Tempus Ex Machina – Where Sports and Data Intersect

Two months ago, Chelsea Football Club announced a 7-year partnership with Tempus Ex Machina “to power innovative technology enhancements for the club and our global fanbase.”

Marketing-speak aside, the US technology company is a phenomenon with “a solution that can synchronize and deliver every available piece of data generated by every data and video vendor at a live sporting event — including every video angle, stats platform, and player tracker covering every play.”

We wanted to learn more about the company and how it got its start, so we reached out to Erik Schwartz, the founder, president, and chief product officer of Tempus Ex Machina.IMG 0670

Schwartz has spent the last 30 years working on the convergence of entertainment and technology, with the last 10 focused on live sports. Prior to founding Tempus Ex Machina, he was chief technology officer and chief product officer of the Alliance of American Football. Before the AAF, Schwartz was vice president and general manager of live video products for BitTorrent, where he led the launch of BitTorrent Live, a scalable, low latency, live video streaming platform. He also founded Synchronize TV and Situational Stats, an early player in the advanced sports analytics space . Schwartz started his career at ICTV, doing some of the seminal work in interactive TV and launching the first digital video on-demand service to run on an MVPD.

Question: How did your career in technology begin?

Answer: I was born into it. My dad was a physics professor at MIT. He did some super early computer graphics work supporting research he was doing in special relativity. I started getting exposed to computers in the 1970s. After briefly toying with careers in art and archaeology, I gravitated back towards computer technology.

Q: At what point do you blend technology and sports?

A: I started blending sports and technology in the early 1990s when I was working at ICTV. We designed a single board computer that tied multiple MPEG video streams to overlaid synchronized graphics. I used that to build a proof of concept of a play by play pick em game that ran over an American football game.

Q: How has the collection and governance of data changed since those early days?

A: The main way is that there were essentially no formalized data governance policies in the early days. Companies collected whatever data they liked, they took whatever precautions they saw fit with it, and they manipulated it in any way they wanted to. It was all very ad hoc. It started to get standardized on a company by company basis some time ago. Then there were a bunch of data breaches. Then GDPR forced the issue.

Q: What problem does Tempus Ex Machina seek to solve?

A: Data around sporting events is both messy and unstructured, and not consistently managed, dealt with, or accessed. It comes from a variety of sources with inconsistent levels of precision. It is accessed in inconsistent, and sometimes, somewhat archaic means. Tempus Ex ingests all the data at the earliest possible source. Normalizes it. Cross validates it. Synchronizes it. Then makes it available in a single, consistent modern API that exists in a single, consolidated timeline.

Q: How did the firm get its name?

A: It’s a play on words (in Latin) on Deus ex machina (God from the machine) where insolvable problems in fiction, art, or theater are miraculously solved at the last moment by divine intervention. We use time (tempus) to do the same thing.

Q: What do you like most about your role as president and chief product officer in the company?

A: Working with a great team. I get to work on high-level strategy and planning with my co-founder Charlie, and I get to dig in deep on gnarly technical problems with my engineering and product teams

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to work as a technologist in the sports industry?

A: Find mentors. Always keep learning from them. I have been doing this for 35 years and I still find new mentors to teach me new things.

If you’re not happy with the state of things. Change them.