IBM Serves SMAC at the U.S. Open Championship

By James Grundvig
James Grundvig
James Grundvig
James Grundvig is a former contributor to Epoch Times and the author of “Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement and Government Betrayal at the CDC.” He lives and works in New York City.
August 28, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Attending the US Open Tennis, as a guest of IBM (NYSE: IBM), with other journalists, was an evening to take in some first round action—Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka both won handily in straight sets—and more in Flushing, Queens.

The more is “SMAC,” as Ric Telford, vice president, IBM Cloud Services, explained.

What is SMAC? It’s an acronym of merging technologies that support one another; in other words, Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.

For IBM SMAC can best be viewed with its DataWall at the US Open. This is the second year IBM has displayed the interactive board. The Game Changer wall extends many the and mobile app features and provides greater insight into the US Open action using the power of analytics. Tennis fans of all ages can interact with the wall and access live match scores, in-depth analysis and data visualizations.

There is also a SocialWall, which displays tweets and other social media conversations and #hashtags, is located outside between Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The DataWall, displayed on a plasma screen inside IBM’s suite, showed the power of data analytics in a user-friendly, touch screen that showed virtual bouncing tennis balls as data sets on matches that were already played on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. It also captured the social trends for each match in a wave graph to show “social enthusiasm” as the peak and quiet periods as the troughs during the matches, the number of winning points, keys to the match victory, and a whole lot more.

“We are capturing and analyzing 41 million data points from eight years of Grand Slam tennis,” said Rick Singer, vice president, Sponsorship Marketing for IBM. He demonstrated that simple power on the IBM DataWall, pulling up and down data from the floating and bouncing tennis balls, opening new insights into a match, all with the touch and swipe of his finger. “The big four of Social, Mobile, Data Analytics and Cloud Computing are all embedded in tennis with fan engagement,” he said.

ESPN and Business Insider (BI) have already made some infographics on the tennis championship, the fourth and final major of the year. In the former, ESPN focused on the capability of Serena Williams and Andy Murray. In the latter, BI showed a snapshot comparison between the four majors dating back to 2005, which translates to 8,128 matches over eight years. Or a lot of Big Data.

“We are thrilled to extend our partnership with the United States Tennis Association and look forward to continuing the successful collaboration that, for more than 20 years, has enabled fans to connect to the US Open tournament,” said Rick Singer. “Not only are we proud to continue our partnership with the USTA, we are also excited to continue collaborating on delivering an engaging and informative digital experience to millions of US Open followers and spectators.”

IBM’s US Open DataWall

IBM has served (no pun intended) the USTA at the US Open for the past 23 years in the capacity of cloud computing and data analytics; recently they are into social and mobile.

IBM’s press release (8-27-13) reads:

“IBM and United States Tennis Association (USTA) today announced they are serving analytics, cloud computing, mobile and social technologies to 2013 US Open tennis fans, bringing them closer to the action on the courts while delivering real-time insights into match data that go beyond basic scores and stats…

“New for the 2013 US Open, is a redesigned IBM SlamTracker analytics dashboard that delivers real-time insights into match data and statistics that goes beyond basic scoreboard watching and helps fans understand how and why a player prevails in a particular match.”

For me, long a fan of tennis, it was interesting to watch the match live, step into the suite when the players switched sides to access and view the DataWall, and pull information on the history of little known, lower ranked players.

Who knew IBM was into sports? I for one didn’t, but with SMAC it makes a lot of sense.

Paul Papas, Global Leader, IBM Smart Commerce, Global Business Services, told me that the SMAC approach to IBM “translates well into other areas for our clients, with our social and mobile platforms, as well as data analytics, and cloud computing. It demonstrates IBM’s tech capabilities,” he said. IBM has been into data going back to the mainframe era.

The real power in IBM’s SMAC for the DataWall is its easy way to access data through visualization. The broken, fatigue-inducing interface found in too many spreadsheet-based software is so legacy when it comes to displaying data. The small screen of smartphones is driving that change across many verticals and enterprises. In that space, IBM has clearly set a beachhead in the rapidly evolving technology ecosystem.

“The US Open mobile fan experience features numerous enhancements from IBM Interactive, the company’s digital design agency, including a refreshed, engaging iPad app that offers integrated social features, instant access to live video and in-depth match analysis and statistics. IBM also boosted and improved apps it has developed for the USTA for the iPhone and Android platforms, with a scrolling timeline that keeps fans informed of new, trending social topics, match photos and more.” – IBM Press Release.

For more information about how IBM is helping the US Open deliver an immersive second screen experience to fans, visit

For me, the DataWall experience immersed in sports hit a sweet spot in fan engagement.

James Grundvig
James Grundvig
James Grundvig is a former contributor to Epoch Times and the author of “Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement and Government Betrayal at the CDC.” He lives and works in New York City.