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IBM uses big data and Watson for Wimbledon cloud analytics

Advantage tennisheads
Tue Jun 17 2014, 10:32
New Wimbledon iPhone app

IBM HAS DEMONSTRATED how it will leverage big data technology to bring enhanced coverage to this year's Wimbledon tennis championship.

At an event held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the company, which is celebrating its 25th year of working on the tournament, explained that it has added a series of enhancements that according to Wimbledon commercial director Mick Desmond are the "next best thing to being here".

The website, which last year garnered 19.7 million unique users, is being rolled out to mobile, with users able to create a personalised feed with news from their choice of players, countries and categories of match, from data updated up to 140,000 times a day.

Among the new additions this year, "Hill vs World" will be polling the results questions asked of fans sitting on Henman Hill via the giant screen, and pitting them against those of the television and internet audience responding via social media.

Behind the scenes, an IBM Softlayer based analytics console known as Wimbledon Social Command Centre will allow the social media team to view engagement from users in real time and tailor content according to reaction. This will include seeing which match is the most talked about, regionally, nationally and globally, as well as what the trending topics are on all facets of the Wimbledon experience. This could take the form of everything from a conversation about strawberries in the rain to which photo of Andy Murray is causing the most stir.

IBM Customer Experience Lab uses algorithms to examine not only what is being said, but also how much engagement there is in those conversations and how influencial the participants involved are, weighting the opinion of a tennis player over that of a man in the street tweeting for the first time. The company revealed that it has been working on systems that can create "psycholinguistic analytics", gleaning inherent personality traits from social media posts, and "life event detection", which as the name suggests, uses social media statistics to detect "critical life moments".

Not everything is automatic yet, however. 48 tennis analysts are stationed around the site to manually capture data from the courts and feed it into the IBM cloud, which then crunches it into the statistics and graphics for the TV coverage and the second screen Slamtracker service, which returns this year. The system can now track what the company calls aggressive shots - using an algorithm that analyses not just the speed of ball, but where it lands, how far the other player has to go to retrieve it and where on the racket they make contact to hit it back.

IBM has uploaded years of analytics gathered from previous championships to its private cloud. The cloud server is scalable and will be ramped up during the fortnight to cope with demand. IBM's quiz show beating supercomputer Watson will be flexing its elastic data muscles to ensure that data supply and demand are always met, constantly analysing information to ensure that pertent data is at the front of the cloud's 'mind'. µ


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