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How Wimbledon is keeping its eye on the ball with IBM tech

Vish Gain visited Wimbledon to get a sneak peek of how IBM is using data and AI to help the tennis tournament engage with fans in its ‘pursuit of greatness’.

It’s not every day that you get to visit Wimbledon and walk around its hallowed courts during the tournament. An even rarer cohort of individuals gets to visit the underground bunkers where the behind-the-scenes action happens. I was lucky enough to do both last week.

Walking into the premises of the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d watched Wimbledon matches growing up, but witnessing one live was a different ball game altogether, excuse the pun.

But my trip to Wimbledon wasn’t just about watching the action as it happened, but to dig deeper. And by digging deeper, I mean visiting the underground data rooms run by Wimbledon’s technology partner, IBM.

IBM has been a tech partner of Wimbledon since 1990. Since then, the two have been linked inextricably, trying to innovate new ways of engaging Wimbledon’s worldwide audience and using technology to live up to its motto: ‘In pursuit of greatness.’

Data analysis, automation and artificial intelligence are just some of the technologies developed by IBM and its partners that are being deployed to make watching Wimbledon, both in-person and from afar, a more meaningful experience.

“It all starts with the data,” Kevin Farrar, IBM UK sports partnerships lead, told me. “We’ve built this platform of innovation with the club to turn massive amounts of data into engaging and meaningful insights for the fans.”

Farrar works with a team of experts who, in collaboration with other technology partners, collect and process the immense amounts of data generated throughout the tournament.

“We’re collecting the test stats. There’s the direction of serve, how the ball is returned, backhand or forehand, the rally count, how the point is won, if it’s a forced or unforced error,” he whispered to me in a room full of experts wearing headphones watching the matches closely.

This information is collected from thousands of data points, which are then combined with data from other sources, such as Hawk-Eye’s electronic line-calling technology, to produce meaningful insights that are fed into the Wimbledon website and to global broadcasters.

Wimbledon and the IBM Power Index

The fruit of this behind-the-scenes work by IBM is best displayed on Wimbledon’s official website, where live updates on matches are combined with AI-powered match insights to make the sport exciting for those not within the premises.

This year, for example, has seen the introduction of the IBM Power Index, an AI-powered daily ranking of player momentum before and during Wimbledon. Using Watson, IBM’s powerful natural language processing system, the Power Index analyses player performance, media commentary and other factors to quantify momentum.

“A lot of people just watch tennis once a year – they watch Wimbledon. They’ll know the big names, but they won’t necessarily know the upcoming players. The Power Index gives a mechanism for them to sort of identify players that are hot at the moment,” Farrar said.

Users of the Wimbledon website or smartphone app can view the Power Index and click on any player they find interesting and want to keep an eye on. They can track the player’s progress and get personalised updates based on what or who they’re interested in.

“It’s an algorithm that takes both structured data and unstructured data,” Farrar explained. “The structured data is the scores and match results. But it’s also looking at the media buzz through trusted data sources, to see what the media is saying about the players.”

The Sherlock-like Watson (although named after early IBM CEO Thomas Watson) is also able to use vast amounts of data and expert input to predict which of the two players in any given match has a higher chance of winning. Fans on the app can weigh in too and see how far they stand from the AI estimate.

Serving the fans

Farrar said the reason IBM is doing all this is to engage with fans interested in both technical details as well as the “drama and beauty of it all” through a visual experience. In the 2021 championships, Wimbledon reached approximately 18m people through its digital platforms.

“Sports fans love debate. So, putting something out there in terms of a prediction that Watson has come up with, they’ll have their own views and their own win factors in their mind. It’s about engaging the fans in that social debate and asking them, ‘Well, what do you think?’”

For Deborah Threadgold, IBM Ireland country manager, the relationship between Wimbledon and IBM is a great example of what the company’s strategy is all around.

“When you look at the data piece, when you look at the automation piece, and the security and how it is all sitting on that platform, and how that’s allowing them to innovate, then that’s exactly what IBM brings to all of our clients,” Threadgold told me.

“So even here in Ireland, whether you’re in the sporting industry, or much more broadly, whether you’re in financial services, public sector, whatever it may be, all of those tools and those mechanisms, you can actually reimagine how that works into your own industry.”

Of the four cornerstone annual tennis tournaments, Wimbledon is by far the most traditional with the richest history. It has been played since 1877 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London.

“Our challenges here is to get that balance right between the tradition and heritage of the club, and the way they present themselves with technology and innovation,” Farrar said. “The brand is very important to them, and we make sure that that remains the case while still innovating every year.”

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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