Technology Brings Tennis Fans Closer to Murray And Djokovic At Australian Open Final

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Tennis Australia and IBM use enhanced data analytics, mobile apps and cloud computing to deliver an engaging experience

Tennis fans at the Australian Open final are benefiting from new ways to access and interact with the latest tournament news and courtside action from the Grand Slam as it happens.

Through the use of innovative and interactive technology introduced in 2014, IBM is providing fans a rich, immersive experience during the international tennis tournament. The official mobile apps for the Australian Open deliver easy functionality with real-time scores and schedules, comprehensive match and player analysis and Twitter feeds. New this year is a free iPad app which is the ultimate digital destination enabling fans to follow their favourite players, tweet messages of support from a player’s profile and track player popularity online using IBM social media analytics.

World’s top tennis players

Another technology bringing fans closer tot he match is IBM ReturnServe, which enables tennis fans to experience what it’s like to face the world’s top tennis players. Based on live match data analysed by IBM at Rod Laver Arena, fans can face each serve at home, using their computer or at virtual reality locations in Sydney and Melbourne. The aim of the game is to return serves at the same speed as the world’s best players. IBM ReturnServe is hosted on IBM SoftLayer, the company’s robust and scalable cloud computing platform.

Andy MurraySamir Mahir, CIO, Tennis Australia, said: “We are seeing increased demand from fans around the world for more access and real-time event content. Over the two weeks of the Australian Open last year, more than 15.5 million unique users connected with the tournament online, and almost half of the website views were from mobile devices. Each year we aim to enhance the event experience and this year we have worked with our technology partner, IBM, to develop a new iPad app, improve the website and smartphone apps, as well as advance the technology infrastructure behind the scenes.”

Today’s tennis fans also seek a deeper experience that goes beyond live scores and updates. Insights and visualisations provided by IBM SlamTracker on the Australian Open website analyse more than eight years of Grand Slam data to identify patterns in player style. New features to SlamTracker for 2014 included streamlined analysis of more fan friendly key turning points in a match, such as aces and winning shots, and a social media sentiment feed that measures the percentage of positive tweets.

Mahir added: “During the Australian Open each year we transform almost overnight from a medium sized business to a global enterprise that must service millions of fans, players, media and officials from around the globe. Using IBM predictive analytics and cloud computing technologies ensures we can meet this demand uninterrupted.”

IBM predictive cloud provisioning analyses multiple data sources in real-time, such as tournament schedule, player popularity, historical data and social media conversations, to predict and automatically allocate the computing power required by the Australian Open website.

Glen Thomas, vice president of Marketing and Communications, IBM Australia. “Our 21-year history with Australian Open has been about making the event and the sport of tennis more engaging and enjoyable. This latest focus on the omni-channel experience is no exception. With new digital technologies like the iPad app and virtual reality IBM ReturnServe, the Australian Open is a leading example of the way of cloud computing, data analytics, social and mobile technologies to help better connect Tennis Australia with its target audiences.”