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Oracle Applies Cutting-Edge Tech to Enhance Fan Experiences

By Barbara Darrow—May 8, 2019


Applying cloud computing, analytics, and machine learning to reams of data can modernize age-old activities like taking in a baseball game, watching a sailboat race,—or tracking product inventories—Oracle executives say.

Oracle execs and officials from the SailGP yacht race series gathered at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club for Oracle Media Days to talk about how technology can make work and leisure activities better

Inside Oracle’s AI and Emerging Tech Strategy and Innovations

The Palma, Majorca-based Melia resort chain is rolling out a waterproof bracelet embedded with an NFC chip that lets guests unlock their rooms, order cocktails, book massages within the resort and buy things outside the property without a wallet or credit card.

Working with Melia, Oracle engineers came up with nearly two dozen possible uses for such a device in days. A first test of the bracelet, run in Majorca, went well and now the system is going live elsewhere, said Neil Sholay, vice president, Digital Innovation, Oracle.

Sholay’s “co-innovation teams”—comprised of developers, digital designers, business modelers, and consultants—work with customers on a real business problem that they have struggled to solve. “In 10 weeks, we’ll take that challenge, find ideas, build prototypes, validate it with client data, and then get it into execution,” Sholay said.

The idea of a smart “wearable” is to give consumers what they want without hassle and for the business to gain access—with customer opt-in—to useful information.

The availability of data and great ways to use it are obviously valuable in less exotic workplaces as well. Smart companies want to wring more out of their own “first-party” data, and relish the idea of making better use of that data to cut costs and grow revenue.

“We are focused on embedding machine learning in our business applications,” said Melissa Boxer, vice president of Adaptive Intelligence Applications for Oracle. 

These applications come “ready to go, with pre-tuned data models, what you need to feed the business requirement whether it’s next-best-action for a salesperson or expense auditing,” Boxer said.

By integrating machine learning into commonly used business applications customers can take advantage of the technology in a familiar context with the data they already have. They don’t necessarily need to know that machine learning is even in there.

In addition to helping organizations get the most out of their own data, Oracle provides “third party data” from other sources that can enrich their customer’s applications with context from the real world.

The combination of internal data with contextual “signals” about what’s happening at a company—credit rating changes or new product launches—can help businesses “better categorize suppliers and understand which might be the best to work with,” Boxer said.

Oracle’s Commitment to Sports, Fan Experience and Technology Innovation

Most people go to sporting events to see what’s happening on the field. Any time they spend standing in line trying to buy food or drinks, detracts from that goal.

This is not a trivial problem. A ticket holder who doesn’t buy food equates to lost revenue for the venue, and less fun for the fan.

A recent survey found that most sports enthusiasts will embrace things that make it easier to get food and drinks although they don’t want to be distracted by the technology.

“Fans want convenience of mobile payments and kiosks but they don’t want tech for tech’s sake,” said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle’s Food and Beverage Global Business Unit

Collecting data about stadium traffic flow helps alleviate soul-sapping congestion. A computer vision system that sees where lines are shortest can push alerts to redirect people thus alleviating long waits at food stands and restrooms.

SailGP: Powered by technology Innovation

Racing space-age yachts in San Francisco Bay (or anywhere) presents its own set of technological and athletic hurdles. SailGP catamarans are the fastest boats in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 50 knots (or 60 mph on land), said Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of SailGP and five-time Americas Cup Winner.

Hans Henken, flight controller for the USA SailGP Team, described the experience for those who’ve never raced:

“It’s like driving your car down the freeway with the top down in the pouring rain. The exit is coming up fast, you change lanes and find your traction controls are off, you slam on the brakes and the brakes are out. You have to make quick decisions in a lot of spray, and it’s very, very noisy.”

In SailGP races, all of the boats are built to the same specifications, meaning that any edge the crew can get from 1,200 embedded sensors could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Sensor data is sent to the Oracle cloud in 200 msec, less time than the time it takes to blink, said Edwin Upson, Oracle group vice president of Enterprise Cloud Architects. Then it is returned to the crew for analysis in near-real-time.

Sailors on the boat and off-boat crews parse the data, plus audio and video from shipboard cameras, to adjust to changing conditions.

The same technology will help spectators track action on their tablets with a live TV feed and information about boat location and performance. “You can customize your view, zoom in and out, change which boat you’re tracking and change the camera view on a given boat,” Upson said.

Oracle sees opportunity in the intersection of technology and sports, an area Judy Sim, chief of staff and senior vice president of marketing calls “fast entertainment.”

“This is all about building cool new fan experiences that extend way beyond their seats,” she said.

Alan Zeichick contributed to this story.