How real-time insight helps Wimbledon break news first

Client Technical Leader for UK Public Sector, IBM UK Ltd.

Lleyton Hewitt bowed out of Wimbledon on the first day of The Championships last Monday. The 2002 winner of The Championships took the match to five sets with a typically gutsy performance. In doing so, he achieved a milestone, hitting the 1,500th winner of his Wimbledon career. And to top it all off, his match featured Wimbledon’s first use of its new real-time notifications system.

Immediately after Hewitt hit his winner, Wimbledon posted a tweet, making Wimbledon the first to break the news thanks to its digital channels. Wimbledon’s system gave early warning that the milestone would be achieved, allowed preparation of further content on the grass court tournament winners leaderboard to overlay the accompanying photo.

Last year, IBM collected 3.2 million data points from the courtside. The aim of doing so is to have all the statistics for every point recorded accurately within one second of each point’s finishing. This year, those data are being pushed into Wimbledon’s real-time notifications system. In milliseconds, the data pass through analytics running in InfoSphere Streams hosted on IBM’s SoftLayer public cloud. The analytics are looking for a wide range of things, including milestones, deviations in play and various records. Events of interest are then pushed out as notifications and immediately displayed through the Wimbledon Command Centre, which is available to Wimbledon’s Digital and Content team.

Day two saw Andy Murray win his first-round match. The system alerted Wimbledon that the 2013 champion had hit the 600th ace of his Wimbledon career early on in the match, a fact that Wimbledon included when tweeting the result.

The excitement of The Championships was building, and so was the temperature. By Wednesday, the air was sweltering, combining humidity with an all-time high of 35.7°C.

Milos Raonic was also getting hotter. His fastest serve in the first round was 138 miles per hour (mph), but as his second-round match progressed, he broke through the 140 mph barrier. As soon as he laid down a 145 mph serve, Wimbledon’s system displayed the following alert:

Wimbledon broke the news of the third fastest serve in Wimbledon history, approaching Taylor Dent’s record of 148 mph, set in 2010. Watson at Wimbledon is able to retrieve this fact from its knowledge of the history of The Championships.

Wimbledon has been collecting match data at the courtside and adding them to its systems for 26 years. As data are generated, Wimbledon’s new notifications system pushes insight to those who need it, reflecting what is happening at that moment. Without this capability, Wimbledon wouldn’t necessarily know what to look for or when to look for it, missing opportunities to provide timely, relevant content to fans via its digital channels.

This has helped Wimbledon be the first to break news thanks to real-time analysis that leads to unique insights and stories, allowing Wimbledon to stay one step ahead, rising above the noise in a sporting and media environment in which time matters. Wimbledon is able to engage fans on its site and around the world through compelling social content via Twitter and on, all supported by real-time insights.

The business application of this approach is enormous considering that speed of insight is the most valuable characteristic of big data. For example, sales performance can be monitored in real time after the launch of a marketing campaign. Stores that show deviation can be identified, such as when sales performance drops off. CFOs and business leaders can investigate the cause, take operational steps to fix the issues and then monitor the effects in real time.

Day four of The Championships was cooler, but Roger Federer sizzled as he hit the 2,500th winner of his Wimbledon career in his second-round match. Again, Wimbledon’s system gave early warning of the impending milestone, and Wimbledon tweeted the seven-time champion’s achievement a moment afterward.

Follow all the action in the second week of The Championships, and benefit from content shared using data collected straight from the courtside, at Also, try your hand at capturing data from the courts in our Make The Team game.