This year marks the 25th anniversary of IBM's role as the official technology supplier to Wimbledon. Throughout that time, working with the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) we've focused on introducing new innovations and technology to enhance the fan experience, for those lucky enough to be at the championships, as well as those watching from home, work or in a bar with friends.
Working closely with the AELTC, we've introduced a wide variety of technology advances to Wimbledon over the years: right at the beginning in 1990, we developed bespoke keypads allowing data and scores to be rapidly collected providing statistics on TV; 1995 saw the launch of the first Wimbledon website; in 1997 we brought fans the first Wimbledon online shop; while in 2002 we introduced the first mobile app.
The queues started building early again this year, with people camping out from the Saturday before the start of the tournament to get a glimpse of Murray as he arrived to defend his title. With only 500,000 people being able to experience the tennis at Wimbledon during the championship, our work with the AELTC has focused on providing a unique digital experience to help give the fans elsewhere "the next best thing to being here".
Last year nearly 20 million unique users visited wimbledon.com during the championships, and this year we've done a lot of work so that fans will be able to access the site from their smartphones, tablets and other devices. This will allow them to create personalised feeds with the latest live scores and videos, stats, and match analysis, giving that extra layer of analysis to enhance the fan experience and engagement.
Our IBM SlamTracker tool provides a "second screen" experience for fans on wimbledon.com. At its simplest SlamTracker provides a real-time dashboard for all the matches around the 19 courts. It also uses predictive analytics to identify performance indicators for any particular head-to-head match – the three key things each player needs to focus on to be more likely to win. These update in real time during the match to give fans a sense of being part of the action. SlamTracker works by examining 41 million data points from eight grand slam tournaments.
We are also using analytics technology to deliver insights into the evolving social conversations taking place on and off the court at Wimbledon – which courts and players are being talked about most, regionally, nationally and globally as well as other evolving conversation topics. By using analytics in this respect, the digital team at Wimbledon is able to understand what is of interest to fans, and what they want to see and read about. The team can then respond to those needs in real time to make the fan experience more fun and engaging.
Social discussions are also making their way onto all the fan-facing digital platforms. A new component this year is "Hill vs World". We want to make a connection between those people on site on Henman Hill and those experiencing Wimbledon in the social media world. We are posing questions via the large-screen TV to the people on Henman Hill and the same question to the social world, and then comparing the response. It is another example of AELTC trying to connect the fans around the world with the world's leading tennis tournament but in new and innovative ways.
Behind the scenes we also use analytics to tune the IBM cloud infrastructure that hosts wimbldeon.com. Outside the tournament web traffic for wimbledon.com is relatively low but during the tournament it is one of the most popular sports sites in the world. To make sure we provide just enough capacity to support the site we look at player popularity, historic logs, the schedule of play and social media buzz. By analysing all these data points, we can predict how much capacity is needed to give the best experience possible via digital but with the lowest energy use and cost.
There are many ways we can, and already are, applying these latest technology innovations to other sports and to business.
But our work is not limited to sport. Advances in analytics now offer powerful insight and enhanced decision making to organisations across various industries – everything from improving transport networks in our busiest cities, to improving the quality of paediatric care by collecting and sharing knowledge to treat children dying of preventable illnesses. From healthcare and energy conservation to retailing and public safety, any business, in any industry, in any corner of the world will see incremental benefits to their business by using advanced data analytics technology.
Our work with Wimbledon is an example of how technology contributes to the championships and the overall fan experience and how this serves as a metaphor for business.
Wimbledon for me, like many others I'm sure, is one of the sporting highlights of the year. So we feel confident that all the technology innovations we are providing this year will deliver that extra layer of insights and entertainment for fans to enjoy the world over.
Sam Seddon is Wimbledon client executive at IBM