Wimbledon fortnight, 2 weeks of Tennis, sunshine (some of the time), overpriced strawberries, group singalongs with Cliff Richard and the occasional British win. But all these things don’t just happen, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, runs a tight well organised ship, which makes sure that the Players and the fans are looked after and can get to the right court at the right time. For the data gathering and statistical analysis they’ve called on the help of IBM and their game show winning AI system Watson.
In a bunker full of tech under Wimbledon, it’s air conditioned coolness and marked contrast to the fierce heat outside, IBM collate over 3.2 million points of data over the course of the championship. Every serve, every point is monitored by two people on each court, with the larger court having a third person to monitor other data that isn’t available on the smaller courts, like serve speeds. All of this data is fed down to the bunker, checked for accuracy, processed and made available to the worlds media along with the wimbledon.com website. The data crunching is so intensive it has to be assisted by 3 offsite data centres, 2 in the US and one in Portsmouth.
It’s in the context of the data that Watson comes into His/Its own. Was that the fastest serve at Wimbledon? How often have 2 opponents played each other and what was the score on each occasion? All these and other facts and figures can be fed back to the commentators for inclusion in their broadcast, but this is just the beginning. They already do some elementary flow control work, seeing what parts of the club are busy, but this could be vastly improved with AI help, making the experience pleasanter for the millions who visit each year.
Another, more contentious thing they could do would involve fitting sensors to players and their rackets, allowing precise data about how a player plays to be analyzed. The players themselves are not currently willing to share this information with the public however, preferring to keep their secrets for now.