There are a few ways to anticipate the result of a sporting event: 1) by emotion, which is pulling for a favorite team to be victorious, whether or not it's actually the better team; 2) by educated guess, which is using one's own knowledge and intuitiveness to project a winner; and c) by data science, which entails utilizing big data analytics to determine who should rightly be the event champion.
All these viewing methods, of course, are commonly found in places like Las Vegas, yet they still amount to mere guesses in the end.
However, with all the sophisticated new IT now available in the big data analytics sector, one would think that more accurate sports prognostications could and should be made available. After all, huge business problems—such as projecting where oil wells should be drilled and predicting sales spikes based on time of year and product sales history—are being solved every day by these spiffy systems.
Quest for Science-Aided Clairvoyance
SAP, the Germany-based business software maker that has found renewal with its in-memory HANA database and the new analytics apps that run on it, decided to take a crack at predicting the victor in the Feb. 2 matchup between Super Bowl XLVIII foes Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. In its quest for clairvoyance, SAP not only analyzed football season statistics but also factored in natural language opinions and analysis from social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Using data from NFL.com for the entire postseason, SAP crunched the numbers—from passing yards to defense to special teams—with the company's analytics solutions in order to predict the outcome for this climactic championship tiff. Data visualizations were created with SAP Lumira to illustrate the findings and how SAP determined a winner. You can check out a video and images here.
"We wanted to have some fun with this," Nic Smith, SAP's senior director of marketing for Analytics, told eWEEK. "We used the products of a couple of recent acquisitions—Lumira for data visualization and KXEN InfiniteInsight for crunching the numbers—to come up with conclusions that might make the difference in the game.
"So there are some advanced analytics and cool algorithms going on there. Then we have a broader portfolio of what we call 'predictive analytics,' in which our customers can add in their own data points."
Added Factor: What the Social Networks Are Saying
The last piece, Smith said, was the addition of what the fans are saying about the game. SAP's Netbase software, which understands the sentiments and inferences within natural languages, was used for that part of the job.
"We are adding in streaming data and social media by looking into what people are saying leading up to the game," Smith said. "This includes the sentiment of the conversation, who is saying what about which team, and how strongly people feel about which team will win."