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Using IBM Cloud, KLM Open mobile app gives fans real-time access

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Every September, 40,000-plus fans and visitors come to the KLM Open, the oldest golf tournament on the European Tour. To keep all these visitors engaged over the four-day event, KLM Open strives each year to improve the live experience for fans by creating new features to their mobile application.

Golf has never been the kind of spectator sport that soccer or baseball are, because fans are not allowed to cheer while the golfers play (or make any noise), and, unlike stadium sports, the players do not perform in a confined viewing area. Fans must know where and when their favorite player will be on the course at any given time. They watch players when they tee off and then watch the players walk the course for three or four hours. The fans might catch the players when they arrive at the last hole, but even that is not certain because it’s hard to predict what time they will be there.

The KLM Open promoter and organizer, TIG Sports, worked with IBM Cloud Services to develop an interactive mobile app with IBM MobileFirst software hosted on IBM Cloud. The team developed the solution’s back end using the IBM Bluemix platform and IBM DevOps for Bluemix services.

Each flight, or group, of golfers carries an IBM-developed GPS tracker during the tournament. Location data is transmitted to the IBM cloud infrastructure and combined with scores and other media content using API Connect, giving fans real-time access to leaderboards, players’ locations and maps that show the user’s current location and how to get to various points of interest. Golf officials use the app on an iPad and knowing the location of the players has proven useful when there is a dispute, a rules official is needed. Location data helps the official get there sooner and keep the game moving.

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The app, created in 2014, gets better and better each year. In 2015, there were three times as many downloads as the year before and it supported as many as 6,000 concurrent users. The app was even modified mid-tournament to address a fan’s suggestion and updated overnight with enhanced radio functionality. When users opened the app the next morning, they received a pop-up notification and a prompt to download the update. This MobileFirst direct update capability enables developers to bypass the review and approval cycles of app stores, which would likely take longer than the golf tournament itself. Radio broadcast integration only works with a headset so the app itself is silent.

The 2015 version of the app was nominated for a Dutch Computable Award in the Cloud category. This years’ version of the app has been created following the IBM renowned Design Thinking process and is designed using the best in class IBM iX user interface design guidelines.

Because golf courses are huge and busy and the 2016 tournament will be at a different course than in previous years, finding people will be important. “Find my Friend” is a way for fans to meet up with each other, and will include an option for navigation so they’ll even know how to get where they need to go. Additionally, the new version of the app will include the ability for fans to be alerted when their favorite player is going to tee off giving the fan ample time to get to the hole and actually watch.

Also new in 2016 is gamification at Hole 14, an experience which will be modeled after the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s 16th Hole. This is one location where neither the fans nor the app must remain silent, and in fact, clapping and shouting are allowed and interaction is expected. The app will be able to sense when a user’s mobile device is near the 14th hole and sounds are permitted. There will be a “Closest to the Pin” contest between spectators, seated on three sets of bleachers. They will use the app to predict which golfer will tee the ball closest to the flag. The Watson Internet of Things platform on Bluemix will be used to collect and analyze the data from the thousands of smartphones’ and visitors placing bets. The KLM Open tournament will provide prizes for those spectators who have the highest scores or streaks (best of three) in predicting the contest. Watson Analytics is used to analyze five years of historical players’ data to help predict the winner.

The KLM Open mobile app has indeed transformed the event for fans from a standing-around-waiting occasion to a more interactive, engaging experience — like soccer or baseball — which is attractive especially to younger fans.

Learn more about IBM Cloud solutions.

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