IBM Aces 2016 US Open Tech With Watson and the Cloud


IBM cloud ad 2016

A mainstay at the US Open, IBM is once again covering center-court at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens for tennis fans engaging on digital platforms in New York and beyond thanks to its AI pro, Watson.

Once again enhancing the tournament and sport for players and fans worldwide, IBM is orchestrating a Federer-like mash-up of data, historical, predictive and cognitive analytics plus video and real-time scores. Watson joins other Grand Slam Tournament 2016 firsts this US Open, including a retractable roof (part of a $600 million makeover) at the Ashe stadium.

“Data is at the heart of the US Open digital experience,” said Noah Syken, IBM’s vice president of global sponsorship, in a blog post. In addition to having nine years of historical Grand Slam data (41 million data points) at its service, Watson is collecting data from the umpire’s chair, statisticians on-site and court-side sensors, delivering radar speed readings for serve and return.

Using its Speech to Text API, Watson is subtitling all US Open video on demand and in real-time, while photos of players and celebrities will be identified and tagged with Watson’s Visual Recognition API. The 2016 US Open apps for iPhone and Android feature Watson’s Conversation API so fans can ask logistical questions in natural language.

IBM SlamTracker is offering live dashboards of matches in progress, analyzing real-time and historical player, match and tournament data. The “Keys to the Match” feature identifies three key strategies affecting a particular match for each player in that match. Wi-Fi access points have increased 50 percent throughout the 40-acre site. IBM is also following the action on its Snapchat channel.

IBM, which has worked with the USTA since 1990, is highlighting its data and tech capabilities in a new ad campaign running throughout the US Open. The theme: how artificial intelligence and cloud-based computing are transforming businesses. Six new ads are being introduced under two banners: “Watson in the World” for its Watson AI platform and “The IBM Cloud” for its cloud platform systems.

Ann Rubin, VP of branded content and global creative at IBM, told Ad Age that “All businesses are becoming digital businesses with a strong cognitive element. We want to position IBM as a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company, and show examples of how IBM is working with real clients today. With digital intelligence, you can do things you have never done before, and we are trying to show that in these spots.”

For example, the spot below highlights how the IBM Cloud helps tech start-ups navigate the complexities of rapid growth:

The new campaign reflects IBM’s ‘Outthink’ brand campaign as the “Watson in the World” ads use IBM clients and a Voice Over from Watson him/herself that states, “Hello, my name is Watson, and working together we can outthink anything.”

The company believes, “Data gives meaning to action — but it takes the right approach,” and Watson center-court is helping to map that course from new depths.

While the sport of tennis is in a transition on the court from a golden era with a handful of dominant players to a new crop of already distinguishing themselves, shifting tides outside of tennis in the broader play arena are also proving disruptive.

“Professional sports in general is navigating a changing landscape as it competes for precious media oxygen and leisure time with everything from Pokemon Go to Game of Thrones,” noted Lew Sherr, chief revenue officer for the United States Tennis Association. “At least in the US, many sports teams are struggling with ‘How do I get my fan away from the couch?’ and away from the TV experience because that’s become so great?” Sherr said.

The advent of mobile technology and a new generation of fans since Ashe stadium was built in1997 are behind the changes in the legendary stadium. Matt Rossetti, a Detroit architect who developed the master plan, told Yahoo that “You don’t sit with that boomer mentality and just watch a sport. You want to engage it, you want to engage your friends, so there’s this whole new technology of consumption going on.”

The next upgrade to be completed in 2018 is the Louis Armstrong stadium, which is increasing capacity from 700,000 to 800,000 over the fortnight.