The CFL got hacked Grey Cup weekend (but it’s not what you think)

The CFL fan experience will never be the same again.

Over 170 hackers from across the country tackled the challenge of taking CFL fan experience to new heights at SportsHack weekend. Hosted by Ryerson RC4, IBM Analytics and We Are Wearables, this was the second year for the hackathon, but the first to include simultaneous hacks in Halifax, Toronto, and Vancouver. This year also saw the CFL join as the SportsHack development partner, providing data to competitors along with the goal of developing solutions which would improve fan engagement, promote ticket sales, or encourage social media.

“Ever since I graduated, I realized that it’s a room full of data scientists, engineers, accountants, lawyers and business people that are going to solve the critical issues in sport,” CFL spokesperson Brian Bulcke to the Toronto crowd. “As much as I am up here as a jock, it’s the engineer in me that gets excited to see this room filled with people.”

This year’s national winner was Toronto-based team Fanalytics which not only won the grand prize of working with the CFL to bring their product to market, along with $4,500 cash and other in-kind support, but also the Big Data University Prize in Toronto for “most innovative use of data.” The team’s application determined fan seating based on demographics to seat like-minded individuals together.

Richard Li, a team member of Fanalytics, noted that their solution had broad appeal. “We stood out because our value proposition was different,” said Li, adding that the software not only benefitted fans through an improved experience, but also the league and franchises by providing the opportunity to perform targeted marketing for concessions and other types of advertising.

Toronto - SportsHackathon National Winners - Fanalytics

The two remaining national prize winners were from Vancouver. Team 110 Yards created a trivia game to be played during downtimes of league games. The game aimed at engaging fans by increasing their knowledge of the CFL and offering rewards for playing, while creating the potential for ad placement and capturing fan buying habits. In third place, Team Impact Replay created an app which used play-by-play data to feature game highlights that users could view based on types of activity (passes, rushes or touchdowns), points on an “action bar” that notes highlights, or on a “reaction bar” noting fan applause and tweets.

Along with the real-life data from the CFL and partner Stadium Digital, all forty teams across the nation were provided with technology tools from Recon Instruments, Mio, and IBM, including IBM Watson and Big Data University to create their solutions.

“Our team at Big Data University loved the enthusiasm and the level of professionalism competitors brought to the SportsHack this year,” Leon Katsnelson, Director & CTO, Emerging Technologies, IBM Analytics Platform told BetaKit. “For me personally, judging the projects was very difficult as the quality of projects for was very high. I believe CFL can readily apply most of the solutions that were developed at the SportsHack 15.

Ryerson will be assisting in setting up a meeting between Fanalytics and the CFL to discuss next steps with the hope to establish a roadmap to commercialization that will include regular check-ins with a CFL mentor to ensure their technology  develops in line with the needs of the CFL. The goal is that this will result in the CFL adopting the technology in the next 12 months.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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