A day at the races with Thales

Imagine following a race live from the saddle of the fastest horses on the planet? Thanks to EpiqE Tracking, the new racehorse tracking app which relies on the Big Data expertise of Thales, horse racing has entered into the digital age!

It’s 3.15pm on Sunday January 28, and Bold Eagle, the champion harness racing horse, is ready to enter into legend. The scene is the Vincennes racetrack near Paris, the occasion the 2018 Grand Prix de l’Amérique. Bold Eagle has already won the last two races and is aiming to become the first horse in twenty years to win three times in a row. Alongside though is the exciting Swedish challenger, Readly Express.

At the track, tens of thousands of spectators are waiting for the starting wire to be lifted, but for the first time ever, fans from across the world are also able to follow the race live – from the sulky behind their favourite horse! Using the EpiqE application, users are immersed in the heart of the action via a live 3D feed, with instant access to all the data on how their favourite horses are performing.

The Grand Prix d’Amérique, the most prestigious harness race in the world, is a suitable occasion to introduce the EpiqE Tracking system for the first time at a live racecourse. This connected solution is a truly world-class innovation, allowing spectators to track the position of each horse in real time with 25 cm accuracy, compared to the 1 metre accuracy that can currently be achieved in other sports such as football or rugby. Behind the scenes, Thales is providing all the real-time Big Data processing expertise needed — and keeping the data secure.

Tracking data is generated by a small GPS sensor manufactured by Mac-Lloyd, a start-up specialising in sports tracking solutions for football, rugby, baseball, ice hockey and other disciplines. This tiny GPS unit transmits data on more than 50 parameters from each horse at a rate of 10 times per second. Once uplinked and processed by Thales, this kind of comprehensive real-time information is hugely valuable for horseracing enthusiasts.

The data generated by the Mac-Lloyd device on each horse is enriched with contextual information about the race provided by specialist media company Paris-Turf, then uploaded to the Thales secure cloud. Thales has developed a dedicated software solution to handle and process vast datasets of this kind. The data is then instantly relayed to EpiqE Tracking users at the venue, during TV broadcasts, or via a separate tablet or smartphone screen.
Before the race, each horse is fitted with a sensor, or sports tracker, supplied by Mac-Lloyd and weighing just 150 grams. An antenna installed at the racecourse picks up the signals from the horses. The sensors and antenna used two different RF channels to communicate: one for sensor-to-antenna uplink communications, the other for downlink signals. Throughout the race, the Mac-Lloyd trackers on the horse’s uplink more than 50 live parameters, 10 times every second.

The unique GPS sensor, based on the most precise technology in the world, is augmented by an RTK antenna at the venue. Data is stored on a local server. At the same time, race organisers ‘LeTrot’ and France Galop also transmit all race-related information to the server and can suspend video streaming or tracking in the event of a false start, for example. The local server generates operational data, which is sent to the central server in the Thales secure cloud. The central server then calculates key information for users, such as average times over a standard 1 km distance. Thanks to Thales’s expertise in this field, all this data is retrieved, processed and relayed to users in real time.