Anyone who hoarded baseball cards as a kid knows a fundamental truth about sports: they produce an unbelievable amount of data.
For the better part of a century, the best we could do was collect it, print it on cardboard, and sell it as a curiosity. Coaches could use statistics to track streaks and slumps, of course. But without the tools to process huge reams of data very fast, it was tough to understand player performance in a way that was mathematically rigorous and helped teams win tomorrow’s games.
Then there were Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s, famously profiled in Michael Lewis’s book-turned-movie Moneyball. Beane used advanced statistics to build a smarter, faster, cheaper baseball team. Data brought efficiency to the phenomenally inefficient business of drafting and managing players.
Beane’s approach spread and evolved. Today, sports managers are deploying clusters of ultra-high-speed cameras on the field and running daily game data through proprietary algorithms. Their goal: non-stop, real-time analytics of every player on the field that help teams capture, analyze, and improve the tiny metrics that, over time, can make or break seasons.
On Sunday, the German national soccer team proved that approach can help you win the biggest sporting event on earth.
It began with a partnership. Prior to the World Cup, the German team tapped the software firm SAP AG to build a custom analytics tool for their players. The product, Match Insights, collects thousands of data points per second, like player speed and ball position, then feeds game data into an analytics engine that spits out performance metrics.
Coaches get those insights as statistics and video clips that they can share with players in the locker room, or over mobile. Germany’s general manager, Oliver Bierhoff, told ESPN that “every player gets a couple of examples of him doing things well and badly straight after the game. They can look at it on their own time and also check their performance data. That’s much more useful than showing a 90-minute video tape.”
So useful that it helped Germany get its average possession time down from 3.4 seconds to about 1.1 — a huge speed boost.
Turned on other teams, Match Insights revealed systemic weak points in the opposing defense. Bierhoff said that “before the game against France, we saw that the French were very concentrated in the middle but left spaces on the flanks because their full-backs didn’t push up properly. So we targeted those areas.”
Germany won 1-0.
No amount of statistical wizardry can win a game outright. But the personalized, actionable data Germany got from Match Insights could help explain how they built the speed and efficiency to beat Brazil 7-1 in the semifinal and capture the cup from Argentina.
We think it’s possible to deliver the same kind of results for utilities.
Like Match Insights, the Opower technology platform captures an unparalleled amount of information — integrating electric and gas data from more than 100 billion meter reads every year, weather statistics from nearly 30,000 measurement stations worldwide, behavioral patterns from 52 million customers across four continents, and many more categories of data ranging from demographics to online engagement to thermostat setpoints.
We crunch it all together in a unified analytics engine, then generate personalized insights that energy providers can push to consumers on whatever channel they like best — web, mobile, or paper.
Using an integrated, platform-based approach to crunching data and delivering timely communications has already begun to transform the industry landscape. It’s helping companies like Baltimore Gas & Electric and Green Mountain Power reduce peak electric demand and revamp the utility-customer relationship. In Europe, our platform is empowering E.ON UK to learn more about what motivates their customers, better serve them, and dramatically increase online engagement.
With the best technology, utility customers get the feedback they need to improve their performance as energy consumers. Utilities start hitting the goals they need to compete and win. And by sharing in the benefits of next-generation analytics, utilities and customers finally feel like they’re playing on the same team.
Roderick Morris is Opower’s SVP of Marketing and Operations.