Unbeknown to the teams playing in the 2014 World Cup, Germany already had in their possession a secret weapon that would help them lift their first trophy since re-unification in 1990. Their hero on the day was Mario Götze; their hero of the tournament was Big Data.
By pure coincidence I happened to be in Germany during World Cup fever. While I freely admit to not being a fan of the game, viewing the final was of course compulsory and even a complete novice like me appreciated the quality of the football played on the night.
But the real interest for me came when the celebrations were over on learning that Germany had harnessed the power of Big Data to achieve their phenomenal success.
Big Data as we know is worthless without accurate data sets and so this particular hero of the tournament was a piece of specially designed software from SAP’s in-memory database architecture. The software’s ability to process vast amounts of data on the performance of the German players and their opponents, gave the team a huge competitive advantage.
Germany’s success though was not the result of a short-term strategy; it was the culmination a multi-year campaign to address the fact that the team had been narrowly beaten back in 2006 and 2010.
The Game Changer
A fundamental part of the process was the transformation of the pitch into a grid with each player assigned a unique identifier, which allowed their movements to be tracked digitally. Capturing 5,000 data points per second, this information was then fed into a system running the SAP HANA platform based on in-memory technology, which extracted KPIs and personal player information. The data was then converted into simulations and graphs [presented through a GUI* build using SAP’s data visualisation tool, Lumira] that could be viewed on tablets and smartphones.
Prime example: One of Germany’s key targets for the World Cup was to improve their passing speed. With the help of SAP’s Match Insights technology, the team cut average possession time from 3.4 seconds in 2010 down to 1.1 second in 2014.
Technological advancement brought about by Big Data analytics and machine learning could transform every part of business and has already been employed in a massively broad and diverse spectrum of sectors. All of these sectors have one thing in common – the understanding that it is vital to gain competitive advantage over your opponents. Those who ignore the benefits Big Data on offer do so at their peril.
It goes without saying of course that we should give full credit to Germany’s team skills and effort for their success throughout the World Cup, but there is no denying the part Big Data had to play in their victory.
Just as we are currently creating even more innovative products for the recruitment industry using Big Data here at JobsTheWord, SAP now plans to turn Match Insights into a product to enable the software to be used by teams and coaches to improve various aspects of their players health and performance.
Vorsprung durch grossendatatechnik as they say in Germany!
* GUI A Graphical User Interface allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and visual indicators, as opposed to text-based interfaces, typed command labels or text navigation.
Original JobsTheWord article by Sally-Anne Rogers
Research by Jessie McGee
Feature Image courtesy of Simon Steinberger