Channel 4 tracks National horses for the second screen

As well as a host of new camera angles and some impressive audio work, Channel 4 marked its first broadcast of the UK’s prestigious Grand National horse race with a new app that tracked the horses in realtime as they barrelled round the Aintree course.

The Channel 4 Horse Tracker used a combination of Monterosa’s LViS second screen technology and TurfTrax data to allow users to access live race information synchronised with its TV coverage of the race. Position, speed, distance to the next horse and to the finish were all available for one horse, a multiple selection, or simply all 40 of the horses in this race and 11 others during the meeting.

The TurfTrax Tracking System is an RF-based tracking system based in the licence-exempt 2.4GHz band. A network of receivers was deployed around the racecourse, which were connected via a local area network which was in turn connected to a central processing server. Small RFID tags were placed in the number cloths of each horse, which chirped several times a second and transmited encrypted signals to the network of receivers.

Coupled with additional reference signals from fixed-location tags, all this data was transmitted to the central processing server, which refered to a detailed model of the racecourse and provided a wide range of statistics for every chirp. This data was then output as XML and picked up by the Monterosa LViS-developed app, which was additionally synched with viewer’s sets at home using Civolution’s audio-watermarking technology (a non-sync version was available via the C4 website)

This, of course, is not the first time that Channel 4 has used horse tracking and, indeed, TurfTrax too which it deployed for its coverage between 2004 and 2008. As effectively the new home of horse racing on television in the UK, it probably won’t be the last time it uses it this time round either. As to the app itself, user experiences seem to have varied from the excellent to the frustrating, with much of that feedback depending on IP connections.

TurfTrax Managing Director Mike Maher says: “We are continually working with the racing industry to develop new applications using the unique data sets that TurfTrax collect. In Channel 4 and Monterosa we have found partners with the expertise and vision to deliver information in a way that is sure to enhance the viewing experience for a whole new audience.”

Expect to see the Horse Tracker on Channel 4 again as the season progresses, and possibly further afield too. As the Monterosa website points out, tHorse Tracker is available for international licensing.

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