The Wimbledon 2015 players, crowds, and announcers may have left for home, but IBM Watson, the cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer, has left a lasting impression.
Wimbledon Has Partnered with IBM for the Last 25 Years
For more than quarter of a century, Wimbledon has been at the forefront of technology through its partnership with IBM. If you’re a Wimbledon tech-friendly fan, you probably caught all this year’s matches and highlights on your Apple or Android powered mobile device through IBM’s free mobile apps for the games.
In fact, Wimbledon’s website saw huge rises in the number of mobile visitors: 125% growth in unique users to the mobile site at 5.6 million, up from 2.1 million in 2014.
Over a Half a Billion Page Views on Wimbledon.com
These mobile users accounted for 49 million of this year's page views, up 79% from the 24 million in 2014. But this is still a small cry compared with the total 542 million page views overall, meaning almost 500 million of those hits were from the desktop.
More Detailed Game Information than Ever through Watson Analytics
Part of IBM Watson’s big data and analytics in action was from InfoSphere Streams technology which provided real-time insights into the matches and historical tennis data to make the fans’ experience even more interactive — no matter where they were in the world.
Watson Analytics Takes Hawkeye to the Next Level
IBM’s big data algorithms also used the familiar Hawkeye system, which tracks the speed, trajectory, and spin rate of every shot to gain even more insight. Instead of just regenerating stats, Watson Analytics took this core game data and overlaid it with new algorithmic intelligence, including metrics for ‘aggressive play’ and other data that computers would not necessarily even pick up.
“What we do here, all starts with data,” said Seddon Seddon, Wimbledon Program Executive for IBM (pictured), who said 3.2 million data points were collected during last year’s tournaments. “That’s just data, it’s not stories. What we do with Wimbledon is turn the stories into life.”
Seddon continued, “By combining the two data sets we can start to uncover tactics within the points. We look at the speed of a shot, where it bounced, where the player hit it and how far they had to move to play it. Combining all those points allows us to analyze how aggressively, and by definition defensively, the players are being but importantly what the impact is on the match. This is all made available via the TV commentators and BBC TV graphics.”
Watson Engagement Advisor Answers Tough Tennis Questions
Applying these data sets during the 2015 tournament was Watson Engagement Advisor which could process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second and deliver tennis stats, player related insights, and historical context without blowing a fuse.
The Power of Advisor was Like having the World’s Best Tennis Expert On-hand
IBM Advisor and Watson also delivered a new level of analysis and awareness to the totality of Wimbledon digital output. For example, Wimbledon staff used these tools to rapidly compare Andy Murray’s 2nd serve percentage from his Championships-winning matches in 2013 to his real-time performance in 2015.
10 million Game Updates per Minute Were Sent to Mobile Devices
Seddon spoke of the frenzied pace of pushing out data. "At one point during the championships we were pushing out over 10 million messages per minute through the IBM developed MessageSight infrastructure.” This messaging software drives real-time updates and pushes live scores to any device that has a tracker or the smartphone app open.
“These messages were sent to all the connected digital devices around the world,” said Seddon. “I was at the side of Centre Court one day with my smartphone app, and I heard the umpire call the point in the match after I saw my mobile phone update."
This isn’t the first time IBM Watson Analytics has been involved in British sports tournaments. IBM’s TryTracker technology was used originally to predict the outcome of rugby games. Now it’s being implemented by businesses as IBM Watson Analytics to help better understand customers and gain a tactical advantage over competitors.
Wimbledon Hackathon Helped Improve Fan Experience
Ahead of the 2015 tournament, IBM and Wimbledon looked for ways to make watching the game better.
Seddon explained, "How could we use technology to improve access to courts? They've got a limited ground capacity, 38,000, and some ticket resales throughout the day. How can we give the people who come to Wimbledon the best experience ever, giving them more access to the tennis on the high-quality show courts? That was where the challenge came from."
"The idea that came out of it was ticket resale and how to virtually queue for access to the outer show courts. We'll feed that into the annual innovation process we have for Wimbledon."
Even though Wimbledon 2015 is now history, IBM is already scoping its Wimbledon 2016 planning project, and will use the ideas from the hackathon as part of that process. Add to that plans to build on the impressive set of results the tournament served up this year and tennis fans around the world will be sure to experience all of the action, live, via tablets, smartphones, or desktop computers.
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