, it’s a constant challenge to meet the entertainment needs of a sophisticated and dynamic audience that wants golfing experiences that go beyond just the average. This is being driven not only by tech innovators but by a growing demand from players to have access to intelligent technologies that add an edge to, or increase their enjoyment of, the game.

“The leading golf courses and driving ranges want to create purpose-built facilities that cater for the needs of their diverse client base to ensure they stay relevant and that they provide quantified experiences to their members and players,” says Longley. “They want the best possible technology that delivers market-leading tracking capabilities but that also allows for them to gamify the experience.”

Gamification has long been a trending term in the sporting industry. It’s the ability to blend technology and physical sport into a uniquely challenging experience that can enhance the potential of players across all levels. On one hand, gamification is designed to bring in a new market of players, the younger and less entrenched players who want something fun and less serious than how golf has been traditionally presented. Solutions such as Inrange offer a new user experience that courses and driving ranges can use to attract the millennial, experience driven market, allowing them to compete against one another in hitting targets, completing tasks or achieving specific goals.  It shifts the dynamic of golf to one that can be enjoyed as a night or day out with friends and that can be enjoyed by players of all ages and skills.

“On the other hand, an enhanced, tracked experience allows the keen and professional player to refine their performance within tightly managed metrics,” adds Longley. “They can use the technology to customised the range experience bringing purpose to their practice and allow them to easily answer the question – how did I play today? This is available to runners and cyclists and with Inrange, it is now available to golfers at an Inrange enabled range.”

Inrange uses ultra-sensitive radar sensors alongside in-app data and insights powered by the technology’s unique algorithm. The Inrange handicap dynamically calculates player performance, and it gives them the information they need to practice with purpose. The app, designed specifically for the golf driving ranges, includes numerous challenges to gamify practice sessions and the ability for each and every player to be scored with the Inrange Range Handicap. With the addictive gamification and progress tracking, the platform is designed to create immersive golfing experiences that bring players back, time and again. Already, market leading clubs such as Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range and Flying Tee in the United States, have implemented the solution with noticeable consumer uptake, and currently Inrange is being installed at the David Leadbetter Academy world headquarters in Orlando, Florida.

“Inrange caters to the keen golfer, the social player and the expert,” says Longley. “It instantly adds an edge to the golfing experience. It provides a blend of technology and play that not only enhances performance, but gives ranges the ability to offer the best of both worlds to all golfers of every calibre.”

Alphawave, the South African company behind the highly successful EMSS Antennas, has been involved in high-tech products in the specialised antenna and radar applications market for more than 20 years. Already the company has developed solutions for organisations such as Boeing, DaimlerChrysler and NASA, and continues to develop solutions that lead the way on the global stage.

Inrange is a globally successful brand that has already achieved recognition in leading golfing establishments in Europe, the United Kingdom and the USA.

“Alphawave has been involved with high-tech products in the specialised antenna and radar applications market for more than 20 years,” concludes Frans Meyer, CEO of the Alphawave Group. “Our engineers developed the Inrange distributed radar system for accurately tracking the balls at golf driving ranges and has showcased how our local expertise can drive fundamental innovation and change on the global stage. It also demonstrates how South African skills and capabilities have the potential to revolutionise markets and redefine sporting parameters.”

For further information visit www.alphawave.co.za

Cars

LHI is coming to save your car from hazards

Local Hazard Information will give drivers advance warning of potential dangers lurking around the corner

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There are many times when knowing what is around the corner could be useful. But for drivers that knowledge could be critical. Now, thanks to Ford’s new connected car technology, it is also a reality.

Local Hazard Information (LHI) marks a significant step on the journey towards a connected transport infrastructure by helping drivers prepare for and potentially avoid dangers on the road. When drivers ahead encounter sudden tailbacks, accidents or spilled loads, the driver behind – and possibly out of sight – is given advance warning. This could also apply to everything from freak hailstorms, to sudden flooding, or even landslides.

The triggers for the system come from what is happening in the cars ahead. It could be that airbags have been activated, hazard warning lights are flashing, or windscreen wipers are in operation. Previous traffic incident alert systems have relied on drivers to input information in order to generate alerts. LHI works autonomously, without the need for any driver interaction, to generate information and issue warnings.

Hazards are only displayed – via the dashboard display – if the incident is likely to impact on the driver’s journey. LHI is designed to be more beneficial to drivers than hazard information from current radio broadcasting systems, which often deliver notifications not relevant to them.

Already featuring as standard and free of charge for the first year on the new Ford Puma, LHI technology is being rolled out across more than 80 per cent of Ford’s passenger vehicle line-up by the end of this year. Crucially, the benefit will not be limited only to those travelling in Ford vehicles. Information sent can be used to alert drivers of other manufacturers’ vehicles, and vice-versa.

“What makes Local Hazard Information different is that it is the cars that are connected – via the Internet of Things. There is no reliance on third party apps. This is a significant step forward. Warnings are specific, relevant and tailored to try to help improve your specific journey.” Joerg Beyer, executive director, Engineering, Ford of Europe

How it works

Sensors monitor activities including emergency braking, fog lights and traction control to detect adverse weather or road conditions. Data from these activities is then computed to determine the hazard location and whether a traffic incident has occurred.

The vehicle automatically provides updates through a secure connection to “the cloud” using the Ford Pass Connect modem. Ford’s technology partner HERE Technologies operates the central cloud-based platform that collates information from multiple vehicle brands, governed by a business-to-business agreement.

The more cars are connected to the network, the greater the efficiency of the system. When many vehicles generate the same warning, others in the vicinity receive incident information from the cloud via the cellular network, enabling drivers to reduce speed or take appropriate action.

Additional information is sourced from public authority incident databases and traffic reports to provide drivers with further advance warnings including approaching vehicles driving on the wrong side of the carriageway, animals or people in the road ahead, and roadworks.

The on-board modem will be connected at the time of vehicle delivery. Customers may choose to opt in/opt out of certain data sharing.

Local Hazard Information data provided by HERE Technologies.

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Bundesliga plans to “revolutionise football viewing”

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Germany’s Bundesliga football league has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its official technology provider to deliver more in-depth insight into every live broadcast of Bundesliga games and enable personalised fan experiences. 

Bundesliga says it will use AWS artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics, compute, database, and storage services to deliver real-time statistics to predict future plays and game outcomes. It will also use the technology to recommend personalised match footage across mobile, online, streaming, and television broadcasts.

Using AWS technology, Germany’s premier national football league will build new cloud-based services that automate processes, increase operational efficiency, and enhance the viewing experience for the league’s rapidly growing global fan base. By developing a new, next-generation statistics platform on AWS, using Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed service to build, train, and deploy ML models, Bundesliga will offer fans real-time predictions on when a goal is likely to be scored, identify potential goal-scoring opportunities, and highlight how teams are positioning and controlling the field, based on live data streams and historical data from over 10,000 Bundesliga games. Bundesliga also plans to leverage AWS ML services, such as Amazon Personalize, an ML service to create real-time and individualized recommendations, to offer fans personalized game footage, marketing promotions, and search results based on their favourite teams, players, or matches.

Using other AWS ML services, including Amazon Rekognition, an intelligent image and video analysis service, Bundesliga will build a cloud-based media archive that will automatically tag specific frames, from its more than 150,000 hours of video, with metadata such as game, jersey, player, team, and venue, so that the league can easily search historical footage and surface pivotal plays for in-game broadcasts, in more than 200 countries. This archive will enable Bundesliga to search across its entire history of football footage to provide a more enhanced viewing experience for fans and automate the current manual process of searching and tagging match highlights.

“We are extremely excited to be working alongside AWS to develop the next generation of football viewing experience,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of Bundesliga. “Innovation means challenging the status quo. Working closely with AWS, as one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, significantly enhances the investment we’ve made in innovation over the past two decades, all of which contributes to us being able to deliver a world-class football experience for our fans.”

“As the league with the highest average number of goals per game, and the highest stadium attendance globally, the Bundesliga is one of the most entertaining sports leagues in the world,” says Andy Isherwood, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We are thrilled to work with the Bundesliga and help them use cloud technology to give football fans around the world a more engaging match day experience and look forward to helping them leverage our deep portfolio of ML and AI services so they can deliver even greater insight into the world’s favourite game.”

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