by David Henderson

5 CIO lessons from Wimbledon’s technology experience

Jun 22, 20144 mins
IT StrategyMedia and Entertainment IndustryMobile

As the Wimbledon Tennis Championships 2014 get underway we look at the some of the new technology being deployed to support the event to what lessons that can be learned by CIOs in industry.

Over a fortnight, Wimbledon hosts 400,000 spectators and a further 400 million fans follow its progress around the world. IBM has been providing technology to the tournament organisers, The All England Club, for 25 years and is serving up numerous innovations to enhance the experience for tennis fans, the media, commentators and to players.

This year, 48 data analysts sat at courtside will capture the direction of serve, whether a point was won by a forced or unforced error and what kind of shot ended it. This data is combined with eight years of Grand Slam historic data exceeding 41 million data points and then surfaced, in real time, via IBM Slam Tracker to broadcasters and via the web showing player and match statistics and data visualisations.

Whilst many players rely on instinct and experience, progressive players are increasingly turning to their personalised performance reports as a rich source of insight in finding what former British cycling performance coach Sir Dave Brailsford termed “marginal gains” to perfect their game.

With 55% of online traffic to the Wimbledon domain originating from mobile devices last year, IBM has redesigned the Wimbledon mobile app for 2014 with live feeds, blogs and video with the ability to personalise these feeds to keep fans engaged wherever they are. Mick Desmond, Commercial Director of the All England Club, said that the new technology “delivers stats, video and information to our fans whenever they want it on all devices and is the next best thing to being there”.

Each year there are new innovations. For example, radar guns were first introduced in 1997 and player movement tracking in 2011. Last year, live rankings were used to drive the creation of souvenir trophies using 3D printing technology. Because these could be produced according to player popularity and performance at any given time, the All England Club was able to offer fans more of what they wanted, and avoid being left with unwanted stock.

Key to the product development is being able to capture feedback from users and being able to prototype and demonstrate new features to the client. Sam Seddon, IBM’s Client and Programme Executive, said “evolution is driven by customers and fans so it adds to the fan experience and the aim this year is that users of the app feel like they are at the event and are able to interact as much as possible”.

IBM has recently launched an innovation challenge at the Shoreditch Works event, London, to get developers designing apps that utilise the vast data set of Wimbledon statistics. Future innovations will be include integration data from chips implanted into the most advanced tennis rackets, use of 3D visualisation and more real time physiological data on players. Seddon “can see the time when a players heart rate can be shown as he serves on Championship Point”.

Seddon went on to comment “the go-live is the big challenge as it happens just once a year” and paid tribute to the strong project and operations team. Seddon believes that the “same considerations apply to running the technology for The Championships as for running any other large scale business, such as scalability, security and usability”.

During the Wimbledon fortnight, the All England Club transforms into a massive data hungry environment with an operations room is manned in a bunker under Court 14. The web site gets more than 20 million unique visitors and last year more than 80,000 cyber security incidents were dealt with. The dynamic provisioning of servers analyses historic web use, player popularity, the schedule of play and social media buzz about particular matches. All this ensures the right amount of resources are allocated to maintain a seamless fan experience.

As Murray Mania descends and the British summer begins, here are five possible lessons CIOs can learn from the Wimbledon technology experience:

•    Build enduring relationships with business partners; good two way communication fosters rapid innovation as well as resolving problems

•    Architect solutions that have security and scalability built in, using cloud where applicable

•    Rigorously plan, and test, to ensure a smooth implementation.

•    Combine real time and historical data to drive insights; consider opening up this data to partners to foster innovation

•    Continuously seek to improve, engaging users (widely) in new designs and product features and ensure the mobile experience is optimised.