Big Data is proliferating more and more into everyday life. As better tools for moving, storing, processing and analyzing massive data streams emerge, widespread use is becoming commonplace. In sports, where detailed statistics have always played a key role in the player, coach and fan experience, it’s only natural Big Data would ultimately find its way in.
Multinational insurance company AIG, a major partner with New Zealand’s national men’s rugby team (the All Blacks), is collaborating with New Zealand Rugby, USA Rugby and sports data company Opta to launch the AIG Rugby Innovation Challenge. The challenge gives software developers unlimited access to Opta data of the 2012 New Zealand All Blacks season, as well as USA Rugby data. Using data feeds like match results, season rankings and totals, stadium feeds, player profiles and stats, and x/y coordinate data of where each play took place on the rugby pitch, developers will create and submit apps designed to change the way rugby fans experience the game, or educate users about the sport.
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The applications fall into three platform categories. Developers can create apps that run on Android, BlackBerry, iOS or Windows Phone smartphones or tablets; in Web or mobile browsers; or on Windows or Mac desktops. Android apps need to be submitted using .apk files; Windows Phone apps with .xap; and Windows PC apps with .exe. Contestant resources also include APIs and SDKs with the freedom to integrate as many as the developer likes.
AIG, USA Rugby and the All Blacks provided rugby images and video footage for the competitors to incorporate into the apps. They’re putting on the app challenge to grow awareness for the sport, and because their relationships with these rugby associations and Opta put them in an ideal position to supersede data copyrights and give developers access to a wealth of otherwise hard-to-obtain data and multimedia content.
“Rugby is not quite that big in the U.S., but outside it’s one of the largest, most recognizable sports in the world,” said Daniel Glantz, global head of sponsorship for AIG. The International Rugby Board claims a record 3.9 billion viewers saw the 2011 Rugby World Cup worldwide, and it expects that number to grow in 2015. Rugby will also be a full Olympic sport in 2016 for the first time since 1924.
Glantz had never experienced rugby before AIG began its partnership with New Zealand Rugby in 2012, but he quickly took to the sport. When the company posed the idea of creating a rugby app, he had the idea of opening the opportunity up to software developers.
“Why build an app ourselves?” Glantz said. “Why not encourage the developer community and see what they can come up with? We would love someone to come up with a creative formula, a new metric like in ‘Moneyball.’ A new stat to gauge the performance of a player.”