Why the future of sports is in the cloud

Whether active or more often armchair based, committed sports fanatics have appreciated this summer’s extended season of sport – it’s exhausting.

There was the nail-biting final at Wimbledon, consistent Froome de le tour, Mo-tivation at the anniversary games, Lewis’s bad day at the office at Hungary F1 – and the Rugby World Cup in England hasn’t even started yet. Phew!

During Wimbledon, millions of fans onsite, on the move or on the couch wanted to access information about their favourite tennis players, matches and results on demand. This created an enormous amount of data and analysis that needed to be available at a click of a button.

If you consider any major sport – whether it be tennis, golf, rugby, motor racing, sailing or cycling – masses of valuable bits of data are collected before, during and after events.

>See also: How technology is transforming football: from England to Brazil

From diets (and the other end of the alimentary process), to stresses and strains on their equipment – rackets, pedals, tyres – there is so much information that can be collected and used to optimise performance, as well as enhance training regimes and playing styles.

At Wimbledon, for example, this year’s Slam Tracker assessed information over the last eight years of grand slams, with over 41 million data points, in order to come up with patterns of play for individual tennis players. In addition to this, there is information gathered from sensors on the courts to provide detailed analysis.

So fans were always able to keep up to date on matches, scores, interviews and the latest tournament news – often with nugget headlines posted on what’s occurring on one court being shared real-time across the media community whilst they commentated on a major court.

At the sharper end, players and coaching teams are also able to look at how their player coped in the finest detail, which helps preparation for their next match and Wimbledon to drive the never wavering performance of the game.

Dave Brailsford, 2012 leader of GB Cycling, said: “It’s important to understand the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. Put simply… how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact to the overall performance of the team.”

In all these sports, gaining insight from data helps tease out these small yet important benefits – the devil is in the detail.

How can organisers cope with these wild and volatile fluctuations in demand across the myriad of contests across the year? The quantities and complexities of data that organisations have to deal with have never been greater.

Cloud computing is a strong option as it can handle a multitude of real-time updates across mobile devices in a scalable and on-demand environment.

During periods of high usage, cloud infrastructure can be provisioned quickly and then taken down after the event. This means companies only need to pay for the capacity they use during their high-usage period.

Moreover, rework can be managed effectively as the tournament set-up can be saved as patterns or images, which can be stored to be re-used next time – much like a circus main tent.

The use of the cloud also eliminates the enormous resources often required to deploy traditional data centres, and addresses concerns of cyber security.

So if the sports stars are improving their performance, how can the host do their bit?

Again using Wimbledon as the example, this year the tournament applied cloud solutions to other parts of the experience and served up a ‘Hackathon’, which challenged developers to create apps that improve ticket resale and virtual queuing.

>See also: How Bolton Wanderers are revolutionising the use of data analysis in football to win back their Premier League place

The developers were given a broad brief to allow for creativity and just two days in which to rapidly build new ways to create an even more exceptional experience for fans onsite at Wimbledon.

Ideas came from all sides of the imagination, including a method for friends to share a show court ticket, and an app which helps fans navigate to less dense areas of the site.

After much deliberation, ‘Serial Box’ was announced as the winning idea, using NFC technology to enhance ticket reuse at Wimbledon – reducing the re-allocation of tickets from 20 minutes to fewer than five seconds.

A lot can happen in 20 minutes in a crucial tennis match, so the app incrementally improves the experience for the fans patiently queuing to get a prime seat.


Sourced from Doug Clark, cloud leader for IBM UK & Ireland

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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