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Tennis, anyone? IBM Cloud heads to the Australian Open

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This is the story of the third platform built on the technology pillars of cloud, analytics, mobile and social, along with Australian Open tennis. Every year, the Australian Open captivates the hearts of millions of fans with world-class tennis on the court, providing an unforgettable experience for everyone through media and digital channels.

It is indeed an inspiring example for all businesses in the world that want to engage their customers and provide an impeccable experience through omni-channel offerings built on cutting edge technologies. In this blog post, I will cover how IBM, Tennis Australia’s technology partner for the Australian Open, offers fault tolerant, highly scalable and secured solutions for the event.

Australian OpenI am a huge fan of Australia Open tennis. The two weeks when it occurs are my favorite time of the year. I try to enjoy most of the matches on court, live on TV, on YouTube, on the Australian Open website or on the mobile app. For Tennis Australia, this is the busiest period of the year, with the site handling over 17 million unique visitors in 2014.

The Australian Open website for 2015 was launched in early January. It is anticipated that it will draw millions of visitors from around the world who want get the most up-to-date information and that it will become the main source for data like live scores, draws, player profiles and match schedules. Every year, IBM adds something new to the technology stack to make the user experience even better. These applications and services are categorized by the pillars of the third platform.

Cloud

To meet the requirements for an omni-channel solution, Tennis Australia needs an IT infrastructure that provides rapid elasticity, meaning computing resources can be rapidly and elastically provisioned and scaled up or down as needed. Tennis Australia experiences demand spikes for two weeks of the year. The peak subsides after the Australian Open, and Tennis Australia operates like a small and medium business.

A cloud solution ensures that there is no over or under provisioning. Also, the same private cloud is shared by other similar organizations like the US Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open golf tournament, the Masters, and the Tony Awards during those respective events. For the Australian Open, smart technologies from IBM ensure that an IT infrastructure with the right capacity has been provisioned at the right time. Cloud computing and analytics from IBM help Tennis Australia accurately predict, provision, monitor and adjust capacity without any human intervention, as opposed to managing the tasks manually and reactively. IBM employs dynamic provisioning to use historic web visits, player popularity, time of the match and social media buzz to analyze when and how much capacity needs to be provisioned.

Watson tournament dashboard

Other significant achievements for Tennis Australia are:

• Operational budget has been reduced by means of virtualization, energy efficiency, standardization and automation.
• Disaster recovery solutions have improved due to back-up systems in separate facilities.
• Number of users has increased by 45 percent since 2008, while cost per user has decreased by 35 percent.
• Page views have increased by 42 percent, while cost per page view has decreased by 34 percent.

Big data and analytics

IBM CrowdTracker and Operations Dashboards are two newly developed decision making tools from IBM for Australian Open 2015. CrowdTracker is available through the Australian Open website and official apps. This provides the fans a bird’s-eye view of the precinct using live data from a number of sources to identify:

• Locations and events in the surrounding area by means of GPS-enabled mobile devices
• Locations of the crowd by means of WiFi signals from mobile devices
• Popular Instagram spots on the same map and other social media buzz
• Courts where matches are in progress

keys to matchUsing the same data along with some operation data feeds, the Operations Dashboard provides Tennis Australia management with a real-time overview of events throughout the tournament in areas such as merchandise, food and beverage sales, court services and tournament car usage. Operations Dashboard also notifies the management team about actions to deal with any issue using IBM Next Best Action solutions.

The IBM “Keys to the Match” solution provides insights by using over 41 million data points collected over eight years of grand slam matches. This helps the players focus on some key areas to increase their chances of winning. It also helps fans to understand what their favorite players should be doing to secure a victory.

The list goes on. IBM SlamTracker helps fans track a player’s performance and momentum during a match, visually and in real time using data and analytics. Fans can also find social media sentiments about a player by using this tool.

IBM ReturnServe, introduced in Australian Open 2014, provides recommendations to the fans to return the serve from the best players of the world. It does so by analyzing data points, measuring the first serve the users returned and advising the users what to do for better luck with the next serve. This demonstrates the power of live data analytics for determining the next best action. ReturnServe was hosted on IBM SoftLayer in 2014.

Mobile

IBM created a mobile-friendly Australian Open website, as well as Android and iOS apps for Tennis Australia. In 2014, the Australian Open App for iOS, iPad and Android was downloaded more than 1.2 million times. The site experienced more than 35 million page views,which resulted in a 91 percent increase in mobile site page views.

The Australian Open iPad application, developed by IBM and Tennis Australia, provides the fans an interactive experience or a “second screen experience.” In 2015, the new features for this app are live streaming, highlights, interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes action (restrictions apply). The fans can interactively watch multi-angle instant replays of high profile matches.

Social

Social media analytics were used heavily in 2014 and will be this year as well. IBM solutions process a massive amount of social feed and applied analytics. Natural language processing and advances in analytics help assess social media and understand the public’s opinion about a particular player. This allows Tennis Australia to plan their social media campaigns.

Businesses these days always tackle some complex business problems. These problems can be better dealt with using technologies like cloud, analytics, mobile and social. All the examples I discussed earlier are applicable to any business that wants to engage more customers, provide a better customer experience and gain competitive advantage by reaping insights from data and having a highly scalable IT infrastructure.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter.

Senior Managing Consultant at GBS Cloud Centre of Competence

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