Tour de France highlights non-traditional opportunities for resellers.

The 97th Tour de France has just been decided and Australia’s hopes of victory were broken as quickly as Cadel’s elbow at the beginning of Stage Eight. So many late viewing nights over the last month drove the point home to me that technology is no longer something that we geeks and nerds of the world can claim as our own. The acceptance of technology is now well and truly mainstream. As resellers we need to be aware of just how pervasive it is in the everyday lives of our consumers.

Consider some brief technology snapshots from the Tour. HTC Columbia team placed an SRM sensor on each HTC bike to collect the rider’s power output, cadence, speed, heart rate, elevation and temperature in real time and feed the data through Android HTC smartphones (running Google’s mobile application, ‘My Tracks’) to be displayed on Google Maps with links to Street View, viewable on a HTC smartphone, of course. Not to be outdone, Garmin‘s system even used combined air pressure and latitude/longitude information to ensure the recorded elevation was cross-checked and accurate.

Using Google Earth, you could download a Tour de France overlay and, using KML, mesh it with the map to show you the exact route of the race and each rider’s precise position – information fed from a transponder mounted on every bike on the tour.

Or you could have bought a ridiculously expensive iPhone app (US$14.99) to watch live video and detailed tracking combined with weather and info alerts (for example, when a rider self-administered his daily blood doping). This was the second highest-grossing iTunes app in July.

Every day of the race, technicians set up connectivity for 2,000+ people – including DSL and video conferencing using WiMax and satellite – disassembled it, and set it all up again the next day in the next city. There were 100 trucks for TV and other media, three helicopters with five cameras on each and one plane to relay images of the race.

Each day they built an entire DSL infrastructure for voice, data and video; 150 SDSL lines ran into DSLAMs connected to an ATM backbone. The next time Telstra tells you that it is too hard to connect ADSL in a certain area, tell them they can do it in two hours in France! There were 100 voice lines at the starting line and 300 at the finish beside six separate Wi-Fi hotspots. And 1500 lines at seven intermediary points along the course.

All just to report on a little race over 3554km. You get my point – if the average consumer is taking advantage of the technology that is being delivered by the organisers (and they will only deliver what consumers want) then it gives you some idea of how technology is touching every part of our life.

Interesting to note that HTC, Garmin, Skype and Google are all major sponsors. These giants obviously see technology as firmly in the mainstream and internet stats back up their view. More than 60 websites were dedicated to the Tour, with 155 million pages viewed daily and 11.6 million visits during each of the 21 stages.

The Tour de France wasn’t always such a technological feat. Wooden rims were compulsory until 1937, as they feared the heat of braking while coming down the mountains would melt the glue that held the tyres on steel rims.

Meanwhile, the other excitement I had during July was attending a salesyards conference in Wagga (don’t ask why). I was surrounded by older gentlemen that are the real salt of the earth. My soft computer hands were crushed by gnarled rough working hands every time I shook hands with one of the attendees.

Despite this not being your target audience for IT, the three main topics of conversation were: How farmers are going to start to sell livestock through online auction sites using video technology and independent rating systems; how RFID electronic tagging systems are used to track livestock in Australia; and how truck drivers are using GPS and electronic logging to comply with fatigue regulations.

So if this market is embracing technology, it should start to really open our minds as to what other non-traditional markets we can sell technology into.

Send me your uploaded heart rate stats from your bicycle training at

Mathew Dickerson will discuss the opportunities in detail at the next live meeting at Ingram Micro’s Virtual Expotech next Tuesday.

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