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Wimbledon 2015: IBM Watson, New Website And iBeacons To Transform Fan Experience

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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IBM and Wimbledon showcase technical innovations aimed at making 2015 Championships the best ever for fans

Wimbledon has overhauled its website and will use IBM Watson analytics to help improve the experience for tennis fans unable to attend the Championships physically later this month.

IBM has been a partner of Wimbledon for 25 years and provides detailed information for every point of the Championships for the benefit of fans and players.

It also monitors social media platforms to help the All England Club (AELTC) understand what people are talking about during the Wimbledon fortnight.

All Starts With Data

Wimbledon“What we do here, all starts with data,” said Sam Seddon, Wimbledon programme executive for IBM, 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.”

Last year, aggressive shots were recorded for the first time. This year, aggressive serves will also be monitored by the team of tennis analysts on each court after they made a significant impact on last year’s women’s’ singles final

IBM will also take live streams of data from around the grounds and measure it into a number of “key business metrics” using Watson and InfoSphere Streams analytics. Organisers will be notified of any record-breaking feats or stats detected and these can be fed to viewers on social media or television.

However, both the AELTC and IBM are keen to add more historical context to these stats by using Wimbledon’s database, which goes back as far as 1877. This summer, Watson will be trained so it can give real-time answers to natural language queries from the social media team.

Players will also benefit from a new personalised website, powered by IBM BlueMix, featuring practice court times, order of play and other information, allowing the likes of Andy Murray and Roger Federer to keep up to date on their mobile.

Wimbledon.com

For the general public, the tournament’s official website has been given a complete overhaul. The new responsive website is interlinked with the official mobile apps and social media channels and is intended to be Wimbledon’s primary platform.

“Wimbledon.com is actually 20 years old this year,” said Alexandra Willis, head of digital and content at AELTC. “In a world of mobile devices, apps, connected devices, Wimbledon.com is still our mouthpiece to the world as only half a million people have the chance to get to the Championships. In the 20 years Wimbledon.com has existed, 10 million people have attended, but last year alone, more than 60 million people visited Wimbledon.com.IBM Wimbledon Bunker 2014 (1)

80 percent of all visits to Wimbledon.com are made on a desktop, presumably from people at work, and the AELTC wants these visitors to watch and read more content. ‘Contextual’ stories will be added to the live score pages and on large screens, a new real time panel will be visible.

The website is powered by the same tech infrastructure as IBM’s own, with QRadar security and cloud provisioning that uses analytics and social media data to predict demand.

“All those factors allow us to dynamically tune our clouds, Just enough capacity for performance without over-provisioning,” said Seddon.

Mobile and social

The AELTC has also made some changes to its mobile apps and social media channels to offer a ‘consistent’ experience across all devices. The iPhone and Android application has a new offline mode, while the iPad app has been updated with 360-degree images taken by a drone hovering above SW19.

“Just because we’ve invested a lot in .com this year, doesn’t mean we’re neglecting the app,” added Willis. “[Mobile] is obviously hugely important to us.”

At this year’s Championships, iBeacons will be tested. In the future, if a user has the official app installed, they will receive a geo-activated contextual notification that should, in theory, be helpful. For example, if a user walks past a beacon near the tube station, they will be informed to walk along the left side of the road if they have a ticket, or the right side if they don’t.

For social media, different strategies will be employed for different mediums, such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, in the hope it will encourage people to visit other content on the apps or Wimbledon.com. However certain standards must be maintained.

“Like Wimbledon.com, social media’ becoming our primary communication platform for many people,” continued Willis. “But it has to be of Wimbledon quality.”

This includes the use of promoted tweets, which will be trialled this year, following the experience from last year’s World Cup.

“The noise on social media is so great that if you put a little bit of promoted spend on your platforms you can rise up,” said Willis. “We’re not trying to sell tickets or hospitality, it’s about creating awareness.”

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