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Periscope a concern, says Wimbledon digital boss as it reveals experiments with iBeacons, Snapchat, and IBM’s Watson

Wimbledon has revealed it is experimenting with technologies to further connect with fans, including Snapchat and iBeacons, and is preparing to welcome Watson to the tournament - the aritificial intelligence engine of its tech partner IBM.

However, amid the rise of live streaming social tools being tested to engage fans unable to attend the 13-day tournament, Wimbledon’s digital boss Alexandra Willis has revealed that spectators will be strongly discouraged from using apps such as Periscope.

Speaking to journalists at a launch of its 2015 digital strategy at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) today (18 June), Willis said Wimbledon’s content team will test Periscope, but questioned if it would be appropriate for spectators to do the same.

“We will be using it in a targeted way to capture unique moments. But what is the right way for spectators to behave? If someone is holding up a tablet and blocking someone else from watching the action that’s not the right behaviour for Wimbledon. It’s something we have to keep an eye on,” she said.

It remains a condition of entry to the courts that mobile phones are not used and Willis said Wimbledon officials will be keeping watch for people live streaming.

However, she added the quality of video isn’t currently there for Periscope to become a serious challenge to broadcasters.

Her comments came amid an update on Wimbledon’s three year journey to shift its “stuffy” image and engage with more people across more platforms. 2012 saw the website overhauled, in 2013 an iPad app was created and in 2014, it focused on mobile apps content creation.

While the website remains the primary platform, social media is playing an ever more important role and has proved to be a major focus for 2015.

For the first time, Willis and her team will create content for Snapchat users and will also encourage people at the tournament to share pictures using the ‘Geofilter’ feature where location-specific filters can be used on photos or videos.

“It’s all about trying to show Wimbledon to a different audience,” she told The Drum. “It’s about engaging with a younger generation. We wouldn’t want to get to a point where our audience is getting older and we haven’t found an entry point to them.”

Wimbledon will also use Twitter’s Hash Flag feature where content posted using #wimbledon will automatically have a symbol appear. At the beginning of the tournament the icons will be more generic, such as strawberries and cream, and towards the end symbols like the trophy will be shown.

On Facebook, a #TakeYourSeat campaign is set to run where people can share their photos, which will then appear in a digital version of Henman Hill.

Budget has also been invested into paid social media for the first time: “Sometimes if you put a little bit of spend into social media you can rise above the noise,” she said.

Another first has come from its experiments with iBeacons. The technology – typically used by retailers – has been used at the Southfields and Wimbledon Tube stations where people arriving will be sent messages through the app with directions and advice on where to queue.

This is among the first innovations in a “masterplan” to enhance the on-site experience. Wimbledon bosses admitted that the process is challenging, not least because connectivity in the Wimbledon area in general “is not that great”.

However, the first Hackathon was recently held where a group – comprised mainly of students – was tasked with finding new ways to use mobile. Virtual queuing was among the ideas that could come into fruition in 2016.

Finally, the years ahead will soon involve Watson, tech partner IBM’s artificial intelligence ‘robot’. Four months ago, Watson began digesting the vast amounts of data from Wimbledon’s archives – dating back to 1877 – with a view to eventually creating a tool that will produce enriched content.

This content will only further add to what Willis said she hopes will be a “rabbit hole experience” when people enter the Wimbledon website or app.