GPS-based technology tracked the 70 participants of BSA-Tour of Nilgiris 2011 in real time

This year, as the 70 participants of the BSA-Tour of Nilgiris cycled through the Nilgiris to promote sustainable travel and ecotourism, GPS-based technology tracked them and kept them safe.

The event was held from December 16 to 23.

The technology allowed the cyclists to use an SOS function for instant help in case of a medical emergency or mechanical failure. Thanks to the technology, the cyclists even knew when they went off track.

The cyclists, and persons in the support vehicles and the ambulance were given GPS tracking devices from Excelfore, a U.S.-based startup with a team in India, which makes automotive products.

24-hr call centre

Location data from the devices was fed into the maps accessed by people at myTVS, a 24-hour call centre that supports TVS Automation Solutions, via cloud-based servers of Excelfore, a Silicon Valley startup which develops telematics products for world markets.

The cyclist's family and friends could see three dots: the location of the cyclist, of the person going to help him, and the location of the call centre person who spoke to him.  


The devices, the size of mobile phones, were identified with whoever was carrying them and had a hotline to the support personnel of myTVS. The cyclists could also use the SOS button which alerted the myTVS team to any emergency. 

The myTVS team could even guide the medical team to the nearest hospital and let that hospital know in advance of the problem for them to be better prepared.

Immediate alert

The cyclist's location on the route map was marked in real time. When he/she moved out of the ‘geofence', the myTVS team received an alert immediately enabling them to tell the cyclist that he/she was off-course and get them to return to the route.

Ranjit Abhyankar, vice-president of Advanced Products, Excelfore, said that the company provided the device and the application for the event. The technology tracked the participants and made the data available online.

All the participants and the nine support vehicles were tracked live all the time. “At any time, we knew the position of all participants on Google Maps,” he said.

“In case of an emergency, we knew the identity of the person calling, his exact location and the location of the nearest supporting motorbike and ambulance. We also knew the nearest local hospital and the contact details of the doctors so they know they can expect an emergency case.”

‘Performance data'

Mr. Abhyankar said that the application had two features. Apart from the safety and security feature, it also stored “performance data” about the cyclist. This included the cyclist's speed, the altitude he was cycling at and stoppage reports. Later, the cyclist could check the data to see what his endurance was and his peak speed. Moreover, he can send data such as his location and speed to his family; all in real time.

Francis Santosh Lobo, tour director, TFN, said that help reached a cyclist instantly when he used the SOS button due to a mechanical problem in Kanakapura on December 23.

The technology could tell the cyclist where he is, how help was moving closer to him (if he has sent an SOS), and the location of the call centre from where a person spoke to him. It made for “a paperless tour”, said Srinath Rajam, director, T.V. Sundram Iyengar and Sons, which owns myTVS. The technology to track cars was modified for use by the cyclists. “We want to do it for other tours such as trekking and walking,” he said.

Mr. Abhyankar said mobile phones could provide the same functions too. However, they were okay for non-critical situations. In situations where you cannot afford to be “lost”, a dedicated application is required.

‘Eye in the sky'

Sridhar Pabbisetty, co-founder of Tour of Nilgiris, and “the eye in the sky” for the tour, who had the macro picture of the tour said that the technology had been customised for TFN when TFN approached the company after noting some issues in last year's tour. There had been a couple of accidents and luckily ambulances were nearby and were able to help. Another challenge noted was that while organisers placed markers on the route, cyclists sometimes missed them and veered off, which was a big challenge in remote villages with few people. 

Mr. Pabbisetty said, “BSA TFN 2011 will be a test bed for these technologies and set a template for easy replication on other tours too.”

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