TRAM Barcelona Open and Wheelchair Tennis Score New Capabilities with IBM AI Solutions
4 min read
IBM Watson Assistant and IBM Cloud connects players and fans to improved tournament experiences.
Its temperate climate, passionate sports fans and the tastes and smells of world-class Mediterranean dishes are some of the reasons visitors flock to Barcelona, Spain's Catalonian capital. Jose Coronado, a native Barcelonian and founder and director of the TRAM Barcelona Open, has a different perspective. "The people of Barcelona approach life with a very open mind. It's important for us, individuals with disabilities."
In 1992, the city was the home of the Summer Olympics and the first instance of wheelchair tennis in Barcelona's Paralympic Games. Since 2007, wheelchair tennis has been integral to each of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Today, participation has grown to approximately 1,100 players, 42 countries and 186 tournaments.
Finding motivation and transformation through wheelchair tennis
Jose Coronado experienced first-hand the value wheelchair tennis could bring to life. During his rehabilitation process from a life-altering accident, Coronado found the motivation necessary to overcome his circumstances through the sport. He eventually joined the professional circuit, playing across the globe, but his beloved Barcelona remained close to his heart.
He and several of his tennis colleagues recognized that the birthplace of Olympic wheelchair tennis needed a professional tournament on the circuit. Coronado found a new motivation — create a tournament where both wheelchair tennis players and Barcelona will shine. "Wheelchair tennis brought me back to reality," said Coronado, "I wanted to be a good example, especially to disabled children and young people. Playing a sport can improve your quality of life." In 2017, Coronado became the founder and director of the TRAM Barcelona Open, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour. The popularity of the tournament and fan base grew significantly with each subsequent year — until 2020.
AI for better accessibility, better connections
The global pandemic in 2020 temporarily forced the cancellation of professional tennis tournaments worldwide, including the now internationally renowned TRAM Barcelona Open. However, Coronado and wheelchair tennis players like him are no strangers to adversity — and possibilities. Despite a year without the tournament, Coronado still focused on improving the experience with new ways to remove obstacles.
The tournament director envisioned an application that would connect tournament players and their families, international fan base and worldwide media. Behind the scenes, the app would streamline tournament operations, data collection and reporting. Real-time scoring and event information was not enough. Coronado expected the app to enhance the overall tournament experience, increase audience engagement and improve its brand visibility, especially as the organization sought to elevate its status within the International Tennis Federation (ITF). And he wanted it fast. The TRAM Barcelona Open in May 2021 was the penultimate tournament for players to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games held from August 24 to September 5, 2021.
Photo credit: TRAM Barcelona Open
Cloud and AI technology prove to be the winning combination
Coronado recognized the importance of having powerful teammates in his court when he selected his technology provider. As an AI solution provider to iconic tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open, Coronado trusted the technology and expertise of IBM, the support of the IBM Spain team and IBM Business Partner Tridenia.
"We chose the IBM Cloud® platform and IBM Watson® Assistant for the Barcelona Open application solution," said Jordi Puig, CEO at Tridenia. "The robustness and security of the IBM Cloud and the flexibility of the IBM Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service were important factors, as well as the support of the local IBM Spain team." Through the IBM Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service, Tridenia balanced price, deployment speed and security to create the right application for the tournament's needs and budget.
Innovating for the good of the sport
The free app — available in iOS and Android formats — provides real-time scoring for each match and the entire tournament. Through the integration of IBM Watson Assistant, tournament logistics, players' schedules and court locations were available in three languages: Catalan, English and Spanish. For the first time in the TRAM Barcelona Open and wheelchair tennis history, relatives and fans could follow the match and tournament results via an application.
"I'll never forget when a player approached me in tears. She said it was the first time her parents could follow her tournament play from their country. That is important when you have players and teams from more than 40 countries,” said Jose Coronado.
In 2022, the team plans to improve analytics capabilities and expand the functionality of the virtual assistant solution. "This social component promotes equality. We're using the best technology for wheelchair tennis players in the same way tennis players on foot use it," concludes Coronado.
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Tridenia S.L. is a technological development and innovation company specializing in conceptualizing and developing solutions that improve the user experience and the interaction between brands and consumers through digital channels. Since 2016, Tridenia has been an IBM Business Partner specializing in IBM Watson and developing virtual assistants and AI in advanced analytics and process automation solutions.