This September the Ryder Cup will be hosted at Le Golf National in Paris, where as many as 250,000 spectators are set to visit across the five days of the event, as the best golfers from the USA and Europe square off.
That kind of scale makes it one of the largest BYOD events in the world, to use the technologists’ lexicon, meaning each of those visitors might bring multiple devices with them to make use of the Cup’s digital offerings or use the on-site Wi-Fi to share moments on social media.
The Ryder Cup picked Aruba Networks (via HPE) to be its infrastructure partner in April, starting with the tournament in Paris this September.
Aruba will deliver a wired and Wi-Fi platform for the event, using the network to track people, players, and assets across the 18-hole golf course. Spectators, meanwhile, will have access to a digital experience with real-time updates and location-based services integrated in it.
The infrastructure will be delivered with Aruba Mobile First Architecture – a combination of switching and wireless infrastructure, plus the Clearpass network security software and management tools as well. HPE/Aruba will also deliver location services, and use the Analytics Location Engine to provide the data for the digital experience.
Speaking to Computerworld UK at Aruba Atmosphere in Sibenik, Croatia this week, the tournament's CTO Michael Cole said: "Aruba was very much a modular approach. We deliver 47 tournaments in 30 countries in five continents. Some of those tournaments need to be scale down, because they support between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators a day.
"If we go to the other extreme, the Ryder Cup, we are expecting over 50,000 spectators a day, which equates to over 250,000 spectators over the Ryder Cup week. The scale of the technology becomes vastly different to a regular tour or event.
"The infrastructure from HPE/Aruba allows us to have the flexibility to optimise our deployment of technology, depending on the scale required by that particular tournament. I was also very impressed by the management capabilities they have – 250,000 people all bringing in one or two or three devices per person – so having a robust management capability with an infrastructure that’s modular and scales, then ultimately technology that enables the right experience, in terms of being onboarded."
There were four main reasons why Cole picked Aruba to deliver this network: a historical relationship, combined with scale, management, and the onboarded way Aruba delivers Wi-Fi.
"There’s a lot going on at this moment in time," Cole says. "We are redeveloping, re-architecting, moving more systems to the cloud – we’re replacing HR and finance systems, we are migrating our digital platforms to next generation capabilities."
The tournament, which alternates between the US and Europe every two years, had over 30 suppliers when Cole joined six months ago. He says he was "very keen" to rationalise the supplier base, and started by going about finding the "right partners" to work with. Aruba is one, Tata Communications is the other.
"We have been utilising Aruba since 2009 I think it is, so neither the technology or the organisation is new to us," he says. "But we entered a conversation about getting them involved in the Ryder Cup and were prepared to invest in their technology.
"The conversations with HPE/Aruba, based on the technology being pretty familiar to us, they were prepared to enter a ‘true partnership’ and we were prepared to make our largest investment in technology that we have ever done for the Ryder Cup."
Of all of the companies the Cup had a conversation with, Cole says Aruba stood out because it approached the organisation with a "very open mind" and a willingness to engage in a conversation about becoming an official supplier. Similarly, the Cup was willing to invest in technology that was right of its needs.
"What we get out of that is a partnership with proper collaboration and a willingness to work together," Cole says. "There were few other of their competitors that really were ticking those boxes."
The connected course
This is part of the Ryder Cup’s wider two-year transformation programme, which Cole calls his "2020 vision".
"It’s really recognising that the European tour requires a transformation of its technology if it’s going to support the transformation of global golf," he says. "What does that mean in reality? It means we have to reinvest in legacy systems that haven’t changed in perhaps 20 years.
"It means that we need a more robust, secure environment, so we are moving more of our systems out to the cloud to give us security, accessibility, and the flexibility to move forward. We’re migrating digital systems onto next generation platforms and we’ll see that come to life in the early part of 2019."
The organisation is also re-architecting and developing new scoring systems, because these have "suffered" from being legacy – Cole wants to get to the point where scores can be served to the "huge" volume of third parties in real time, something that’s not possible today.
"My vision is very much about a connected course: the perfect green of where everything is connected, and when everything is connected then anything is possible," Cole says.
What would the successful deployments of these technologies look like? Put simply it is making use of technology to reach wider business objectives.
"We see ourselves as being the brand challenger in the golf industry," says Cole. "We are very much leading the transformation in the world of golf – we see ourselves being an entertainment company because we want to change the conversation, and we want to appeal to a broad audience with wider interests.
"Golf is our platform to do that. If we can attract the best players, we can grow our schedule into key markets… if we can continue to increase our prize purse for players, and attract the best players in the world. And encourage more spectators to our events through that broadening of interests… then we will go some way towards those key objectives.
"Technology has a role in helping us get to that."