Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 10:18 UK

Anyone for mobile tennis?

Zoe Kleinman
Working Lunch

line painting

Working Lunch's Zoe Kleinman reports on technology and tennis

There's a buzz of both old and new technology at Wimbledon in the run up to the start of the two-week tennis tournament.

Traditional lawnmowers trim the lawns to perfection and the markers used to paint the lines of the courts look more like 1970s children's toys than cutting edge pieces of kit.

Men in cherry pickers are cleaning high windows and teams of youthful looking security guards in oversized peaked caps are guided around the tennis club that will be their kingdom for the next fortnight.

There's even an optimistic ice cream seller who has already set up shop.

Below in the bunker

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So far, so toytown. But beneath the grass of Court 14 a series of hi-tech bunkers are practically throbbing with server towers, laptops and flatscreens, ready to collate, interpret and distribute endless data gathered from every match of the Wimbledon tournament.

"We collect a massive set of stats," says Alan Flack, from Wimbledon's technology partner IBM. "We have tennis professionals sitting on every court, logging every stroke."

These stats are collated and converted by the computers in the bunker into graphics for the broadcasters, information for the commentators and players and a real-time fix for all the tennis addicts around the world keeping an eye on Wimbledon via its website.

They will also drive tweets for the tournament's first official Twitter feed - for those who like their live match info in 140 character soundbites.

Mobile revolution

But the real technology focus for 2009 is on mobile phones. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) hopes that this will future-proof the tournament for the next generation of potential tennis enthusiasts and admits that it is looking to appeal to a younger crowd.

Even though the official website sounds like a success story - last year 10 million users spent an average of 69 minutes surfing it - Alan Flack believes its days are numbered.

"There will come a time when people won't go to the website - they will expect the data to come to them," he says.

So, IBM has developed two smartphone applications specifically for the Wimbledon. iPhone owners can download a free app which will provide daily schedules, live scoring updates and video highlights.

Advanced apps

Seer
The Seer Android offers an interactive experience

But it's the "Seer Android Beta" designed for G1 Android mobiles of which the technologists are most proud. Alan Flack describes it as "the app that can read your environment".

The idea is that G1 users who attend the tournament will be able to get extra information in text form on their handset about everything that is closest to them - such as where the nearest loos are and how long the queue is for strawberries.

It uses the phone's inbuilt GPS and digital compass to figure out exactly where the phone user is standing and where the handset camera is pointing. It then takes a video feed from the camera and superimposes the extra info on top of it.

IBM admits that it's not exactly mainstream - G1 hasn't quite cornered the market like some of its mass-market rivals. But it's certainly a novelty that will catch the eye of the more gadget-loving end of the tennis crowd.



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