We might focus on the racquets and the sweat, but Tennis Australia marshals a huge range of technology resources to organise and broadcast the Australian Open each year. The key underlying principle to make that happen? Reusing everything as much as possible.
“One thing that’s vitally important for Tennis Australia is to reuse our assets,” Tennis Australia chief information officer Samir Mahir told Lifehacker during a behind-the-scenes tour yesterday. “When we capture information or data or video, we try to reuse it. We try to centralise everything and redistribute it to meet the needs of our stakeholders.”
“From a technology standpoint, we provide a lot of services to players and broadcasters. “One thing which is heavily used, especially for media, is IPTV,” Mahir said. “We have over 350 units available to them. All the data we collect from the court, whether it’s scores or stats, we make sure we convert it with the video feed we get from our broadcast compound, and we make it available to our journalists. You can find anything you can imagine about the tournaments from statistics and courts and leaderboards to tournament schedules.”
“You can also replay with match analysis. That information is also available to players and coaches at the end of each match for debriefing. They use it for analysing their performance. Most of the players that use it are the players that lose, not the players that win!”
Those assets are also made available in other ways. “The match analysis can be accessed by coaches in their hotel room — we have a secure online version with all the matches they played this year as well as last year,” Mahir said.
The reuse principle also comes into play with the team of IBM staffers that manages the technology. “The team that comes here travels with IBM across the world and they manage all four slams,” Mahir said. “One benefit of working with IBM is obviously the expertise they have working with other sports.”
Experience at other grand slam events is particularly useful. “We improve based on the lessons learned from the previous event,” Mahir said. “If something new is deployed at the US Open, we take advantage, and we initiate a few new things here as well, such as the Social Shack. There’s a lot of sharing and collaboration.”
The Social Shack is a purpose-built venue on the grounds which includes 12-metre LED screens displaying updates from players and visualisations of which players are most active. It also hosts interviews with players and celebrities at the event which include questions asked on Twitter. When I visited, Andy Murray’s Judy Murray was taking part, followed by Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons.
In the first seven days of the open, 2.4 million tweets using the tag #AusOpen were sent.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Twitter.