June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Royal Ascot is one of the most prestigious events on the racing calendar that attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. Although the racing is the focal point, many attendees go for the sense of occasion, the chance to dress up, eat delicious food, drink champagne and possibly to catch a glimpse of the Queen.
So when we were approached by Etherlive to help them develop an iPhone app for Royal Ascot, the brief was very clear from the beginning: it needed to be useful not only to the ardent race goer, but also to the people who go there for the occasion.
We therefore put our heads together and came up with a list of features that would appeal to most people:
- List of races, runners and riders.
- Odds, race results and starting prices.
- Map of the course, showing the main venues and restaurants.
- A Live Reporter feed, giving an insider’s view of the latest news and gossip.
- Going update, News, travel and weather information.
- A list of restaurant menus.
- A song sheet for the traditional singing around the bandstand after each days racing
- A photo gallery, allowing users to upload photographs of their day at the course
We also wanted to take advantage of the iPhone’s special capabilities in some way or other – to do something different that would perhaps put a smile on people’s faces. After much head-scratching, we came up with the idea of allowing the user to randomly select a horse in a race by shaking the phone. This would hopefully appeal to someone who didn’t know that much about racing, but who wanted to have a way to help them choose a horse at random to bet on. The “Shake To Choose” option was born! [Think of it as the modern alternative to using a pin to pick from a list in the newspaper.]
Fit for Purpose
From the beginning, we also had to take into account where the app was most likely to be used. If we had a lot of users at the course using it, which was really one of the main aims, we had to consider how they would be able to receive the information updates. With upwards of 50,000 people at the course on any given day, the mobile phone networks would already be under considerable strain, so we had to make sure that we only sent the minimum amount of data to the app each time an update was requested.
The app was therefore designed to handle change-only data. This was reasonably easy to do on a per-device basis. All we had to do was give each update a unique id and get the app to remember the last change ID received. The server could then be told the last change ID by the app when a request was received and then send down only the information that had changed since then. The app was also designed to store the data it had received so that if it wasn’t possible to connect to the server at a later time, the app would still work – albeit with slightly older information.
Other Race Meetings
The Royal Ascot app was first made available for the 2010 meeting and the updated app is available on the AppStore here. But Ascot wished to use the majority of features in a second app that could be used for all the other race meetings they held throughout the year. But more about that on a later post…
Update – 20th June 2011
Well, Royal Ascot has finished for another year. But I thought I’d share a few stats we gleaned during the week:
- 10,382 downloads
- 932,229 data requests made (by the app to the server)
- 1,432,668 Push Notifications sent out (each message gets sent to all devices registered at that time)
- Highest place on AppStore was: 2nd in All Sports apps; 75th overall.