Photos: Tracking the servers at Wimbledon

Photos: Tracking the servers at Wimbledon

Summary: Grab yourself a Pimms and join us on a tour of IBM's facilities at Wimbledon, where the company aims to keep the scores and more

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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  • Like any high-tech centre these days, IBM's centre of control at Wimbledon is not designed to appeal to the eye. Screens are crammed everywhere and there is a temporary look about it all. This is not surprising, since IBM has the contract to cover many tennis events, so its tennis team is nomadic. They arrive on-site with just one week to set up their equipment, spend two weeks working and then have a week to tear everything down and move on.

    Our picture shows the main office for data entry, which is just one of three IBM offices on the site. The others handle output for television and other outlets, the supply of statistical information, and the maintenance of the IBM Wimbledon Web site.

    They are housed in a building situated to one side of Centre Court at Wimbledon. The building also acts as the press office and supports some parts of the systems not handled by IBM, including the "let" system and Cyclops, the system that decided if a serve landed in or out.

  • The basic data-input device is as simple as they come, and is attached to a laptop computer. The data is entered with each swing of the racquet and then passed to the central systems.

    Most of the communications are carried over cables with some wireless backup. It seems astonishing in these "wireless-everywhere" days but, as IBM points out, there are good reasons for this.

    Firstly, Wimbledon is a very compact site with around 30 courts sitting one next to the other. This means there are a lot of people in a small area, and a lot of mobile devices.

    Add to that the fact that Wimbledon is built on quite a steep hill, as anyone who has seen "Henman Hill" on television can confirm, and you could have a mobile communications nightmare.

  • TV is ever-present at sporting events, and these days you can also watch it online. This means the IBM team needs two screens: one showing the TV picture and other showing the Web version.

    Video-streaming technology has developed very quickly over the past few years. If you stand in the control centre you can easily tell the difference between the two images, but they are much closer in quality than they were just 12 months ago.

Topic: Emerging Tech


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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