IBM and Wimbledon – Innovation through Collaboration

Kevin FarrarIBM has been the Official Supplier of Information Technology and consultant to the All England Club and The Championships, Wimbledon since 1990. Maintaining any relationship for 27 years is a challenge, and a relationship between two globally recognised brands just increases that challenge.  One of the key reasons IBM has been able to help Wimbledon in their pursuit of greatness for so long is continuous innovation, each and every year.

I have been working with the academic, tech start-up and developer communities for over 10 years now, which has enabled me to gain insight into the innovative and creative ideas that students, entrepreneurs and developers are coming up with. There is much value to be gained in engaging with these individuals when they are young, as Wimbledon pursues a younger audience themselves using their digital channels as their primary communication route. The attention of these fans needs to be earned in a sea of easily accessible digital content through valuable, unique and timely content, as Wimbledon continues to vie for attention alongside global media organisations like the BBC, and in an increasingly competitive sporting landscape that this year includes both the Euro 2016 Final and British Grand Prix on Gentlemen’s Finals day.

In 2015, as part of our annual cycle of innovation for Wimbledon, we jointly hosted a hackathon with the club to explore ideas such as improving ticket resale and virtual queuing for the championships, tackling the problem of fans waiting for on-the-door seats at certain courts where physical space outside is a premium, developing a digital ticket-sharing system, and how our smartphone app might be enhanced to improve the experience of fans attending The Championships in person, all developed on IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform.

This was a real buzz for the developers, as they worked with Bluemix and our data analytics and cognitive solutions to determine how they might help deliver personalised experiences through digital platforms that bring fans closer to The Championships – making them feel part of the on-court experience, wherever they are, in a way that is consistent with the Wimbledon brand: tennis in an English garden, heritage and tradition, aspirational, grass as a point of difference, the pinnacle of tennis, in short the best tennis tournament in the world.

This year we held a Wimbledon themed “Datapalooza Mashup” event for data engineering and data science practitioners, exploring analytics solutions using a variety of data sources including weather, transport, location, social and historic data from previous year’s Championships.  An example of one of the apps they learned about, and were able to try out for themselves in hands-on sessions, was a “Get me to Wimbledon” app, which brings together data services and value-add functions into an integrated solution using the power of Bluemix. The app analyses CCTV traffic cameras along a calculated route using the IBM Watson Visual Recognition service to classify roads as “congested” or “not congested” (with an associated confidence level), and also uses the IBM Watson Sentiment Analysis service to classify positive and negative tweets as a useful indicator of bus disruption.

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This year is no exception in terms of innovation at Wimbledon, with a new app for Apple TV that brings the 2016 Wimbledon experience into the comfort of fans’ homes. New Wimbledon smartphone apps for iOS and Android provide multi-content personalised feeds for fans at home and on the move, and also provide an enhanced experience for visitors onsite at Wimbledon such as the opportunity to create their own Wimbledon Story and share this with friends on social media.

Also new this year is a Cognitive Social Command Centre built using IBM’s Watson and hybrid cloud technologies. The solution ingests feeds across multiple social media channels to automatically understand, reason and learn the most relevant and emerging topics of conversation as they relate to Wimbledon, as well as other major sporting events, providing those insights to the digital editorial team to help make the Wimbledon platforms the incomparable destination for fans.

As IBM continue to work with Wimbledon on evolving and developing their digital strategy, what new innovations would you like to see next year as one of the millions of fans around the world?

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