Welcome to the 135th Wimbledon Championships – the smartest, most data-driven and sustainable ever!
In this piece I explore the latest technology, people and purpose inspired innovations following a behind the scenes visit with IBM, the official Information Technology partner for the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and The Championships for the past 33 years. I also reflect on the changes I have seen first-hand over the last 12 months, especially regarding explainable AI, the quality and interactivity of the fan experience and sustainable development. This is clearly based on the power of trusted partnership with workshopping, testing and developing AI and analytics-based solutions in an all-year shared commitment. Let’s dive into the key advances!
Wimbledon reached approximately 18 million fans through its digital platforms in 2021. And this year, the event has become even more technology feature rich by design - whilst always supported by people in partnership. Around each match court there are typically 2-3 individuals applying their judgment on the data generated – from reflecting on whether it was a volley or drop shot, or double-checking, did the ball graze the racket or was that actually an ace? The only thing stopping this at Wimbledon 2022 was quite literally a swarm of bees, when the affected court data entry position was cleared and this ‘sanity-check’ of data role seamlessly taken over by the IBM Technology Command Centre – meaning no data point evaluation was lost!
With an overarching focus on trustworthy AI and the interactivity of the fan experience, this year IBM has moved another ‘step beyond’ the technology foundation of IBM Power Index (IPI) with Watson, Personalized Recommendations and Highlights Reels, and IBM Match Insights with Watson, and all underpinned by NLP, Natural Search and a hybrid cloud approach combining IBM Cloud, on-premises systems and private clouds, which I covered previously here. Two new features for 2022 which advance both AI explainability and the fan experience are ‘Win Factors’ and ‘Have Your Say’ as detailed below:
On both the official Wimbledon apps and Wimbledon.com, users can now register their own personal predictions for match outcomes via Have Your Say. Users can their compare their take with the aggregated predictions of other tennis fans plus the AI-powered Likelihood to Win predictions that are generated by IBM Watson. Such a great way to enable all voices to be heard, enable interactivity and continue the conversation on social channels too – sports fans always love to debate! And you can see the delight on occasions where ‘users beat the tech’ – although it must be said that IBM predictions maintain an 80%+ accuracy rate on the centre courts where predictions are based on the greatest volume, history and range of data sources. So, impressive results all round!
Advancing the existing ‘Match Insights’ feature on Wimbledon.com and the Wimbledon apps, ‘Win Factors’ offer a new level of explainability into the factors which can affect player performance that are being analysed by the AI to determine insights and predictions. These include the IBM Power Index, ATP/WTA rankings, yearly success, media articles and punditry, recent performance, head-to-head, ratio of games won, net of sets won and court surface. The feature also highlights the top 3 factors that have influenced the AI’s ultimate Likelihood to Win prediction. This heralds a new level of digital experiences driven by AI with transparency and explainability embedded by design, critical to both user understanding and user trust, as highlighted in new research explored here.
The overarching event theme for the Championships this year is “Environment Positive, Every Day” with investment in reducing environmental impact a long held commitment by the AELTC as detailed in pledges including net-zero emissions from operations, zero-waste status and achieving biodiversity net-gain available < a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="https://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/atoz/sustainability.html">here. Amongst a number of green developments at Wimbledon 2022 are electric vehicles, a bug hotel, living walls and reusable cups plus priority plant-based options in restaurants, coupled by innovation in the food supply chain, especially around transparency and waste reduction.
IBM is already developing new innovation around energy efficient smart lighting for the event and underpins the Wimbledon Championships environmental commitment with its ‘sustainable by design’ technology strategy which focuses on the complete lifecycle from design choices through to innovation adoption, manufacturing and shipping logistics. Taking materials selection as the foundation of a sustainable lifecycle, IBM has sourced all 3TG mineral requirements from ethical smelters or refiners, or from 100% recycled or scrap for the last 3 years.
And with a 27-year history of continually improving the energy efficiency of its products generation after generation, the latest z16 server iteration combines performance advancements, executing some 25 billion encrypted transactions per day, with assured energy ratings and transparency around estimated carbon footprint – this can help predict the full life cycle emissions of a product and identify opportunity areas for the greatest greenhouse gas reduction.
The commitment continues with practices deployed in manufacturing to eliminate waste, for example the use of High Recycled Content Polyethylene Cushions for IBMz, IBM Power and Storage, reducing the use of virgin materials by some 60% and by optimizing reuse and recycling opportunities. Since 1995, IBM has processed 2.46 Billion pounds of products and product waste worldwide, sending just 0.3% to landfills or for incineration in 2021. Reflecting on this further, when we consider the 2022 Championships aspiration to be “Environment Positive, Every Day” this level of sustained action for sustainable innovation by Wimbledon’s technology partner for the past 33 years, is clearly a match well made!
It has been said that ‘technology is magic’ and my experience behind the scenes at Wimbledon 2022 echoes that ‘art of the possible ethos’ made real, raising the game in AI explainability and trust, alongside heightening the dynamism and interactivity of the digital experience - helping to keep fans informed, engaged, curious and deeply involved real-time. It also brings to the fore that technology innovation and becoming data-driven is underpinned by the power and motivation of people, partnership and purpose – Wimbledon maybe a 2-week event but it’s an everyday and all year continuous commitment to sustainable technology change. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
For more information on IBM and the Wimbledon Championships, more information is available here.
Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced chief technology officer, professor in advanced technologies, and a Global Strategic Advisor on digital transformation specializing in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, 5G, cloud, security, and IoT disciplines, for business and IT transformation, alongside social impact at scale.
An international keynote speaker and author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations, and has been described as the "torchbearer for ethical tech", founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity, and belonging in the technology space and beyond. Sally is also the chair for the Global Cyber Trust at GFCYBER.
Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced Chief Technology Officer, Professor in Advanced Technologies and a Global Strategic Advisor on Digital Transformation specialising in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, FinTech, Blockchain & 5G disciplines, for business transformation and social impact at scale. An international Keynote Speaker and Author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations in 2018 and has been described as the ‘torchbearer for ethical tech’ founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity and belonging in the technology space and beyond.