The Amgen Tour of California site seems to always come up with very innovative ways to show the race. Last year the Tour Tracker provided real time pictures and some video to help with the race coverage. This year the Tour Tracker made a technological jump by providing live streaming video in a dashboard that overlays the course profile, GPS location and live flickr photos.
The combo is very impressive. The video is in full screen mode which makes the picture a bit pixelated, but can be accommodated by resizing the screen to a smaller size. The video feed is fairly smooth for web videos. Just about the same quality that you would get on Youtube. I am impressed with their decision to go full screen which looks very slick. (Sorry for the Bob Roll-like gushing)
The GPS functionality allows you to track the location of the top five riders on GC in real time, however, the tracking is limited to cell coverage. The riders had to sign a release to promise to carry the 3oz. GPS transponder. The GPS device sends a constant stream of GPS coordinates that can be processed in real time which would show the location of the riders. But as any cyclist knows cell phone coverage is not the best everywhere so the GPS features are not available in all areas.
As I am typing this up the GPS is not available. They are working on the functionality and ironing out the kinks which is understandable since they are trying to coordinate real time data from spotty cell signals. This is probably not good advertising for T-Mobile who sponsors the GPS tracker. The stage stats are also not working well since the GPS signal is not coming in smoothly at the moment.
The dashboard contains a feed of flickr photos that pop up with their locations. With flickr’s location feature which lets you tag you photos with the exact location it is a very slick addition that allows for fan interaction. Anyone with a flickr account can upload photos, and as long as they are tagged with the relevant coordinates and placed in the proper pool they may show up on the Tour tracker.
The Tour tracker is based in Adobe Flash which is a major sponsor of the race. Interestingly the tracker uses Yahoo Maps which use Flash and allow for a seamless integration with the live video stream.
Overall, the Tour Tracker is a great use of Yahoo Maps, video and live GPS. The latest “mashup” gives us great cyclign coverage. Hopefully they will work the bugs out soon and the Tracker will be humming along by the end of the week. If only they could sell this technology to some of the major European races, then us cycling geeks will never get any work done.