IBM serves up new innovation at the Open

IBM serves up new innovation at the Open
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IBM has unveiled predictive analytics, social analytics and a new virtual reality game at the 2014 Australian Open.

The technology giant is also behind a new iPad app for the tournament, which – as well as news, schedules and player profiles – features a social tracking tool to see who’s being most chatted about on social media and whether sentiment is positive or negative.

Real time virtual reality game ReturnServe is part of IBM’s marketing campaign at this year’s grand slam. The player wears an Oculus Rift headset and is challenged to return the serve of whoever is currently serving on the Rod Laver Arena.

Angela Gallo, sponsorship leader at IBM Australia, explained that data is crucial to everything IBM does during the two-week tennis tournament: “Our role at the Open is to collect, analyse and share data. The umpires, for example, track and record everything that happens on the courts and that data gets fed through to our systems, and we share it in real time in many places, from the score boards on site to the website.”

Key to sharing data and informing fans is IBM and Tennis Australia’s desire to innovate.

Samir Mahir, CIO at Tennis Australia, said: “We need to stress innovation and we try to innovate every year. We try to focus on fan engagement and deepening engagement with consumers overall.”

IBM is behind the SlamTracker app on the Australian Open website, which aggregates all the data from the tournament. Mahir said: “Slamtracker introduces predictive analytics, so fans can see what a player needs to do to beat an opponent. Fans are savvy – they want to know who’s doing what, so they can follow the strengths and weaknesses of each player and the momentum of each match.”

He added: “People are really hungry for information. They want to know what’s happened in each match, and how come this guy didn’t play well, for example. So we have tried to really expand the availability of data, especially in real time.”

IBM has also focused this year’s technology towards mobile.

Patrick Childress, project manager at IBM Interactive, said: “We know that the shift to mobile is only going to grow. The Open website is always going to be the exhaustive platform, but we have to provide as much as we can via mobile. The best screen is the one you have got with you.”

Kim Trengove, manager of digital and publishing at Tennis Australia, told B&T: “Last year, 50% of all the Open content that was viewed came from mobile.”

She said social media is also a crucial job for the publishing team, which has set up a Social Shack at the tournament. “We are really drumming up the tribalism of tennis so people can really get behind their favourite competitors. We also have a Virtual Tug of War to see who is the most popular player on social media each day. 

Consumers can try their hand at ReturnServe at the Open or at activations in Qantas Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, or in Sydney’s Pitt Street. 

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