All England Club Dot Net: Wimbledon in the Royal Age of Technology

Generally regarded as the most formal of tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon– pardon, The Championships, Wimbledon– famously features players tarnishing the courts’ grass surfaces in mandated all-white apparel and an only recently lifted requirement that the participants bow or curtsy in deferential acknowledgment of attending members of British royalty.

The 2015 tournament is underway, and so too is the eldest Slam’s grappling with technological developments. Perhaps most visible is the tournament’s improved website. The homepage, links to a live blog, which consists of a stream of updates including summarized match results, video and images from social media, and player comments. Live video and radio streams are available directly through the site, as is a video archive, and current weather, time, and ticket queue information appear on the face of the landing page. (Live video streaming also is available to cable subscribers from ESPN3/WatchESPN.)


Behind the scenes, longtime tournament partner IBM has driven these updates to and informational mobile apps (for iOS and Android users), which will have an offline mode to permit ongoing operation where wireless service is unavailable. IBM also is leveraging its Watson computing technology in an effort to deliver analytical information to fans with greater speed.

While official digital coverage of Wimbledon appears to be at an all-time high, fan-generated content is a different matter. Wimbledon’s tournament directors, including Alexandra Willis, Head of Digital and Content, have taken a more actively-hostile stance toward the use of mobile streaming services like Periscope, although Willis admitted that her team would be experimenting with the technology. Willis’ focus is less on the technology’s ability to sidestep conventional broadcast channels– like others, she does not view it as a viable threat in that regard– and more on protecting the live experience for attending fans and players. The prohibition on video streaming is a natural extension of the preexisting rule against mobile telephone use during matches, which, in case anyone thought this somehow would fly, includes selfie sticks too. And speaking of flying, drones aren’t allowed either. Police already have seized one and released a statement explaining the legal basis for their action.

What effect will these mobile technology restrictions have on spectators? Automotive manufacturer Jaguar may be able to deliver at least a partial answer. By equipping some fans with wearable biometric monitors (focused on heart-rate variability), installing atmospheric sensors around the courts, and tracking social media activity, their hope is to be able to measure emotion, excitement, mood, and energy. The results are charted in real time to an interactive graph on What value, if any, this meta-analysis provides remains unknown, of course, but it is nice to see one of sports’ most buttoned-up events stride into the digital realm without infringing upon the simple elegance that makes Wimbledon a perennial classic.

(Header image via scohoust)

Alec is a founding contributor at ALDLAND and a writer at Banished to the Pen and TechGraphs. He interfaces with sports twitter @ALDLANDia.

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