Big data analytics: making leisure a pleasure

If you thought that big data analytics was the exclusive preserve of business and enterprise, then maybe you should think again. Big data analytics is also the driving force behind a leisure phenomenon that many of us actively participate in. 25 million enthusiasts worldwide will take part this season in fantasy football leagues. It’s estimated that this footfall will generate $1.1 billion in revenue through active participation and advertising, but few people actually appreciate that it’s big data analytics that is making our leisure a pleasure.

So, where did this all start? Who first spotted the opportunity for using real-time information to generate leisure revenue? Well, the answer is baseball devotees. Analysts soon realised that there was unlimited revenue potential in a sport where statistics are critical. Whether sports’ fans were looking for information on earned-run averages, on-base percentages or historical baseball records dating back over a century, big data analytics was able to provide the answer quickly. The idea of online sports participation quickly took off hot on the heels of baseball’s success, and now is a worldwide phenomenon. Online fantasy sport allows users to build their own cyber sports franchise without touching their own chequebooks – no wonder it appeals to so many.

Why is it proving so popular? Well, it’s simply that it make life altogether easier for the arm chair sports fan. They no longer need to amass page after page of statistics and records. Big data analytics ensures that they have all the facts at their fingertips whenever they need them. Information is now available on demand in real-time from on-field sensors and live video feds, so users can track the performance statistics on each and every player in their teams. It’s then up to the user to decide how they use that information for the best effect.

What has driven this participation revolution is new technology.

Intel recently carried out research to discover just how much of an effect new technology was having on online sports participation. It found that 70 per cent of those surveyed said new technologies have increased the amount of time they’re spending on fantasy football; 66 per cent also said that websites and apps that help evaluate talent and offer tips and tools for managing their teams are important to their experience.

According to Boyd Davis, general manager of Intel’s DataCentre Software Division, increased fan participation is driven by the cost of technology:
“It [the increased fan participation] is really driven by the cost of the technology; the pace of innovation has driven costs down. This has allowed the organizations who provide these tools—the networks and the other media outlets—to use fantasy football as a way to have a tighter, richer experience with their consumers.”

An example of this new-generation IT involved both Intel and SAP. In late August they launched a new player comparison tool—a fast cloud-based service that runs on Intel Xeon chips and SAP’s HANA in-memory database. This new technology provides fantasy footballers with access to advanced analytics, so they can make better-informed personnel decisions. The new tool forecasts professional football statistics, guiding users to make game-day decisions by factoring in statistical performance and intangibles such as weather, injuries, game location, player rest and others. Fans thus can compare, analyse and customize comprehensive player data to make better, smarter and faster decisions on their fantasy football teams.

Moreover, it’s not just the large enterprises who are riding the crest of this particular wave; a smaller cottage industry is also growing up around fantasy sports leagues. Intel Graph Builder for Apache Hadoop is an open-source software tool that converts separate pieces of information into Web-like graphs that can be used to help visualize relationships and patterns in data. These visualizations help coaches explore the connections between a variety of game conditions and the team’s performance.

Intel Graph Builder can helps fantasy teams to determine how factors like weather, time of day, travel schedules, team composition and the frequency of injuries could affect the likelihood of a win. Another sports technology, data and content services provider, STATS,   uses Xeon processor-based servers for real-time scores, historical sports information and turnkey fantasy sports platforms. This information is provided to media companies and professional sports leagues, and to teams for dynamic in-game broadcast presentations and virtual images, multimedia enhancements and game analysis and tactical coaching tools.