SAP hopes to help Germany win World Cup with HANA

The software maker wants to show off its analytics capabilities

SAP has joined forces with the German national soccer team ahead of the World Cup in Brazil to showcase what analytics powered by its HANA platform can do to improve performance.

At the Cebit trade show, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe talked about how the in-memory database management system can help sports teams.

"We decided to go into sports to showcase how real-time information combining sensor technology, cloud computing and big data technology can help teams perform better," Snabe said.

While marketing certainly enters into the partnership, sports are a big business and like enterprises in other sectors teams are looking at how technology can help improve results and the bottom line.

"I believe technology is very important in [soccer] and will become more so. We always think about how we can improve the performance of players and the team," said Oliver Bierhoff, general manager for the German team.

For example, TSG Hoffenheim, a soccer club in Germany's first division, is already capturing and analyzing data in real time, including spatial analysis of player movements, to optimize training. Players are equipped with sensors during training, and there is a sensor in the ball, as well. The data is then fed into HANA for real-time analysis.

The German national team's system is still under development, but will work along similar lines, according to an SAP spokeswoman.

Sports teams will face many of the same challenges as other industries that are using sensors, including how to make individuals comfortable with being tracked on a very detailed level. A theme at this year's Cebit isn't just the benefits of data gathering, but also the risks associated with it, according to Snabe.

In introducing tracking, teams need to show that it's not about controlling the players, but helping them perform better with high-quality data, said Bierhoff.

The same thinking can be applied to vehicle tracking, for example.

Asked whether making soccer dependent on analytics would ruin the game, Snabe said he didn't think that would happen.

"I don't think it is about predicting the outcome, as much as it's about improving the ability of a team, that's my opinion. It's the same in business, it's about improving the performance. If you are using your gut feel instead of facts, you may draw the wrong conclusions on what does and what doesn't work," Snabe said.

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