NTT Data tees-up private 5G, IoT, digital twin, AI for golf fans at The Open

NTT Data, the global system integrator division of Japanese telecoms conglomerate NTT, has deployed a private 5G network and digital twin in support of various sports analytics and fan experiences at The Open Championship, taking place this month (July 14-21) at Royal Troon in Scotland. The private 5G network, introduced for the first time at the British golf competition, is the springboard for a digital twin of the live tournament action, which will track 32,000-odd golf shots over four days, plus performances and conditions, to give a closer view of the action. 

It is the latest in a rush of major 5G and IoT deployments at sporting venues. NTT Data supplied IoT and AI to the Indianapolis 500 in May. Comcast Business deployed a private 5G network for the The Players Championship in Florida in March. The tournament at Royal Troon, the 152nd edition of the British Open, will make play of NTT DATA’s ShotView application, first introduced in 2022, to deliver a “player’s perspective” of strategies and decisions. This will let “fans, commentators, and analysts to see through the eyes of the professionals,” said NTT Data.

Live video and data analysis will be displayed on the so-called NTT DATA Wall, a 20-metre-wide LED screen in the spectators’ village at the event (see main image), also including usage of “Hollywood-grade CGI” to render real-time sports analysis and “hyper-realistic… visualisations”. These include “real-world lighting, shadows, and textures – even down to blades of grass”, said a statement. All of this is designed to “draw fans to the action like never before,” it said. Meanwhile, the private 5G network and digital twin is also supporting “generative AI-powered ‘digital human’ technology”.

The press missive gushed about an “AI-powered ‘digital human’”, a “physically accurate” avatar called Lottie. It said: “Lottie is the future of spectator sport and customer service, delivering interaction and engagement through a blend of on-the-spot, real-time insights and updates from the golf course, statistical data and deep knowledge of the rules and history of the sport. It delivers a dynamic experience that both educates and entertains through a unified conversational interface powered by advanced gen AI.” Maybe you just have to be there.

NTT Data declared: “These technologies underline the new multi-modal approach to gen AI technology.” In a bid to promote sustainability, as well, he big LED wall in the spectators’ village will feature live updates about water usage (from “on-site water refill stations”) and recycling “plastic saving” (by “reusing water bottles”), and emissions reduction (“travel by public transport, and purchase of low-carbon meals”).

Mona Charif, global chief marketing officer at NTT DATA, said: “From 5G to digital analytics, we’re enabling deeper, more dynamic insights into every aspect of the game. Our innovative partnership [with golf governing body R&A] will have a lasting impact, not just on transforming the fan experience, but on the planet.”

Steve Otto, chief technology officer at The R&A, said: “[Data] insights, and innovative application of technology, particularly the use of data, not only makes golf more accessible and appealing, but also ensures The Open is poised to thrive for many years to come.”

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