How big data supports 2016’s summer of sport

There are now countless examples of how big data can help companies across all industries improve decision-making, boost customer service and give employees a better insight into the wider industry. But the technology is far more wide-ranging than many people realise.

In fact, big data will have a key role to play in several of this summer's biggest sporting events. 2016 is a big year for international sports, with Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centenario taking place on either side of the Atlantic, before the Rio Olympics gets underway in August.

But many of this summer's events will be heavily reliant on big data, both to help team and competitors improve their performance, and keep fans up-to-date on what's going on.

For example, one event that's set to greatly increase its use of big data this year is the Tour de France. With almost 200 riders traversing 3,535km of French countryside, strong TV, radio and online coverage is essential for the fans following along.

This year, they will have a lot more information and insight into the event thanks to big data. Tech Week Europe reports that Dimension Data – which is not only delivering information to race organisers the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), but sponsoring its own team – will be providing a huge range of information.

Last year, the firm analysed up to six billion bits of data for every stage, turning it into information to help contextualise the race, and in 2016 it's set to review even more.

Adam Foster, the company's head of sports, said: "This year, we're working with a much broader palette, which means access to more meaningful race data, race routes, riders and current weather conditions. What's exciting this year is the ability to deliver all this information to ASO through a unified digital platform."

Having real-time access to multiple video feeds, social media posts and live race information in a single intuitive interface will "greatly enhance" the coverage of the event, he continued.

However, it is not just the Tour de France where big data will have an expanded role to play this year. 

Forbes noted that Wimbledon, which got underway on Monday (June 28th), will be turning to IBM's Watson analytics and machine learning platform to analyse the hundreds of thousands of social media mentions generated by the event.

Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, explained: "This allows us to not just look at and respond to trends, but to actually pre-empt them. We're hoping this will help in our quest, not necessarily to always be first but certainly to be early into the conversation when critical things are happening."

In theory, she said this should enable the club to monitor interest in a particular court of player and pre-empt any emerging trends before they become apparent on services like Twitter. This will help it curate content for its media output based on what its audience is most likely to be interested in, rather that reacting to trends after the fact, as has been the case in previous years.

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