The personalities who appeared on the SAP stage at CeBIT first thing on Monday morning made for an unusual team. In addition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron – because the United Kingdom is the official CeBIT partner country this year – Oliver Bierhoff, SAP brand ambassador and manager of the German national soccer team, was there. Other top German politicians including Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and Stephan Weil, the governor of the German federal state of Lower Saxony, were keen to be present at the “Chancellor demo,” too.
SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe and SAP brand ambassador Oliver Bierhoff showed Merkel how innovative SAP technologies are revolutionizing the world of sport and helping in the analysis of soccer games. As an example, they took the England versus Germany match at Wembley on November 19, 2013.
SAP HANA at the World Cup in Brazil
Thanks to SAP HANA, the German Soccer Association (DFB) can analyze every match in real time. Every player’s paths and passes are recorded precisely. This means the trainer team can assess performance more objectively and adjust training sessions to suit individual needs. “We’ll already be using the software at the World Cup in Brazil,” Bierhoff said. He also stressed the user-friendliness of the design, and remarked, “It’s so easy, even soccer players can use it.” However, Cameron regretted that even this state-of-the-art technology would not enable penalties to be retaken.
Immediately after the demo, the action moved to the Convention Center – where Jim Hagemann Snabe and Oliver Bierhoff were joined by Christoph Liedtke, Vice President Global Media Relations, and Michael Kleinemeier, President Middle & Eastern Europe, to answer questions posed by journalists. Four years ago, SAP predicted that the topics of the future would be mobile devices as preferred interaction points for business, cloud solutions for business software, and big data made smart through the use of in-memory computing. “This year, these are still the major topics at CeBIT,” Hagemann Snabe said. And despite the many parallels between the worlds of sport and industry, he admitted: “A soccer match lasts 90 minutes and then it’s obvious whether the strategy worked or not. I’d sometimes like it if business was like that, too.”
Michael Kleinemeier illustrated that SAP HANA – and therefore in-memory technology – has made a major impact on industry as well as soccer by quoting some figures: 3,000 customers with SAP HANA, 800 with SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA. For example, there is the insurance company Munich Re, which predicts risks based on SAP HANA, and Russian Railway, which now runs its entire ticketing system on SAP HANA. Continental equips its tires with sensors to learn more about material performance and – at the end of the day – to make the roads safer. These examples make it clear that “Industry 4.0 is already reality,” Kleinemeier said with conviction.
CeBIT 2014: Technology for more goals
In keeping with the motto “Join the Team,” the sport topic was automatically addressed at the press conference. Bierhoff is glad that players no longer have to watch entire matches on video. Nowadays, the danger of their falling asleep during match analysis is simply much lower.
Next page: SAP HANA in Formula One
Real-time information, sensors, and big-data technologies are not only improving soccer, but are also finding their way into many other types of sport. Let’s look at sailing. “Because entire races can be followed using GPS at the Kieler Woche regatta in the northern German city of Kiel, for example, anyone who’s online can suddenly witness what’s happening far out at sea at close quarters, on their screens,” Hagemann Snabe explained. In Formula One motor racing – probably the most high-tech sport there is – SAP HANA now enables some 20,000 scenarios to be calculated on an ad hoc basis during the race. This is hugely beneficial to the team.
Could data analysis make soccer too predictable?
But not everyone is so enthusiastic about the opportunities provided by new technologies. When asked whether all this data analysis could make soccer too predictable, Bierhoff explained that it was more about augmenting the trainer’s subjective impression using objective criteria. And in this context, he quoted Franz Beckenbauer: “Technology doesn’t score goals. But it can help us score more goals.”
For a replay of the press conference at CeBIT 2014, click here.