StartUp Blog - Interview


“We have additional potential to link available data together better”

HackZurich 2017 was remarkable, inspiring… and is already consigned to the history books. Seven international teams worked on the Datasport/Swisscom work case 'The Sports Data Analytics Revolution' and presented their ideas after 40 hours of non-stop coding. Swisscom strategist Alexander Lehrmann explains the relationship between sport and data and why it was worth taking part in Europe’s biggest hackathon.

Tessa Marina Meier, 21. September 2017

Alexander, what do you think about SAP vice-president Mark Lehew’s statement that “Thanks to big data, sports will never be the same”?

He’s absolutely right. After Bill James published the first baseball abstract with data from numerous baseball matches in 1977, players began to be selected and fielded on the basis of their performance data – and it was a success. Something that began in professional sport is now penetrating the world of amateur sport more and more. This systematic capture and analysis of (real-time) data is only going to gather pace.

Sport and data – can they be separated these days?

No. For anyone who watches or plays sport, data is an essential part of the experience – for example, captions appear on the screen during live broadcasts, specific match situations are visualised and, of course, individual performances are analysed. I am thinking of the so-called Quantified Self movement, whose members seek to improve their health through the use of statistics and graphs.

What role does digitisation play in this?

Digitisation is making it much easier to use certain tools, which were previously used only in professional sport, in grassroots sport. Innovation is necessary in sport, just as it is in many other fields. For a service provider such as Datasport, the normal range of services, such as data collection and preparation, is no longer enough. New, digital concepts are needed to produce ‘wow’ experiences. That’s partly why we presented a case at HackZurich.

What is Datasport doing?

We see the challenge as being to discover how we can adapt what we offer event organisers – our customers – so they, in turn, can offer athletes a better sporting experience. That’s why we recently launched a new product called Datasport Live Gold. With this new app, athletes can enable their friends and relatives to share in the race experience. Once the race starts, you can track the run of one or more competitors live on screen and see their expected finishing time. We are therefore creating a more exciting experience for the athletes as well as their fans.

The work case 'The Sports Data Analytics Revolution', which you presented at HackZurich, is similar to this…

Yes, we have already implemented a few ideas and we have more concepts in mind, but of course we’re always open to new and creative approaches. We were hoping that HackZurich would provide us with inspiration, new ideas and lateral thinking. We weren’t disappointed: the teams came up with some exciting, wide-ranging ideas. We are currently discussing whether to follow up one or more of them in the form of a PoC.

As a sportsman yourself, what kind of developments would you like to see in the near future?

I would like data capture, processing and preparation to become more seamless. At the moment, if I go running and leave my smartphone at home by mistake, I lose a day’s tracking data. New concepts are needed to make the tracking function permanently available, for example. And thinking further ahead, there will be avatars and more professional virtual personal coaches – all with the objective of improving personal performance.

And the Swisscom Workcase winners of HackZurich 2017 are…

Overall winner HackZurich 2017 here

3rd place in the overall competition & 1st place in the public vote

This case uses the numerous photos that are taken by spectators with their cameras and uploaded, collects them in the cloud and makes them available to athletes in real time through image recognition. At the same time, uploading of the photos via an app provides additional data about the state of the race, geo-location, etc.

Swisscom jury winner

The team carried out a very thorough data analysis, breaking down each segment of the ski marathon into percentiles and drawing conclusions about the likely finishing time. The effects of heart rate, altitude and gradient were taken into account and their influence on overall performance was identified, along with training and preparation tips. This enables other athletes with a similar level of performance (strengths and weaknesses) to find training and competition opportunities.

Alexander Lehrmann is a corporate strategy and business development project manager at Swisscom. He is responsible for strategy development at Datasport and, as such, is closely involved with the latest trends concerning data and sport.


Datasport is Switzerland’s leading time measurement provider in grassroots sport. It specialises in data management for mass participation sports events, athlete registration and identification, time measurement and the use of RFID and modern web technologies. Datasport was acquired by Swisscom (Switzerland) Ltd in March 2012, but operates as an independent company and brand.