August 17, 2023 By Shannon Miller 3 min read

IBM is the official digital innovation partner of the US Open Tennis Championships. It’s a relationship that goes much deeper than courtside logo placement. IBM iX, the experience design arm of IBM Consulting, and IBM’s AI consultants work with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to integrate technology from dozens of partners, automate key business processes and develop new features.

Most importantly though, the teams focus on delivering world-class digital experiences to fans. “We need to constantly innovate to anticipate fans’ needs and delight them with new experiences,” says Kirsten Corio, Chief Commercial Officer at the USTA.

This year, innovation at the US Open was facilitated and accelerated by watsonx, IBM’s new AI and data platform for the enterprise. The use of watsonx represents a step change for the organization, in that it combines machine learning and generative AI capabilities and empowers non-technical users to discover new insights that can inform new features.

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Leveraging watsonx to drive deeper engagement

For several years, the US Open had drawn on IBM’s expertise to automate the creation of AI-generated highlight reels—a solution that earned the IBM sports and entertainment team an Emmy® Award. But the clips had been silent and uncaptioned. This year, the IBM Consulting team helped the USTA draw on the generative AI capabilities of watsonx to create audio and text commentary in near real-time. The platform enables the USTA to fine-tune its unique data and domain knowledge—drawing on match statistics, rankings and predictions—and combine it with natural language processing tools to generate accurate and compelling commentary. It’s an example of how enterprise-ready, scalable AI can help organizations serve their customers better—in this case, providing coverage for every singles match, not just the ones on the show courts.

Building on previous innovations that provide up-to-the-minute predictions of performance based on player momentum from the first round to the finals, this year also sees the introduction of AI Draw Analysis at the US Open. Derived from a combination of structured and unstructured data (with large language models facilitated by watsonx), AI Draw Analysis ranks every player’s draw on a favorability scale, shows a measure of advantage or disadvantage and lets fans explore these measures across all possible matchups as players progress through the tournament.

A collaborative process that drives innovation

Creating digital experiences that drive enthusiasm requires a human lens. To achieve that, the US Open digital strategy team partners closely with IBM iX. IBM iX uses collaborative design thinking brought to life by the IBM Garage methodology—an end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation—to address challenges within a variety of management frameworks including lean startups, human-centered design, agile and DevOps.

Beyond solving the problems at hand, co-creating with IBM Garage can be a transformative experience for organizations, helping them prioritize their development queue, iterate solutions and evaluate them in a cycle of ongoing improvement. Using this method, IBM and the GRAMMYs delivered artist insights for live coverage based on automated AI analysis of millions of articles. In another major sporting event partnership, IBM and the Masters® built a digital platform to scale the capabilities of the Masters Digital team.

Supporting organizations as they transform with watsonx

Watsonx makes traditional and generative AI more accessible to enterprises than ever before—and IBM Consulting is there to support organizations as they take advantage of the platform. Our practice brings expertise in generative AI technology stacks, access to a growing family of foundation models from IBM, plus domain and industry experience to help clients accelerate adoption and AI-driven digital transformation. This expertise will also extend to the robust governance component of watsonx, watsonx.governance, to be released later this year.

Over 30 years in, IBM and the US Open continue to overcome new challenges and engage fans with new experiences. For a tournament, fan expectations and technology that are always evolving, this partnership keeps the USTA ahead of the ball.

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