IBM: Data is a real game changer

Nowadays data analytics is everywhere and everyone tries to use data analytics to their advantage. Even in the sports sector, data analytics has become increasingly popular in providing coaches and players with the right information on how to improve their overall performances. The data doesn’t only provide insightful information on their own sports performances, but also on the performances of their rivals.

For the past several years IBM has challenged itself in how to bring technology to sports fans. In collaboration with companies across several industries IBM tries to ensure they are taking advantage of the new opportunities available through analytics, the cloud, social media and mobile devices. IBM has realised that live streams of sports events produce a lot of data that can be used to provide fans, coaches and players with new insights.

As a long-time technology partner of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and other Grand Slams, IBM has helped fans watch and enjoy tennis over the past several Grand Slams in 2015. With their new SlamTracker, IBM is able to enrich tennis fans’ knowledge and appreciation no matter where they are. Based on more than 41 million data point over the past eight years of Grand Slams, SlamTracker identifies key moments in the match to pin point what the player needs to win the match. By analysing the streams of data available through live streams, and comparing those to the available data, IBM can point out “moments of achievement”, “Keys to the Match”, other real-time statistics and indicators that are most likely to affect the player’s ability to succeed.

This new application gives IBM the ability to predict sequences of current matches, while they’re happening. Fans can follow the statistics of each player during the match on their second screens, their mobile devices. For example you can not only see an ace being served by Serena Williams, but also see deeper insights into how that particular ace fits in context to the overall serves of Serena during that match.

The detailed statistics and analysis, gathered by IBM, are also being presented to the players and their coaches. With this data tennis players will be able to study their match performance more precise than ever before and make huge improvements in training for the next Grand Slam. The data helps players optimize their performance against specific opponents on different playing surfaces.

Will data become a real game changer in all sports categories? Overall I think data will have a huge impact on how, not only tennis players but all kinds of sports players/teams, adapt their tactics to specific opponents in order to increases their chances of winning. When companies like IBM turn to the sports industry and start analysing every sports player in the industry, soon a lot of data will become public and change the way professionals play their game.

Will the entire sports world turn in to a data driven industry, changing the game? Let me know whether you think data analytics will change the sports industry in the comment section below.

Author: Milou Saraber
S.I.D.: 366867



2 responses to “IBM: Data is a real game changer”

  1. 366036rz says :

    Mostly I agree with your suggestion that when a lot of data becomes public, the way professionals play their game will change. Players can easily adapt to another, if they know what moves their opponent always make in a match. This could make sport games boring and more predictable. But it can also be challenging for the players. They have to be creative and come up with new strategies and tricks every game, so this would make the game more attractive.

    In soccer for example there is a team in Denmark, Little FC Midtjylland, who has put statistical analysis at the center of their operations. This football club is driven by data. Even when they are looking for new players, they use their database with statistics instead of a human scout. Players are signed because the algorithms of club says that they are undervalued. As a result the club is performing top in the Denmark Football league. The owner of the club, Benham, bought another football club, Brentford FC to try out his models. Since he bought the club, the club is performing better than ever. So based on these examples we can see that data could help clubs and players to perform better in sports. I’m still wondering what would happen if all teams would implement this system and rely solely on data.

    But I also think that sports, will always be a human sport. Luck and bad luck are never far away from each other. Which means that mistakes and failure are never ruled out. A player can return from an injury, or can have a really bad period for a few months. Also the opposite can happen, a really bad player can become really good in no time.
    So I’m very curious what’s going to happen in the future, but I don’t think that data and science will take over sports completely.


  2. hugo says :

    Hi Milou,

    There is no doubt that data analytics bring sports, especially in tennis or football, closer to their fans. They give supporters the opportunity to obtain valuable game or player statistics, enhancing their knowledge and boosting their passion, without the necessity to be physically present at the sports premise, and I reckon there is yet more to come, which is why I certainly agree with the content of your post.

    However, I do not believe that data analytics is yet a game changer in sports, as they do not significantly improve the game by making more accurate and fairer decisions. Nevertheless, there is another technology that can be deemed to do so, which is the Hawk Eye. Launched in 2005, the Hawk Eye enables players and referees to double-check taken decisions whether a ball has hit the line in tennis or not. Therefore, it significantly increases the accuracy of referee decisions and eliminates any player doubt or fairness issues. In this context, the Hawk Eye has been initiated in football and is being used in the Premier League in England, but also has been taken advantage of during the last World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

    Even though I do realize the argument that sports are still human activities where there has to be some degree of doubt to make it passionate, I believe that decisions about goals/points should not be subject to speculation or referee subjectivity. Therefore, I stress that the Hawk Eye technology can be considered as the major game changer to this point, although the technology cannot be considered to be 100% either.

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