Wimbledon takes the IBM advantage

In the first of a two-part article, we will discover how innovative IBM cognitive technologies have revolutionised the world of tennis, bringing deeper insight to enhance the viewing experience.

Wimbledon is an important part of our culture. Since the first tournament took place in 1877, it’s an event that’s steeped in tradition, from tennis whites, to strawberries and cream, and Cliff Richard singing in the rain. But if you thought Wimbledon was simply about a game of tennis, you’d be wrong. Now more than ever, Wimbledon is a high-tech event and I’m going to give you an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the awesome technologies at play that bring this event to life.

One of the first popularised applications of technology at Wimbledon, was the introduction of Hawk-Eye, a sophisticated computer system that visually tracked the trajectory of the ball to display the most statistically likely path of a moving image. Today, IBM’s cognitive solutions are revolutionising the game, helping Wimbledon to present content to fans that is relevant to that moment, presented in a beautiful and technically breath-taking way.

IBM Watson: bringing Wimbledon to life

Providing unparalleled access to live scoring, courtside action, and deeper insights, IBM’s cognitive solution, Watson, captures 3.2 million data points from 19 courts across 14 days, with an accuracy target of 100% with a sub-second response time. These data sources are then fed into our awesome Cognitive Command Centre for analysis.

The exciting thing about Wimbledon is that you’ll see lots of technology working together to provide a better overall experience.

Using  social media analytics, Watson monitors trends and pulls fans’ specific reactions to different events, such as point scoring or foul balls. At the same time, Watson is monitoring  the match and is able to correlate the data it’s reading on social media with the events that are actually taking place, to provide real-time interactions. In addition, Watson also has the ability to perform facial recognition. This means it can analyse the reactions of the fans who are sitting courtside to further enhance its live coverage.

But it’s not all about collating, analysing and interpreting data. Watson also utilises Internet of Things technologies too.  Players will use IoT enabled rackets, that will collect and transmit data on the players performance. For example, from a player’s racket, Watson will be  able to determine game critical data such as movement, angles and velocity . This data could then be used to monitor the  player’s athleticism throughout the game  as well as  providing insight on their strategy, for example, whether they’re playing aggressively or on the defence.

Everything is designed to provide context around the player, and to then map what the fans think and how they react throughout the match. In under four seconds, the insights IBM captures are used to update millions of digital devices around the world, delivering a fan experience that supports the digital vision, which unless you were lucky enough to secure courtside tickets, is the next best thing to being there.

But as well as enhancing the Wimbledon experience, IBM’s cognitive technologies can be used by the players to enhance their performance and assist them in their aim to move up the world rankings. Although the rules state that players cannot access data during a match, since it’s seen as unfair and uncompetitive, once a match has finished, they’re allowed to review their performance and use the insights to develop strategies to improve their game.

However, delivering the most engaging content that fans want to see in any particular moment in such a fast-paced environment is not simple. It requires the solution to reason, and learn across multiple social channels, and most systems do not have the cognitive ability to achieve this challenge.

IBM Watson excels where other systems fail because it’s able to analyse unstructured data. 80% of data today is unstructured, and while traditional systems can only interpret a standard database, Watson uses natural language processing to understand grammar and context, evaluates all possible meanings and determines what is being asked, and then presents answers and solutions based on supporting evidence and the quality of information found. It means the technology can answer important questions by quickly extracting key information from all documents to reveal insights, patterns and relationships across data.

Watson beyond Wimbledon

IBM Watson enables Wimbledon’s editorial teams to make rapid content decisions to help their platforms stand out from the crowd. But the technology forms the same solutions that are used to transform other industries and professions. At the IBM Innovation Centre at Hursley, many of our partners are working hard to integrate IBM technologies, like Watson, to bring innovative new solutions to market that enhance our everyday lives.

Discover more about the IBM Innovation Centre at Hursley.

In part two of this article, we will discuss what we can learn from the IBM technology deployed at Wimbledon, and discover how it can be applied to everyday business applications.