Wimbledon 2015: The Amazing IBM Technology Behind The Tennis

Wimbledon / IBM Technology Centre

I was extremely lucky to have a tour of the IBM Wimbledon technology bunker on Wednesday. Pure heaven for data nerds, it was practically technology porn for the chic geek!

The challenge at Wimbledon, and in marketing, is to ensure the right information reaches the right people at just the right time, not too early or too late and ideally before competitors. The setup at Wimbledon takes contextual real time data output to another level!

Me, Chris Nott & Robert Douglas (IBM)

Me, Chris Nott & Robert Douglas (IBM) Thanks For The Tour

One of the bunker rooms is for live data coming in, live social media data and locational specific website threat data management. Data is also of course captured from all the courts.The other room is for outbound data updates including contextual tweets and information that is expelled at a rapid rate.

Wimbledon IBM Control

They employ 48 people for data entry at the all important moments, aiming for 100% scoring accuracy within 1 second of the score or shot, and have hired tennis professionals to enter the scores. Chris Nott IBM CTO explained that “It is much easier to train tennis players than to train data specialists to enter the data into the system.


 For “Breaking News” Wimbledon have to be first with notifications with the updates and insights. The CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Analytics @ IBM Chris Nott pioneered and just released a new early warning system for 2015; insights with media ready updates are now available usually immediately and released up to 2 minutes of the breaking news event.

They provide context on the notifications/alerts they generate from the data as it is collected court-side, e.g. a new fastest serve notification will include the previous fastest serve speed, who served it and when. They provide this to Wimbledon’s digital and content team. Then the context can be augmented by asking further questions of Watson and its knowledge database and of the stats via the Hudson innovation.

Watson alerts them as to the up and coming statistic to get them ready for milestones. Like the one below which happened whilst I was on court 1, such a fast serve – unbelievable! Tweet and image ready within two minutes!

Types of shots are recorded as data points to assist the players to prepare for future matches. Comparing shots for accuracy, to see what to work on in training. For example a forehand may be a players best shot and backhand his weakest, these stats are recorded and are made available to the coaching teams within 20 minutes of the game finishing. This means they can start working on improving as soon as possible.


Contextual Analysis & Social Media Content Placement

As tennis coaches and marketers both know, without acting on data ASAP the player or business won’t improve enough to reach their genetic or business potential. If a social media marketing campaign and a tennis shot isn’t measured and the insights are not acted upon it’s a real shame as the opportunity to improve is vast.

We know with social media marketing (we do run analytics solutions and marketing campaigns after all!) so much live data is missed by businesses lacking the correct “Big Business” data analysis tools. If you aren’t monitoring and responding in real time to build relationships and provide contextual information then your competitors or other stakeholders will reap the rewards. The link between this contextual content and thoughtleadership brand positioning is crucial for growing your business.

Technology process map here for the more technical enthusiasts….

This internal information system is only available on site for BBC press and other IBM & Wimbledon staff. Information is available from over 1 million pages including all match stats, from 1874 until now, within one database. This data also drives over 1000 TV graphics and tennis experts work alongside IBM, Wimbledon and The BBC to make sure the correct graphics are deployed when points are won.


Watson Cognitive Artificial Intelligence

The really exciting part for me at Wimbledon 2015 is the use of AI (Artifical Intellgence) supercomputer capabilities. To achieve this Watson Cognitive Analytics has been programmed with the 10 last wimbledon tennis annuals to analyse.

The Wimbledon data analysis combines Watson cognitive computing power with this database and decides whether it should search within the existing database (all Wimbledon history back to 1870′s) or within Watson’s data based upon the context of the search query and what data is contextual for the question asked. Watson shows the % accuracy when answering and updates how many tweets per minute are on Twitter (as it’s plugged directly into Twitter data pops up randomly with this information.)

Wimbledon Watson IBM

Contextually the answers it gives are aimed at two different types of people, Tennis experts and the general public. It also shows on Twitter who is trending based upon the authority of their networks, to enable leveraging of influencers…(IBM recently partnered with Twitter data to grab live data)

Watson is not available to the media this year at Wimbledon, because it is a demonstrator – they are learning how to work with Watson’s thought patterns and super fast wit, as you can see its seriously ridiculous!

Watson IBM Wimbledon

IBM monitor what people are talking about and where, so they can investigate what’s going on in the physical world across the site and ask questions with different #hashtags to distinguish the tweets from outside the ground to inside the ground and analyse sentiment (social media geek heaven)!

Big scores doesn’t necessarily equal big engagement on social media though, numbers of followers are sometimes not a good way to judge our reach or influence! This is especially the case with people buying followers (to pay to advertise in front of). Hence the importance for social media analytics tools to workout who is worth engaging with and who is having conversations around the kind of problems your business can solve! Of course getting involved to provide information.


Of course all work and no play makes me a dull boy! There was an Occulus headset which blew my mind!

So if you would like to learn more about how we can help your business with social media analytics please send a tweet to => @natschooler or drop me an email => nat@ realkinetica.com


Watch my short webinar explaining https://youtu.be/6VxjJIcuv0U