Big data in sport: how far will it go?
Throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup, three companies offered predictions on the outcomes of the final phase of fifteen matches. In doing so, they were showing how their advanced technology enables them to predict how football matches are going to turn out. Out of the three, Microsoft and Baidu were correctly able to predict 15 results, whilst Google predicted 14 correct results.
How were they able to make such accurate predictions? They used something called “big data” by evaluating historic results and then using this analysis to predict the outcomes of the football matches.
As a result, this naturally leads us to question just how much of an impact is big data having on the sports industry.
To answer this, we need to look at the difference in how sports are watched in America, compared to how they are watched in Europe. NBA fans watching the Golden State Warriors this season would marvel at the League MVP, Steph Curry, and in particular his performance stats. The same can’t be said of Europeans watching sport. Europeans use their emotions to analyse and discuss sports matches, whereas Americans analyse the stats in a purely mathematical way.
Here are two fascinating examples:
- In the NFL, American Football players now wear sensors which give medical and coaching staff an insight into a player’s heart rate, lung capacity and body temperature.
- In the NBA, each arena has been kitted out with motion tracking cameras which analyse player movements, give a breakdown of shooting percentages and also update coaches on their players’ stamina and energy levels.
Therefore, as the two examples above prove, not only is big data having an impact on sport itself, it’s also transforming games which are derived from sports - which has led to the emergence of daily fantasy sports (DFS). The promise that our sector is making to customers is very simple; when you play fantasy sports, you can demonstrate to your friends beyond reasonable doubt that you know more about a particular sport than they do.
For someone that lives and breathes football, you would reasonably expect to come out on top against your friends who follow the sport less closely more frequently than they beat you. But if result of the game is determined by chance, you may end up losing to your friends repeatedly. Therefore, the results have to be as close as possible to the reality of play on a football pitch.
To ensure that the Oulala game is a based on skill rather than luck and to make the game as close as possible to reality, we partnered up with a group of statisticians for a period of six months which allowed us to assemble a mathematical matrix. With this in place, we put our scoring system through rigorous testing for over a year to prove that Oulala really is a skill game.
It’s easy to wonder where this big data revolution will lead us. Could we, for example, get to a point where a team can analyse the serotonin level amongst their players? If teams had access to this sort of data, managers could evaluate the stress levels of their players during the match. So, if the team wins a penalty, the coach could decide who takes the spot kick based on their energy and stress levels at that given time.
Undoubtedly, there will be those that will argue that when sport is analysed in this way it’s a step too far. Yet at the same time there will be a number of tech individuals eager to understand how they can they can apply their own expertise in this sector in innovative ways.
Either way there will also be a number of traditional supporters who yearn for the times when we talked about sports with our heart, in an emotional way, much more than with our brain. One thing is for sure, people’s need to stay ahead of the game will mean they will want to do whatever they can to not be left behind by this revolution and to maintain a competitive edge over their rivals.
Valery Bollier is CEO and co-founder of daily fantasy football game www.oulala.com
Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”