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Aussie Open serves up ace tech: photos

The Australian Open kicked off in Melbourne yesterday, this year with more technology than ever. ZDNet Australia went behind the scenes to bring you all the action.
By Luke Hopewell, Contributor on
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Aussie Jarmila Groth returns a tough serve from Belgian Yanina Wickmayer as the IBM speed counter tracks every volley.

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Telco sector veteran, now Tennis Australia CEO, Steve Wood talks about the sport's 18-year relationship with IBM and how technology is critical to the game.

"In the future, players will train smarter, manage injury better, analyse themselves more, all with technology," Wood said.

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IBM's threat tracker maps and stops potential cyber attacks against the Tennis Australia site from all over the world. This particular attack originated in China and is targeting IBM's US hosting centre.

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Three datacentres are used across the United States to serve the Australian Open content. This graph is tracking how many hits the site gets, as well as the load capacity of each of the centres.

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PointStream is a new tracking system currently in beta from IBM. Deployed for the first time at the Australian Open, PointStream takes vital statistics collected from technicians on the court, such as the type of stroke, speed of ball, faults, unforced errors and more, and graphs them so that a user can watch how their player is tracking in real time.

The minds behind the project say that the PointStream program can be duplicated and applied to other major events, such as the Queensland flood crisis, to aid analysis.

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The Australian Open has made a push towards mobile devices this year, trimming down its website to work across multiple platforms. Demonstrated here is the new iPad app. The app is a virtual copy of the tour program, and contains new features including live statistics, match updates and schedules, as well as a feature that lets players sign a fan's iPad.

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Meanwhile, the Open's iPhone app contains an augmented reality (AR) capability. This AR function overlays points of interest to a user as they look around the ground with their smartphone camera. Points of interest include courts, big screens and bathrooms.

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One of the many big screens inside the IBM "war bunker" secreted beneath Rod Laver Arena. From this small room beneath the stands, a team of statisticians collects, processes and aggregates data for the whole tournament, including court scheduling, video stream co-ordination, player statistics information and umpire data collection.

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A fleet of IBM ThinkPads broadcasts live match statistics to courts all over Melbourne Park.

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This big screen at the centre of the action pulls information from IBM's statistics room and displays it for all to see.

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Managing the live feeds for each of the courts around the ground.

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Umpires are given a purpose-built handheld device to record every point, challenge and event relating to the outcome of a game. Once a game has been completed, umpires return to their common room where the data is downloaded and aggregated for fans and players alike to see.

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Statistics such as these are broadcast from the IBM statistics centre.

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The Australian Open also uses state-of-the-art broadcast facilities, including this suspended camera rig, which whizzes around the court, tracking players in between sets, providing up close and intimate footage.

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The camera moves down to score a close-up shot of Novak Djokovic challenger, Marcel Granollers.

The Australian Open is set to run through to 30 January.

Luke Hopewell travelled to the Australian Open as a guest of IBM.

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