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Volume 22 No. 15
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Tata puts tech on display at NYC Marathon

In Tata Consultancy Services’ first year as title sponsor of the New York City Marathon, the Indian IT consulting giant and New York Road Runners put much of their effort into simply rebranding the race, shifting from ING’s orange to TCS’ blue and overhauling race day’s look and feel.

Now comes the time for the TCS goal of creating the world’s most technologically advanced and socially engaged race to assume center stage. Working together year-round, TCS and the nonprofit race group want to blend TCS’ tech chops with decades of runner data to supercharge the experience.

Perhaps the most buzzworthy tech upgrades to the marathon are a new mapping tool on the race mobile app that will show a runner’s location in real time, and a database that will predict finishing times based on a runner’s own stats and historical data.

A new race mobile app will predict a runner’s finishing time.
Timing updates will now come every mile, too, instead of every five kilometers. Spectators will be able to track up to 10 runners at a time on a street map that will include the subway system.

“The biggest, coolest thing for people is, you’ll be able to track the runner on the course in a way you hadn’t been able to do before,” said NYRR President and CEO Michael Capiraso. “Which will be interesting because you’re always looking at splits, but this year you’ll be able to see on the map where they are.”

Organizers expect more than 300,000 people to download the app this year, up from 270,000 downloads last year. The updated app was scheduled to be available at Google Play and the Apple Store in late October.

TCS Chief Marketing Officer John Lenzen said he hopes the race app, specifically the underlying database of runner data, can shine a light on how businesses and athletes can better use data. He promised continued advancements in future years of the naming-rights relationship.

This year, the database is on display through “runfographics,” a Web feature that visualizes fun facts gleaned from marathon records. For instance, Oregonians have faster finishing times than all other states (perhaps not surprising, given Eugene’s status as home of elite running in the U.S.), and that the average runner burns 3,000 calories in the race.

Expect to see data analysis play a larger role in the ESPN2/ABC race broadcast, the live spectator experience and runner guidance, Lenzen said. With many runners now carrying smartphones while competing, the amount of data detailing runner speeds, conditions and patterns will grow rapidly in coming years.

“In every industry there’s a proliferation of data, and in every industry, companies are trying to figure out how to use that data, and sports are no different,” Lenzen said. “Not only for the athlete to make themselves better, but also for the fan experience, and so I think this represents that fan experience piece of data.”

There’s a community relations aspect of TCS’ tech sponsorship, too. On the Friday of race week, TCS is hosting the final round of its goIT contest in New York City schools. Four teams of high school students who started working in June to create fitness-themed mobile apps will present their projects to a judging panel, with the winner selected to hold the finish-line tape during the race.