Meet the omni-channel experience that is Wimbledon 2016

Wimbledon app

The Championships, Wimbledon 2016 started yesterday, June 27, and run until July 10.

During these two weeks of intense competition, Wimbledon and the competing players will be names and brands in an event that will not only be on television screens large and small across the globe in real time and recorded, but also available and accessible on myriad devices, from smartwatches to big-screen PCs, almost anything that can connect to the global internet any time anywhere.

To be sure, there’s a terrific amount of great tennis to interest and captivate tennis fans as the process of elimination in these championships reaches its culmination in the finals on the Centre and No 1 Courts on Sunday July 10. The courts will be packed, and a global live television and social media audience will be huge.

Wimbledon truly is a global omni-channel (digital, social, TV and physical) experience.

In 2015, almost a year ago to the day, I was at Wimbledon – this was before I began working for IBM (I joined IBM in January this year) – to see first hand how such an experience is put together and run, and especially the technology behind it all that’s for the most part provided by IBM. And especially Watson, IBM’s technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.

Call it Cognitive Sport.

A year ago, I was seriously impressed with the behind-the-scenes tour of the IBM bunker. One particular highlight in what Sam Seddon, IBM’s Client Executive Wimbledon, showed me were the visualisations on multiple computer screens in how Watson crunched the numbers, as it were, that enabled IBM to deliver value to multiple end users.

One end of those technical solutions is the rack of servers that funnel data to the screens of a dozen or more IBM engineers in the bunker who are the sharp end, so to speak, of analysing and extracting insights from the huge amounts of data generated from the activities across the 19 courts of the Wimbledon complex, to be used by the match commentators, the TV broadcasters and internet video feeds, on the Wimbledon.com website – built and maintained by IBM – and to the apps people install on their mobile devices.

You can read my post from last year for more detail on that plus photos.

Consider some superlative facts from last year:

  • 71 million digital visitors in 2015, up 13% year on year
  • 41 million points analysed to determine the keys to the match of every player
  • 542 million views on the official website served by IBM Cloud in 2015
  • 9.5 million social media followers create content analysed by IBM Cognitive solutions
  • 500% increase in security attacks blocked by IBM Security in July 2015

Impressive though all that is, there’s more in store for 2016 that’s sure to make last year’s big numbers look a bit small.

For instance, this year the bunker is a Cognitive Command Centre built using Watson and hybrid cloud technologies. The solution will ingest feeds across multiple social media channels to automatically understand, reason and learn the most relevant and emerging topics of conversation as they relate to Wimbledon, providing those insights to the digital editorial team.

During the championships, IBM typically captures 3.2 million data points from 19 courts across 13 days with an accuracy target of 100% and a sub-second response time. It does this using highly-trained tennis analysts – it’s not only about the tech: the humans are also important – and transforms that data in near-real-time to provide insights to commentators and media helping to bring Wimbledon to life for TV fans globally.

In under four seconds, the match insights IBM captures are also used to update millions of digital devices around the world, delivering a fan experience that supports Wimbledon’s digital vision to be the next-best thing to being there.

New for 2016 is an app for Apple TV for Wimbledon that will enable fans to engage with Wimbledon in the comfort of their own homes. You will be able to browse real-time scores, watch the Live @ Wimbledon studio show, listen to three live radio channels, and delve through all of Wimbledon’s video and photo content, bringing the 2016 Wimbledon experience into your home in the truest sense.

The mobile apps for iOS and Android, responsive to all screen sizes, will provide multi-content personalized feeds you can access anywhere, any time. The new apps also provide an enhanced experience if you’re onsite at Wimbledon, including personalized messaging and the opportunity to create your own Wimbledon story, enabling you to capture and share your Wimbledon experiences with your friends and with the global community.

Wimbledon mobile app screenshots

I think the mobile app (I’m using the Android one) is terrific, beautifully designed, highly functional, and easy to use. It was created and made by IBM Interactive Experience, IBM’s next-generation services company which “exists at the intersection of business, art and technology” (read the full description).

IBM iX also built the app for Apple TV I mentioned earlier.

For Wimbledon, they help design and deliver fan experiences across all digital channels. Take a look at what they did and why they did it in this 2-minute video:

Then, download and install the mobile app and be part of Wimbledon 2016.

If you’re not physically there, it’s the next-best thing.