"Putting" Innovation at the Heart of Golf | NTT DATA

Wed, 26 June 2024

"Putting" Innovation at the Heart of Golf

As a lifelong golf enthusiast, having played since the age of five, I've always had a deep appreciation for The Open. It's not just any championship; it's the oldest, and its ties to the tradition of links golf, with its unpredictable elements—wind, rain, and never-ending undulations—add a wonderful layer of complexity to the game. Unlike other majors, The Open often brings out a different style of play, presenting unique challenges that lead to a range of diverse champions, making it almost impossible to predict.

At NTT DATA, we're thrilled to once again be at the forefront of integrating cutting-edge technology into the sport as The Open returns to Royal Troon's Old Course—a venue steeped in history. Our role as The Open’s Technology Patron, beginning in 2013, allows us to showcase how we harness technology not just in sports but across global businesses.


The Role of Data and Technology

From AI-designed clubs to the latest laser rangefinder, golf is no stranger to innovation. However, most of this innovation is focused on players. At NTT DATA, our focus is on enhancing the spectator and viewer experience, bringing them closer to the action than ever before. This is achieved by two central technologies, ShotView and the NTT DATA Wall.

I’ll expand on both in more detail below, however, central to both technologies is the ability to capture and manipulate massive volumes of data in real-time. A capability critical in both sports and any dynamic data-driven business.


Innovating the Fan Experience

Each year, we strive to push the boundaries of what technology can do for golf and its fans. Our commitment to innovation ensures that every Open Championship builds on the last, with advances that not only preserve the traditions of golf but enhance them with modern technology.

Here's how we are creating an even more technologically enriched and engaging event for fans using digital twin technology.


ShotView: The Closest the Sport Has Ever Been to Real-Time Advanced Analytics

This year, we've taken ShotView to the next level. With improved course mapping and data collection combined with cutting-edge technologies, we will provide fans with an unparalleled viewing experience. Using drone flights, LIDAR technology, elevation surveys, and photogrammetry, the Old Course at Royal Troon has been meticulously mapped in stunning 8K resolution. These detailed visuals will then be compressed from 20GB to just 2.5MB per hole to ensure easy accessibility on mobile devices, allowing fans to explore every contour and feature of the course with ease.

Our network of 36 high-definition cameras (2 per green) handled by professional data collection teams will capture 152,000 data points throughout the Championship. What’s even more impressive is that the data points are collected with an accuracy of up to one yard on the fairway and the width of half a golf ball on the greens.

ShotView combines all of these data points into complete statistics for fans, including head-to-head comparisons, and course insights such as strokes gained, greens in regulation and driving distance. This will not only enrich the viewer's understanding by providing a closer look at the challenges players face but also enhance appreciation for the skill and precision needed on the day.

All of these stats will be available to anyone keen to follow golf around the globe. For those on-site at the fan village, the stats will be delivered to the NTT DATA Wall in under one second from collection, ensuring they can enjoy the action in real-time.


The NTT DATA Wall: A Spectacle for the Fan Village

The NTT DATA Wall is the centrepiece of our technology on display, which takes three weeks to construct and prepare ahead of the first tee time. It spans 20 metres wide and five metres tall, featuring a massive display consisting of 400 LED panels. The Wall weighs eight tonnes, with an additional 12 tonnes of water ballasts to keep it stable in the unpredictable Scottish weather. Using Unreal Engine 5, the Wall will deliver real-time, near-photorealistic animations, using on-premises equipment including high-end NVIDIA GPUs.

The NTT DATA Wall isn’t just impressive due to its size, its data handling and functionality is second-to-none. Once received from ShotView, the system will analyse the shot data and then, synchronised with the live video feed, map players’ statistics on screen within 100ms. On top of this, the Wall will use synchronisation and prioritisation algorithms to instantly produce hotspots, highlighting key moments on the golf course, ensuring fans in the village can witness the drama anywhere on the course.

So where does this fit into business use cases?

Everything we achieve at The Open is designed with the overarching idea of business applications in mind. ShotView and The NTT DATA Wall provide a good demonstration of how we are able to manipulate vast amounts of data and produce effective outcomes. And if you scroll through NTT DATA’s various case studies outside of the sports realm, you’ll notice an array of similar digital twin projects achieving incredible outcomes across the globe.

For example, we’ve implemented enhanced crowd management at the world-famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – making a trip to Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral a safe trip for all. You’d be amazed by the similarities that this project shares with our work at The Open.


Sustainability and Future Focus

Our corporate mission extends beyond crafting effective IT solutions; we are dedicated to fostering a harmonious and sustainable society. We achieve this by using our technological expertise to enable our clients to advance their sustainability objectives.

As such, last year, we brought sustainability insights to fans on-site via the NTT DATA Wall, showcasing live updates on water usage, the number of plastic bottles saved, the amount of public transport utilised, and even the locally sourced food consumed. It was a great way for fans on-site to understand the carbon footprint of their attendance and make more informed decisions, and we look forward to continuing this important initiative this year.

This is a step in the three-way collaboration between ourselves, The R&A and Cardiff University on a multi-year research project entitled "Sports Events as Agents of Change".

It’s important to note that our sustainability focus extends beyond golf, it makes up a significant part of our ethos as an organisation. Check out our recent CO2Sink case study to learn more about some of the ways we achieve sustainable outcomes.  


The Power of Partnerships

Our work at The Open would not be possible without our strong partnerships. Thanks to close collaborations with The R&A, the organisers of The Championship, we are able to deliver technology that aligns with the rich traditions of the sport.

Each year, NTT DATA continues to push the boundaries of what's possible with sports technology. The 152nd Open Championship is set to be another milestone event, showcasing how innovative technology can transform the fan experience. We are proud to play a pivotal role in this transformation, continuing our journey of innovation and excellence in the world of golf and beyond.

The Open takes place at Royal Troon from the 18th – 21st July 2024. 

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