U.S. Open and IBM: Analytics Grand Slam

Summary:It's US Open season, and the analytics are going wild (not to mention the fans). Here's an inside look at how IBM and the USTA are bringing the data to you, in your Web browser, and on your device.

I live in New York City and I grew up here too, and so this time of year is very special to me.  Although I am in no way a major sports fan, I adore watching the (tennis) US Open, which is played in Flushing Meadows, in the New York City borough of Queens.  At the end every summer since I was in high school, I have attended the Open and/or watched it on TV.  Back in the 1980s, my dad's firm had a courtside box in Louis Armstrong Stadium (center court at that time) and each year my family got tickets there for a few sessions during the 4th round and quarter finals.  As such, I got to sit three rows back from the action, watching the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Bjorn Borg and others battle for tennis supremacy, and it is was quite the thrill.

I’ve always tracked the many brands that have held sway at the tournament.  As such, I’ve had my eye on IBM for quite a while.  The technology IBM has built around the Open has become more sophistcated each year.  And as that technology has become increasingly accessible to individual fans, I’ve wondered more and more how it’s built.  So I was a bit of a kid in a candy store this week when I got to interview John Kent, IBM’s Technology Manger for Sponsorship Marketing, who gave me the lowdown on IBM’s US Open technology features and infrastructure.  I’ll work to convey here the information I gleaned from that briefing.

US Open on your iPad
IBM has been working with the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the organization behind the US Open, for 22 years now.  For that entire time the company has been providing infrastructure for delivery of scoring and statistics, but in the last few years, things have become especially interesting. 

For example, this year, for the first time, the US Open has its own iPad App (the iPhone app came in 2009), which mashes up scoring information, live and on-demand video and analytics.  There’s even a sophisticated social media angle: when the iPad app open you’ll see a collection of columns, each displaying a stream of tweets that are hash tag-specific to an individual court (and match) at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the Open is played.

iPad Fig1

With just a couple of taps, you can navigate a menu of video streams – also court-specific – which deliver live tournament play, in high-definition of course.  You can also easily see the up-to-date draw sheet for all five major tournaments (men’s and women’s singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles).  I was using the app quite a bit in my beach house rental on Fire Island this week, where DSL (with downstream speeds below 3 Mbps) is the only broadband option, and the feeds performed well.


Topics: Big Data


Andrew Brust has worked in the software industry for 25 years as a developer, consultant, entrepreneur and CTO, specializing in application development, databases and business intelligence technology. He has been a developer magazine columnist and conference speaker since the mid-90s, and a technology book writer and blogger since 2005.... Full Bio

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