Infostrada teams up with Roambi, mobile sports analytics at Olympics

Dutch media sports information provider Infostrada has teamed up with mobile BI company Roambi to create an iPhone and iPad app for the Olympics. It will predict medal counts.

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Dutch sports information provider Infostrada has teamed up with mobile BI company Roambi to create an iPhone and iPad app for the Olympics. 

Philip Hennemann, founder and chief executive of Infostrada Sports, said the tie-up will showcase the possibilities of rendering statistics on mobile devices, especially the iPad, to sports executives on National Olympics Committees and other sports organizations or sponsors.

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The Roambi app, which is free, includes data from a form guide to 2012, the "Virtual Medal Table", as well as data from the last four editions of the summer Olympics.

The Roambi and Infostrada visualisations will allow people to analyse countries’ performances over the last four Olympics while comparing up to four nations’ medal counts. The interactive analysis will forecast answers to questions such as, “Who will top the medal table in 2012” and “How does this compare to previous games?” Or, “Will Team GB do better in 2012 than in 2008?”

Infostrada's Hennemann said, in a press statement: “The combination of Roambi’s data visualisations and our database has produced products which turn simple numbers into valuable information for professional and personal users. The intuitive nature of these designs will make everyone an expert during this summer’s games.”

In the same statement, Santiago Becerra, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Roambi underscored the iPad's significance to the deal: “The iPad has not only changed how people access information, but also how organisations engage with users and share content in a post-PC world.”

The two apps are the following: a “cardex,” for iPhone and iPad, which displays medal forecasts for each country and compares them with previous games using filing-cabinet style charts; and "layers," for the iPad only, which shows historical and forecasted medal counts for each country for each event.

Hennemann founded Infostrada in 1995, on the back of an idea for a fantasy cycling team, based on the Tour de France. In 1999, the company acquired and digitised Dutch football statistician John Fredrikstadt's data set as a core asset. Since then it has developed information services for the sports industry. It monetises sports rights and produces and distributes sports content for clients who include broadcasters, event organisers, sports federations, sports clubs, and media, marketing and advertising agencies.

Hennemann said the deal with Roambi will give Infostrada's sports statistics greater exposure among senior executives on the National Olympic Committees.

Up until now, the company built applications solely for data mining professionals, but "the senior executives also have an information need. ‘How is my nation performing?’ they want to know on a Monday morning," Hennemann said. And the iPad is "way better than a smartphone for such a management cockpit. Roambi was a product we were missing.”

The company's media clients are increasingly looking to combine data sets, internal and external, in "integrated cockpits." And their market is also growing beyond sports associations to coaches, performance managers, government officials and commercial sponsors, such as Nike and Adidas, who want to measure the return on their athletes. They want to know how many minutes a footballer wearing their kit is on the pitch, and not warming the subs bench or tweeting from the stands.

Will the apps help whet the appetite for sports statistics to American heights among European enthusiasts of the 42 Olympics sports? Hennemann's view is that Europe always plays catch-up with the US, and it will be no different in this, although US sports, such as basketball, baseball and ice hockey are "better positioned to be analysed" than are sports more popular in Europe, such as football and rugby.

"There are less decisive stats in soccer than in baseball, it is true, but everyone is trying to get to the holy grail of soccer statistics," he said. "Four years ago it was goals and assists. Now there is more spatial stuff on who is passing to whom and tracing and tracking of players as they run, their speeds and so on."

The trick, Hennemann said, is identifying what can be usefully analysed. The market has not come far with that, and the average soccer coach is still too amateurish. "Do you know that some teams practice hitting the bar for fun? How stupid is that? Surely that just conditions you to hit the bar?"

Infostrada also uses browser-based QlikView to provide information to its clients, but preferred Roambi for the iPad and iPhone in this instance, Hennemann said, describing them as complementary technologies. But the "old days" approach of "building a complicated data warehouse first" to deliver to business intelligence applications is being superseded by these newer, more intuitive BI tools, he said.

Meanwhile, on the technology vendor side of the deal, Ali Shirnia, vice president and general manager of Roambi EMEA, said they are seeking to build on the "success with have had with other information providers, such as IMS Health.

"Roambi makes it easy for [such providers] to distribute complex content in a meaningful way to their clients."

His view is that software is needed to take the latency out of browser-based access to data on a mobile device.

"Users will not wait for data, for the network. Network operators have difficulty there, so you have to solve on the software side."

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