Wimbledon’s Unsung Heroes – the Data Collectors

2015 has been a special year for data fans who love tennis. The 29th June (the first day of Wimbledon Fortnight) saw the first use of Wimbledon’s real-time notifications system, thanks to the IBM army of data collectors seated in prime positions around every court.

In 2014 IBM collected 3.2 million data points from court-side, aiming to have every statistic for every point recorded within one second of its completion. This year, the data is shared and analysed in milliseconds, so we know (for example) out of the 64 first round matches played, there were 16 5-set matches, 2 retirements but no walkovers (there was one in round two however!). A total of 239 sets were completed, containing 1404 aces and 624 double faults. (click here for the full details!).

The data analyses also hunts out items of interest such as milestones, deviations in play and records to be tweeted out immediately, such as Lleyton Hewitt bowing out by hitting his 1500th winning shot or Andy Murray serving his 600th ace at Wimbledon.

And this was made possible only by the efforts of Wimbledon’s unsung heroes – the IBM Data Capture Team, the human aspect of data collection. Typically young tennis players who play at county level or above, they sit court-side and record data for every shot and every point, needing to understand the subtleties of the play at the same time. For the main courts (Centre and Number One Court), it takes three data capturers to record the data, which is checked by a fourth in a ‘tech bunker’. An operations manager oversees all the specialists and ensures the data feed for the 1000-plus graphics Wimbledon provides to its broadcast partners each year is accurate and timely.

So in order to develop their team further, IBM worked with customer-engagement agency OgilvyOne UK to develop their #MaketheTeam on-line game to discover who has got what it takes for such a demanding role. The challenge is to see who can record the most shots, most accurately, whilst being challenged by other players. The prize for being top of the leader board at the end of this year’s tournament is a pair of Centre Court tickets at the 2016 Wimbledon – plus a possible job interview with IBM to be one of their 50+ tennis experts next year!

So we raise a celebratory strawberry to Wimbledon’s unsung heroes – the Data Collectors – a real example of how to humanise #BigData.