ball sports

IBM’s new innovations, insights use AI, Cloud technology for 2021 US Open

IBM is the digital partner of the 2021 United States Open Tennis Championships, which will take place in New York, USA from August 30, 2021 to September 12, 2021. The company has new fan experiences leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and hybrid cloud to empower millions of fans around the world with player and match insights so they can experience the iconic tennis Grand Slam in new ways.  

IBM is helping to enhance the US Open digital experience by using AI to keep fans more informed about  the players and matches with real-time rankings and insights on the US Open app and USOpen.org. The tournament’s new IBM Power Rankings with Watson and Match Insights with Watson run on IBM Cloud with Red Hat OpenShift and use AI and natural language processing (NLP) to analyze data and offer key insights ahead of each of the tournament’s 254 singles matches.

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Also, IBM Power Rankings with Watson and Match Insights with Watson will be integrated into the tournament broadcast on ESPN and in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) show “The Changeover.” Match Insights with Watson uses Watson Discovery to create AI generated fact sheets to help fans quickly get up to speed ahead of every singles match during the tournament.

Launched at the 2021 Wimbledon Championship, IBM Power Rankings with Watson are AI-powered daily rankings of player momentum that will be used at the US Open for the first time this year.

The typical tennis tour ranking systems use 52 weeks of historical data to quantify player performance and IBM Power Rankings takes this further by  focusing on a player’s most recent history, combining advanced statistical analysis, Watson Discovery’s NLP capabilities and the secured and open IBM Cloud to analyze player performance data, mine media commentary, measure player momentum and highlight its determination of the most compelling matchups. The IBM Power Rankings Leaderboard will be first posted on the Friday before the tournament and then will be updated daily during the tournament. 

First launched in 2020, Match Insights with Watson is enhanced with updated features including In the Media to extract key insights about each player from news sources and By the Numbers, which uses natural language generation (NLG) to translate historical  statistics into sentences and then uses IBM Decision Optimization for Watson Studio to help  select which insights to display to fans. IBM Power Rankings and Match Insights can also help fans better understand what the data is saying about players ahead of upcoming matches with new features including Likelihood to Win, Ones to Watch and Upset Alerts.

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Likelihood to Win (L2W) is a confidence value, expressed in percentages, assigned to each singles match player toward the likelihood that they will win the match. Ones to Watch is a pre-tournament perspective of players where the IBM Power Ranking is five or more positions higher than their respective tour rank. 

Notably, Ones to Watch was tested earlier this year during Wimbledon. Using IBM Watson, the solution identified Matteo Berrettini as a One to Watch and he made the tournament’s final. 

Matches identified as Upset Alerts are when the IBM Power Rankings favor an underdog as defined by the tour ranks, to win based on a higher L2W. Including digital fan experiences, cyber  security, digital property support and more, the work that IBM does with the USTA for the US Open is built on a hybrid cloud infrastructure that includes IBM  Cloud, Watson for Cyber Security and IBM Watson’s enterprise-grade AI capabilities, the same technologies IBM is using to digitally transform clients in a variety of industries around the world.

The US Open is also launching US Open Fantasy Tennis on USOpen.org, which will  include IBM Power Rankings and insights using IBM Watson Discovery. US Open Fantasy Tennis, the first-ever fantasy experience for this tennis Grand Slam, gives sports fans the opportunity to create a  fantasy team of tennis pros that they can follow throughout the two-week tournament.

US Open Fantasy Tennis will be enriched with Match Insights to help users make the most informed fantasy selections for their teams. Match Insights will be available within the US Open Fantasy Tennis interface to help users select a fantasy roster of four men and four women.

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The data from IBM Power Rankings and Match Insights will change throughout the tournament, giving users a chance to reevaluate their roster during the pre-determined redemption period, before the fourth round of the tournament. In the game, US Open Fantasy players will receive points every time their selected tennis players win a match (100 points), serve an ace (two points each) and break a serve (five points each). 

“Our partnership with IBM enables us to offer advanced data-driven insights to millions of fans worldwide  watching or attending the tournament,” USTA ticketing, hospitality and digital strategy managing director Kirsten Corio stated. “Behind the scenes, IBM Cloud allows us to have the flexibility and security to  power our remote operations, innovate new features year over year and ensure that the US Open Digital  Properties run flawlessly to deliver the tournament to the world.”

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey of over 2,600 US adults highlighted how the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed consumer preferences of the fan experience during sports. Two  times more US adults surveyed report watching traditional sports on digital platforms during the pandemic (84 percent) compared to pre-pandemic (41 percent) and 60 percent of US adults surveyed reported technologies like AI  and cloud computing make sports more engaging to watch for fans. 

“Since last year’s entirely virtual tournament we’ve learned even more about what fans are looking for and  how technology can help execute a tournament of this scale,” IBM sports and entertainment partnerships vice president Noah Syken stated. “We’re excited to bring that insight into our continued partnership with  the USTA and to help leverage our AI and cloud expertise to make the tournament more engaging for  fans via the digital platforms and their new fan experiences and the behind-the-scenes technology that helps enable the tournament.”

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For 30 years, IBM has been the official technology partner of the US Open. The company designs and develops the US Open app and website, including fan experiences that help engage with fans globally throughout the tournament.

Similar to previous years, the US Open’s digital properties run on a combination of on premises, public and private clouds and pull from a variety of data sources and APIs. IBM uses this hybrid cloud approach to collect, integrate and distribute data and applications across multiple clouds while seamlessly handling a variety of different workloads.

This year’s innovative solutions were built on IBM Cloud and containerized using Red Hat OpenShift. The flexibility of the cloud allows for rapid  innovation each year as the IBM developers building these solutions are able to write code for new features once and deploy them in the many USTA environments. 

As experiences have increasingly shifted online during the pandemic, a hybrid cloud architecture gave the US Open’s digital operation the flexibility it needed for ongoing remote work while maintaining productivity and certified to the highest commercial level of data security. Due to the ongoing pandemic and lessons learned from the 2020 US Open, the tournament’s digital and content teams are operating with a combination of on and off-site team members and a hybrid cloud architecture enables remote operations to  function with resiliency, scalability and speed. 

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