Tag Archives: player

AWS, NFL machine learning partnership looks at player safety

The NFL will use AWS’ AI and machine learning products and services to better simulate and predict player injuries, with the goal of ultimately improving player health and safety.

The new NFL machine learning and AWS partnership, announced during a press event Thursday with AWS CEO Andy Jassy and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at AWS re:Invent 2019, will change the game of football, Goodell said.

“It will be changing the way it’s played, it will [change] the way its coached, the way we prepare athletes for the game,” he said.

The NFL machine learning journey

The partnership builds off Next Gen Stats, an existing NFL and AWS agreement that has helped the NFL capture and process data on its players. That partnership, revealed back in 2017, introduced new sensors on player equipment and the football to capture real-time location, speed and acceleration data.

That data is then fed into AWS data analytics and machine learning tools to provide fans, broadcasters and NFL Clubs with live and on-screen stats and predictions, including expected catch rates and pass completion probabilities.

Taking data from that, as well as from other sources, including video feeds, equipment choice, playing surfaces, player injury information, play type, impact type and environmental factors, the new NFL machine learning and AWS partnership will create a digital twin of players.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
AWS CEO Andy Jassy, left, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new AI and machine learning partnership at AWS re:Invent 2019.

The NFL began the project with a collection of different data sets from which to gather information, said Jeff Crandall, chairman of the NFL Engineering Committee, during the press event.

It wasn’t just passing data, but also “the equipment that players were wearing, the frequency of those impacts, the speeds the players were traveling, the angles that they hit one another,” he continued.

Typically used in manufacturing to predict machine outputs and potential breakdowns, a digital twin is essentially a complex virtual replica of a machine or person formed out of a host of real-time and historical data. Using machine learning and predictive analytics, a digital twin can be fed into countless virtual scenarios, enabling engineers and data scientists to see how its real-life counterpart would react.

The new AWS and NFL partnership will create digital athletes, or digital twins of a scalable sampling of players, that can be fed into infinite scenarios without risking the health and safety of real players. Data collected from these scenarios is expected to provide insights into changes to game rules, player equipment and other factors that could make football a safer game.

“For us, what we see the power here is to be able to take the data that we’ve created over the last decade or so” and use it, Goodell said. “I think the possibilities are enormous.”

Partnership’s latest move to enhance safety

It will be changing the way it’s played, it will [change] the way its coached, the way we prepare athletes for the game.
Roger GoodellCommissioner, NFL

New research in recent years has highlighted the extreme health risks of playing football. In 2017, researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System and the Boston University School of Medicine published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that indicated football players are at a high risk for developing long-term neurological conditions.

The study, which did not include a control group, looked at the brains of high school, college and professional-level football players. Of the 111 NFL-level football players the researchers looked at, 110 of them had some form of degenerative brain disease.

The new partnership is just one of the changes the NFL has made over the last few years in an attempt to make football safer for its players. Other recent efforts include new helmet rules, and a recent $3 million challenge to create safer helmets.

The AWS and NFL partnership “really has a chance to transform player health and safety,” Jassy said.

AWS re:Invent, the annual flagship conference of AWS, was held this week in Las Vegas.

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SAP BI platform stays strong due to cloud-based architecture

The SAP BI platform, a venerable analytics suite, is still a significant player in a fast-changing analytics market.

Much of that sustained success is due to a major reboot that recast the platform in a cloud-based architecture.

The result is an analytics suite, anchored by SAP Analytics Cloud, that is both competitive with the modern products from competing business intelligence software vendors and positioned to remain so in the future.

“SAP needed to re-platform — update their analytics technology base — and have done so,” said Dave Menninger, research director of data and analytics research at Ventana Research. “Along the way they’ve adopted an agile approach to their development processes and have been regularly releasing new capabilities.”

Menninger added that while competitive, the SAP BI platform isn’t particularly innovative. It is a leader, however, in combining BI with planning and predictive capabilities, he said.

Germany-based SAP was founded in 1972 and is one of the world’s largest software companies. Along with its core business in ERP and other enterprise software, the vendor has been a developer of BI tools over the past few decades along with such other survivors as perhaps its biggest rival, Oracle, as well as IBM, Tibco and Information Builders.

Just four years ago, however, SAP essentially started anew with its BI platform, identifying the cloud and capabilities such as augmented intelligence and machine learning as essential. Rather than build on top of existing products, the vendor introduced Analytics Cloud in 2015 as the main technology in the SAP BI platform.

“We really did rethink how we go about analytics,” said Kate Wright, head of augmented BI for SAP HANA and analytics. “From a development perspective, we started with a net new architecture rather than starting from an existing product line, and we did that very intentionally. It’s quite difficult to innovate on an older tech stack — the technology is so different than it was 10 years ago.”

That ability to create an analytics stack within Analytics Cloud, enabling users to manage their data all the way from data collection through insight gathering without using another product, is something SAP sees as one of the main ways to differentiate itself from other BI vendors.

SAP needed to re-platform — update their analytics technology base — and have done so. Along the way they’ve adopted an agile approach to their development processes and have been regularly releasing new capabilities.
Dave MenningerResearch director of data and analytics research, Ventana Research

“The mission really was how do we build the best, most modern analytics solution which brings the capabilities that need to be together all in one place,” said David Williams, SAP’s vice president of product marketing. “If you look at different products in the space they may hone in on a particular area — BI or advanced analytics, or they do planning — but they don’t bring everything together in one place.”

Despite being cloud-based and incorporating advanced analytics capabilities, the reboot of the SAP BI platform’s flagship product has not been without complications.

Because it’s built for the cloud and only for the cloud, that means it can’t be used by on-premises customers. They can connect to Analytics Cloud, and they can use products such as SAP BusinessObjects Universes, SAP Business Warehouse and SAP HANA, but until they migrate to the cloud, they can’t use Analytics Cloud as their main BI tool.

Meanwhile, according to Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., SAP’s transition to the cloud has come at a cost.

“The transition to a cloud business model has taken a toll,” he said. “It has forced SAP to reevaluate much of its business, including everything from who to hire, who to partner with, who to buy (they’ve spent over $25 billion on companies to help with the cloud transition), how to market its products and how to sell.”

Among the acquisitions Leone alluded to are SAP’s $2.25 billion purchase of CallidusCloud in January 2018 and its $8 billion acquisition of Qualtrics in January 2019.

While its cloud-based flagship product is one way SAP hopes to differentiate itself from other BI vendors, another route is specialization.

Within Analytics Cloud, SAP offers more than 30 embedded applications designed for various industries. The SAP BI platform includes applications built — among many others — for organizations operating in such varied realms as fashion, sports and aerospace.

Meanwhile, Analytics Cloud can be embedded into other SAP products so that users of other SAP products can deploy industry-specific applications.

“SAP has a slight head start here having integrated [Analytics Cloud] into S4/HANA ERP last year,” said Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Henschen said SAP also expects to embed Analytics Cloud into SuccessFactors, its HCM platform, as well as its supply chain system, Ariba, and other applications in 2020.

 “It’s very clear that SAP and Oracle are squaring off on this competitive front, trying to outdo each other’s application-integrated analytics with pre-built content and cloud-based data warehouse capabilities,” he added.

One of the SAP BI platform’s sports applications, for example, has enabled teams playing contact sports to gather concussion data for real-time analysis. Another helped Manchester City to its second consecutive English Premier League championship in 2019.

Moving forward as AI and machine learning become not only more standard but also more advanced, and due largely to its decision to reset a few years  and develop Analytics Cloud, SAP appears prepared to remain competitive.

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Chief transformation officer takes digital one step further

There’s a new player on the block when it comes to the team leading digital efforts within a healthcare organization.

Peter Fleischut, M.D., has spent the last two years leading telemedicine, robotics and robotic process automation and artificial intelligence efforts at New York-Presbyterian as its chief transformation officer, a relatively new title that is beginning to take form right alongside the chief digital officer.

Fleischut works as part of the organization’s innovation team under New York-Presbyterian CIO Daniel Barchi. Formerly the chief innovation officer for New York-Presbyterian, Fleischut described his role as improving care delivery and providing a better digital experience.

“I feel like we’re past the age of innovating. Now it’s really about transforming our care model,” he said.

What is a chief transformation officer?

The chief transformation officer is “larger than a technology or digital role alone,” according to Barchi.

Indeed, Laura Craft, analyst at Gartner, said she’s seeing healthcare organizations use the title more frequently to indicate a wider scope than, say, the chief digital officer.

The chief digital officer, a title that emerged more than five years ago, is often described as taking an organization from analog to digital. The digital officer role is still making inroads in healthcare today. Kaiser Permanente recently named Prat Vemana as its first chief digital officer for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. In the newly created role, Vemana is tasked with leading Kaiser Permanente’s digital strategy in collaboration with internal health plan and hospital teams, according to a news release.

A chief transformation officer, however, often focuses not just on digital but also emerging tech, such as AI, to reimagine how an organization does business.

“It has a real imperative to change the way [healthcare] is operating and doing business, and healthcare organizations are struggling with that,” Craft said. 

Barchi, who has been CIO at New York-Presbyterian for four years, said the role of chief transformation officer was developed by the nonprofit academic medical center to “take technology to the next level” and scale some of the digital programs it had started. The organization sought to improve not only back office functions but to advance the way it operates digitally when it comes to the patient experience, from hospital check-in to check-out.

I feel like we’re past the age of innovating. Now it’s really about transforming our care model.
Peter Fleischut, M.D.Chief transformation officer, New York-Presbyterian

Fleischut was selected for the role due to his background as a clinician, as well as the organization’s former chief innovation officer. He has been in the role for two years and is charged with further developing and scaling New York-Presbyterian’s AI, robotics and telemedicine programs.

The organization, which has four major divisions and is comprised of 10 hospitals, deeply invested in its telemedicine efforts and built a suite of services about four years ago. In 2016, it completed roughly 1,000 synchronous video visits between providers and patients. Now, the organization expects to complete between 500,000 and 1,000,000 video visits by the end of 2019, Fleischut said during his talk at the recent mHealth & Telehealth World Summit in Boston.

One of the areas where New York-Presbyterian expanded its telemedicine services under Fleischut’s lead was in emergency rooms, offering low-acuity patients the option of seeing a doctor virtually instead of in-person, which shortened patient discharge times from an average baseline of two and a half hours to 31 minutes.

The healthcare organization has also expanded its telemedicine services to kiosks set up in local Walgreens, and has a mobile stroke unit operating out of three ambulances. Stroke victims are treated in the ambulance virtually by an on-call neurologist.  

“At the end of the day with innovation and transformation, it’s all about speed, it’s all about time, and that’s what this is about,” Fleischut said. “How to leverage telemedicine to provide faster, quicker, better care to our patients.”

Transforming care delivery, hospital operations  

Telemedicine is one example of how New York-Presbyterian is transforming the way it interacts with patients. Indeed, that’s one of Fleischut’s main goals — to streamline the patient experience digitally through tools like telemedicine, Barchi said.

“The way you reach patients is using technology to be part of their lives,” Barchi said. “So Pete, in his role, is really important because we wanted someone focused on that patient experience and using things like telemedicine to make the patient journey seamless.” 

But for Fleischut to build a better patient experience, he also has to transform the way the hospital operates digitally, another one of his major goals.

As an academic medical center, Barchi said the organization invests significantly in advanced, innovative technology, including robotics. Barchi said he works with one large budget to fund innovation, information security and electronic medical records.

One hospital operation Fleischut worked to automate using robotics was food delivery. Instead of having hospital employees deliver meals to patients, New York-Presbyterian now uses large robots loaded with food trays that are programmed to deliver patient meals.

Fleischut’s work, Barchi said, will continue to focus on innovative technologies transforming the way New York-Presbyterian operates and delivers care.

“Pete’s skills from being a physician with years of experience, as well as his knowledge of technology, allow him to be truly transformative,” Barchi said.

In his role as chief transformation officer, Fleischut said he considers people and processes the most important part of the transformation journey. Without having the right processes in place for changing care delivery and without provider buy-in, the effort will not be a success, he said.

“Focusing on the people and the process leads to greater adoption of technologies that, frankly, have been beneficial in other industries,” he said.

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Adobe zero-day fix precedes June Patch Tuesday

An Adobe zero-day vulnerability in Flash Player that was actively exploited stirred up excitement for admins in the week leading up to June Patch Tuesday.

Adobe released a fix for the zero-day (CVE-2018-5002) and three other vulnerabilities for the Windows client operating system on June 7.

The zero-day exploit launched its attacks from Excel documents sent via email. Users who open these infected Excel attachments on unpatched systems could allow the execution of arbitrary code under the exploited user account.

Chris Goettl, director of product management, IvantiChris Goettl

After the Adobe zero-day issue, the patching workload for administrators is lighter than usual for June Patch Tuesday, with about 50 unique vulnerabilities to correct — including 11 rated critical.

“Our recommendation is the Flash patch — if it already hasn’t been pushed out, [give that] high priority,” said Chris Goettl, director of product management at Ivanti, based in South Jordan, Utah.

June Patch Tuesday closes about 50 vulnerabilities

Microsoft released an update for the only publicly disclosed vulnerability (CVE-2018-8267) for June Patch Tuesday, which affects the Microsoft scripting engine on all supported versions of Internet Explorer. Attacks can exploit this flaw through a compromised website, or user-contributed ads or content, to take control of the target machine.

On an unpatched system, attackers could execute arbitrary code as the hacked user. Organizations that follow least-privilege rules that restrict the use of higher full permissions will reduce the damage from a breach.

Jimmy Graham, director of product management at QualysJimmy Graham

Microsoft’s June Patch Tuesday fixes also closed a remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2018-8225) that affects all supported versions of Windows. This vulnerability could allow an attacker to compromise systems through a domain name system (DNS) server.

“That would be higher risk for mobile workstations, where it’s likely the system will be accessing an untrusted DNS server through public Wi-Fi,” said Jimmy Graham, director of product management at Qualys, based in Redwood City, Calif.

A memory corruption vulnerability (CVE-2018-8229) in the Edge browser’s Chakra scripting engine would let an attacker exploit an unpatched system through specially crafted websites or user-provided content. The effects depend on the level of privilege on the system.

Spectre vulnerabilities continue

Just when it seemed the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were winding down, security researchers uncovered another CPU bug. The vulnerability, called Spectre variant 4, is similar to the other speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities disclosed in January, but they are rated with moderate severity.  

Jann Horn, a security researcher at Google’s Project Zero, and Ken Johnson, of the Microsoft Security Response Center, discovered Spectre variant 4 (CVE-2018-3639). This exploit enables malicious actors to read privileged data across trust boundaries.

Microsoft released its ADV180012 advisory in January to assist administrators with closing the exploits from the speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities. The company continues to update the site, and it added further mitigation instructions to address Spectre variant 4. There are still no active attacks on Meltdown or Spectre, but administrators should install the patches and microcode updates when the CPU manufacturers release them.

For more information about the remaining security bulletins for June Patch Tuesday, visit Microsoft’s Security Update Guide.

How Have the Seattle Seahawks Sold Out 127 Consecutive Games (and Counting)? A Relentless Focus on Customer Experience

Watch any NFL game and you’ll see player and coaches reviewing videos and images on light-blue Microsoft Surface tablets. But Microsoft’s involvement with the NFL goes much deeper than sideline branding.

Just ask the Seattle Seahawks, who use Microsoft technology on the field to improve player training, recover, and wellness, and off the field to innovate and execute for its rabid fan base — so well that the Seahawks have sold out 127 straight home games (and counting) and were ranked #1 in game day experience by the NFL’s ‘Voice of the Fan.’

To find out more about the Seahawk’s digital transformation, I talked with Amy Sprangers, VP of Corporate Sponsorship 

Any technologies you adopt have to serve multiple goals. You’re not just in the football business; you’re in the entertainment business, the hospitality business…

Our objective is to be on the frontline of embracing technology on the field, to identify the right investments to make sure our franchise succeeds. The detailed data we gather helps improve recovery time, reduces time off the field, maximizes our players’ impact when it comes to game time…

But you’re right. Off the field obviously matters, too. We want to connect closely with our fans to give them the best experience when they come to the stadium — and when they go to an opposing team’s stadium on the road. We constantly want to improve how we connect with fans. We’re proud we are ranked #1 in game day experience, but we want that experience to get even better.

So how do you turn all that data into actionable insights?

It starts with clearly defining your objectives. For us, that means making sure our fans have an incredible experience.

We have data to support that. We’ve sold out 127 consecutive home games. Over 99% of our season tickets holders renew. Our fans in this community and across the country are passionate about the Seahawks.

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That, as a front office, is our most cherished responsibility. Our goal is to be the best stewards we can be to our players, to our fan base, to our partners across the country… at every level our goal is to be a championship-caliber team.

Like any business, sports are obviously cyclical, but when you make customer experience a top priority, you can smooth out some of those cycles.

But you don’t just wake up one day and say, “Let’s use technology to help us build our business.”

That’s definitely been an evolution. It took time to reach a state of maturity to really capture insights from the rich set of data we have.

But, really, that’s the Microsoft partnership paying off. The various applications in Dynamics 365 (a suite of ERP and CRM applications) helped us evolve. That’s how we manage our ticket holder database. We capture information that comes from our fans to invest in the right areas of our building: Improve sound, food and beverage, safety and security of fans and guests… we can do that because we can analyze and make sense of all the data we receive.

It can be hard to sift through a massive data set and decide what to work on, so we keep it simple: We look for ways to make the most impact. If we hear that a fan can’t hear a call from a referee’s mic on the field, we look at ways to improve that. If we hear there is a certain section where food and beverage lines are longer, we work to improve that. We analyze points of purchase to help lines move more quickly so guests can get back to their seats.

Speaking of food and beverage, you brought that in-house. Why?

That’s a great example of listening to our fans. We know how important it is for fans to feel safe and secure… and to be served great food. So last march we decided to launch our own hospitality company, First and Goal Hospitality.

We wanted to control that. That’s all a part of constant renewal, of making investments to be sure we’re first in class.

It starts with data, but you have to act on your data. You can’t wait. 

Keep in mind that at CenturyLink Field we also have the Sounders (soccer), we host major concerts… next year Taylor Swift will perform here. Over 2.3 million people a year come to our facility. 

So we have to be proactive, because ultimately we’re in the experience business, and customer expectations constantly evolve.  

Speaking of being proactive…

What’s next for us? Continuing to explore ways to improve customer experience. Continuing to leverage insights. Expanding our use of mobile technologies.

Customization of data will help us moving forward. Whether it’s football, soccer, concerts… we’re pushing to provide a customized experienced for everyone who visits the building. 

From our perspective, if our fans aren’t constantly expecting us to deploy new things, better things… then we’re not doing our jobs.

Every business wants ‘raving fans.’ How has the Seahawks organization built such a devoted fan base?

For the Seahawks specifically, when fans come in the building, it’s all about ritual. You wear all your gear. You paint your face. You dye your hair.

More than that, though, our fans believe — with good reason — that they make an impact. We lead the league in opposing team false starts. Our defense will speak to the power of our fan base. Our fans are so loud they actually impact game play.

So we looked at how can we celebrate and honor our 12s. The 12 flag raising tradition came directly from feedback from fans; it’s one way to pay tribute to them. When our team takes the field, it’s a special moment.

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Our fan share ownership when they come into the building. That feeling is true and authentic, because it comes from the fans themselves.

We also have a fan council, a great representation of season ticket holders who meet to share positive and negative feedback, describe improvements they would like to see… that’s another great set of information that helps us improve our fan experience. Whether it’s sound improvement, concession improvement, more choices or grab-and-go locations where a fan can access healthy options and be in and out very quickly… 

We really feel like we have a great responsibility to our fans. It’s not lip service. They integral to everything we want to accomplish on the field, off the field, in the community… our fans aren’t “just” fans. They really are a part of the team.