Home Business IT Networking IBM turns to Twitter to pick Australian Open fan favourites

IBM turns to Twitter to pick Australian Open fan favourites

The 20 year strong tech agreement between IBM and Tennis Australia has been used to showcase Big Blue's talents in Big Data, cloud provisioning and harnessing the power of social media to reveal the sentiment of fans at the Australian Open Grand Slam tournament.

 Speaking to a select media throng on the first day at the first of the big four global tennis events for 2013, Elizabeth O'Brien, sponsorship strategy lead, IBM, and Samir Mahir, CIO, Tennis Australia, unveiled a dazzling array of cloud-based data analytics technologies that will be used to keep the media, fans and even players abreast of the event.

"When we first started (with Tennis Australia) websites were a big deal," said Ms Obrien of IBM. "Now we need to needs of the media, broadcasters, fans and players."

New predictive cloud provisioning technology will be used in production at the event and IBM will also combine sophisticated analytics software and natural language processing to gauge positive, negative and neutral opinions shared across hundreds of thousands of social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, news sites, blogs and videos. The technology is designed to help the tournament measure and understand fans’ views on players throughout the event.

IBM’s real-time data analytics software will examine the tournament schedule of play, tennis player popularity, historical data logs and volume of social media conversations and predict the data demands from fans viewing the Australian Open website. Based on the demand forecast, IBM’s predictive cloud provisioning technology will automatically assign the appropriate level of computing power required ahead of time from the IBM private cloud solution, according to Ms O'Brien.

The first line of data capture will be a palm sized device called Chump cabled into the umpire's chair, which enables touch screen point scoring and recording of faults. The device is cable networked to the event server room, which in turn is connected to IBM's three US-based data centres in Raleigh, Boulder and St Louis.

The data is transported by IPTV to the media workroom, which is outfitted with 300 multi-screen monitors which can view and hone in on matches currently in play on all courts. Journalists can look up match stats and review video of entire matches from all aspects important for analysis, such viewing video of all forehand winners or aces.

"Online match analysis comes out of this technology which is made available to players for their matches," said Mr Mahir of Tennis Australia.

Slam Tracker, IBM's real-time and predictive analytics tools, will enable media to look at 8-years of data for players, and look at two-palter match-ups, with KPIs for each player, when they take the court. During the course of a match the tools can be used to measure player momentum.

"Tennis Australia has been using a similar tool for training players over the past two years, with the KPIs made available for coaches.

"The Tennis Slams and other events like the US Masters are supported on our Open cloud, which allows us to provision servers on the fly, in line with demand," said Ms O'Brien.

The Open is also being used to showcase IBM's social media data gathering talents, using data analytics technology to examine social media and provide insights to resources needs, as well as engagement with fans on the Open website.

For the Open, Twitter activity will be analysed to provide a popularity league ladder of players on the website called the Social Leader Board. The IBM website will also be looking across a broader range of social media to publish the IBM Social Media Index.

The entire data gathering exercise is supported by an IBM Storwise 7000 200TB storage device.

According to Ms O'Brien, the Australian Open is the first to showcase the new technology, which will eventually be rolled out to the other Grand Slam events, with the possible exception of the French Open.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.