Apr 14 2015

How IBM Used Lasers, Data and the Cloud During the Masters Tournament

If you thought lasers were awe-inspiring in the hands of a Jedi knight, wait until you see what they can do on the golf course.

It might sound like something out of Star Wars, but one of the key technologies used to gather detailed data on golf activity during the Masters Tournament involved lasers.

Yes, you read that correctly: lasers.

IBM deployed a combination of lasers and sensors throughout the Masters course to measure the game from several angles. ZDNet offers more insights in a recent article on how the whole system works.

The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters every year, has dozens of lasers scattered throughout the course. Those lasers kick out a number of different pieces of data, including the location of the ball (determined on three-axes) and the resting position of the ball, which IBM runs through its cloud and visualizes. The end result is a play-by-play visualization that allows the viewer to interact and see the ball's course, the distance of each drive, and other interesting nuggets of data. And this happens in a matter of seconds.

Simply put, you can take any device and crank open the Masters' website, and see how the ball traveled throughout the course. Using the HTML5 web standard, any smartphone or tablet user can access a simulated map of the course. IPad users have the benefit of using the internal gyroscope to visualize the play from any angle.

That second-screen experience, IBM says, helps bridge the physical with the digital world and the company hopes it will bring more people to the tournament.

Fans are able to keep up with the laser-gathered data through the Masters' website via a web app called Track.

On the back end, IBM is fueling the tournament’s site with powerful cloud infrastructure, according to a report from GeekWire.

The website also has eight channels of live streaming HD video that offer crisp picture and little-to-no lag. Kent explained that this is made possible by using multiple data centers and IBM’s cloud platform, which incorporates predictive analytics that take into account traffic data from previous tournaments and social media chatter about a given player. Kent called it “continuous operations.”

“Our cloud technology allows us to scale up or scale down when we need it,” he said.

Golf may not be a contact sport like football or hockey, but with tech like this behind it, it’s definitely on the cutting edge.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images Sport/ThinkStockPhotos