Fantasy Football Service Scores Big With Watson

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Fantasy Football

Edge Up Sports, an upstart fantasy football information provider, turns to the Watson cognitive computing platform to help users gain a competitive edge.

Over the last five years, IBM's Watson technology has evolved from a futuristic concept showcased on the Game Show Jeopardy to an emerging tool for business, government and educational institutions.

The cognitive computing platform tackles tasks that are beyond the reach of conventional search engines and database tools. The ability to plug in artificial intelligence and use natural language processing to sort through complex topics and obtain instant answers can be transformative.

One company scoring big with the concept is Edge Up Sports, an online provider of fantasy football information.

"We take the data points and information that revolves around the NFL and tailor it to fantasy football managers so they don't have to do the heavy lifting. They can simply enjoy the game," explains CEO Illya Tabakh. "We are looking to offer the best experience possible and provide a deeper view with better analysis."

The company is set to launch the service at the outset of the upcoming NFL season. It is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign to gain $35,000 in funding.

Delivering One-Stop Analyses

Of course, fantasy sports leagues have been around for many years, and more than 33 million people play. Participants are constantly on the lookout for news and information they can put to use to gain a competitive advantage.

Edge Up Sports hopes to use Watson to advance the concept and take "the grind out of … weekly research." The company aims to deliver one-stop analyses that supplement existing fantasy football platforms such as Yahoo! and CBS Sports.

A user might ask a question such as, "How well does the team perform on grass versus turf?" Or "What is the sentiment about whether a player or team will perform well on Sunday?" Watson supplies instant answers.

The service will pluck both structured and unstructured data from news feeds, coaches' data, social media interactions, sentiment data, weather reports, injury history, analyst write-ups, news stories and more. It will run on Android and iOS devices, including tablets, as well as through a Web browser.

"The Watson technology greatly simplifies information gathering and analysis," Tabakh says. "It sorts through massive amounts of information—thousands of data and news pieces—and examines an array of variables and factors so that participants can put evidence-based recommendations to use and enjoy their time more."

Edge Up Sports is currently using two APIs from the Watson Developer Cloud: AlchemyAPI and Personality Insights. However, it will add additional Watson APIs in the future, he adds.

Tabakh sees a bright future in tackling the data and information challenges associated with fantasy leagues. He believes that the current population of NFL fantasy league players could expand to more than 100 million with the right services and tools.

"Taking some of the busy work and drudgery out of the process lets people concentrate on having fun, including the social banter and playing the role of team manager," he points out. "Watson opens up new and exciting possibilities that didn't exist in the past."

This article was originally published on 2015-08-26
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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