Wimbledon Tennis Serves Fans with Enhanced Digital Experiences
If you're from the UK, you'll likely be familiar with that two-week period which takes place each year towards the end of June and over the beginning of July, when the entire population suddenly transforms into self-proclaimed tennis experts.
As soon as the summer's annual tennis hysteria hits South West London and rapidly spreads out across the rest of the country, it begins to feel like everyone has been saving a hidden passion for and extensive knowledge of the sport for the other 50 weeks, to let it all out in one brief frenzy during the Wimbledon Championships.
We all know that this is actually just a natural impulse which is brought on by the excitement of one of the UK's proudest sporting traditions, and while the average viewer prefers to settle for jumping on the proverbial bandwagon and neglect to follow the Grand Slam tennis circuit once it leaves the familiar confines of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, IBM is working hard to make sure that the general public's collective knowledge is far closer to that of experts this year.
Many have expressed in the past the feeling that tennis is traditionally a fairly slow-moving sport when it comes to technology, and that it is perhaps further behind some of its more mainstream counterparts in terms of the ways in which it has embraced digital opportunities to improve. However, this is beginning to change, with recent advancements in big data analytics technology providing everyday viewers of Wimbledon access to information and content that will enhance their experience significantly.
As the gates of Wimbledon open to launch the 2015 event today, which will conclude (weather-permitting) on Sunday 12 July with the men's singles final on Centre Court, fans will be presented with more data-driven insight, engagement and innovation than ever before throughout the two-week tournament.
Of course, technology has had a role to play at Wimbledon for some time now, as IBM has been a partner of the Championships for around 25 years. Most notably, since 2007, the famed Hawkeye system has been delivering digital accuracy to the officiating of matches and improving the viewing experience of crowds by reporting on the exact landing spot of each ball, key match percentages and other important data in real-time.
For those that lack confidence in tennis' competence with technology, it is perhaps worth remembering that Hawkeye was in use years before the acceptance of the goal-line decision making solutions which are now being implemented to reduce game-changing errors in football.
To drive this forward Hawkeye will now be actively monitoring behavioural aspects of play such as aggressive serves and returns, to further enrich the breakdown of matches, and help novice viewers understand the tactical significance of each point played whilst allowing players to greatly improve their own personal analysis of their opponents to make for a far more competitive tournament.
It has been publicised that around 3.2 million data points are captured throughout the duration of Wimbledon, by a combination of dedicated human data gathers and automated data input via solutions such as Hawkeye, with all the collected data being fed into IBM Watson and similar computer systems.
The real technological value then comes from the contextual relevance applied to this data, when compared with tens of millions of past data points from previous years of storage. For example, if an interesting comparison to a match from a previous year becomes available or a player is nearing, or even breaks a record during a match, this data will be translated into alerts for the appropriate employees within mere seconds, allowing them to record and share the statistics.
This myriad of insight is then presented to fans through the channels they are most fond of, such as the commentary which accompanies TV coverage, live on the official website, posts on social media and within mobile apps, to create an exceptional level of engagement with a global audience.
Wimbledon is taking this interaction seriously, as it has acknowledged the need for this range of digital communication to match the quality of data they can provide. The aforementioned official website, which reportedly collected around 17 million unique visits during the 2014 Championships, has been overhauled with responsive web design and further aligned with its related iOS and Android mobile apps for a seamless user experience.
Courtesy of IBM, the website's Slamtracker dashboard will also offer predictive analytics, real-time statistical updates and archives of historic head-to-head comparisons, dating back to the prestigious tournament's inaugural year in 1877. This is an almost unrecognisable transition from the days when tennis tournaments supplied printed programmes and unexciting, laboured updates to their crowds, which doubters of the sportã??s technological maturity must surely recognise.
Furthermore, following the introduction of the Wimbledon Social Command Centre last yearwhich measures the traction of relevant topics on social media in real-time, then adjusts the content it displays on its primary channels accordingly the focus on social media is set to increase again in 2015.
Wimbledon will be looking to reach wider audiences on Twitter and Facebook by reportedly venturing into paid promotion for the first time, to ensure its voice and brand remain central to the almost constant online discussion occurring during the tournament. The world-famous sporting institution has even taken to the mobile trend of Snapchat to further innovate in its interaction with fans, targeting the most impactful channels available in the current digital landscape. This mission to acclimatise to technology which changes so frequently will only see the personalisation and intricacy of following the Championships increase.
It is entirely possible that with the rising adoption of more futuristic technologies such as wearable devices in both consumer and enterprise settings, the experience of tennis for both players and audiences could soon be augmented even more radically. The depth of insight and analysis which could be collected by fitting players, rackets and balls with connected sensors could one day add an entirely new dimension to tennis and change the sport forever. For instance, viewers watching matches at home could choose from a traditional camera angle, or flick between a first-person view of each player at will, with live metrics of each shot played being delivered on an accompanying peripheral display.
For now though, it is clear that like so many other global organisations across a wealth of industries, Wimbledon Tennis has recognised the need to leverage technology, and the opportunities that arise by doing so. Having an accomplished partner like IBM to help achieve this has allowed Wimbledon to both improve the inherent technical aspects of the sport itself, as well as optimise the experience for spectators of all levels of understanding.