Business / Gadgets

Baidu big winner in World Cup

By MENG JING (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-14 08:20

Firm beats giants with predictions

China's national soccer team failed to make the cut for the 2014 World Cup, but that hasn't shaken a Chinese tech company's credibility in predicting game results.

Baidu's World Cup prediction service has outscored its major competitors by accurately predicting winners 58.3 percent of the time, compared with runnerup Microsoft Bing's 56.2 percent.

The Beijing-based company not only correctly chose the four semifinalists, it also predicted that Germany would win its match with Brazil, though it didn't foresee the 7-1 score.

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Baidu said that its World Cup prediction model is based on data from as many as 37,000 matches played by 987 teams over the past five years.

To improve the accuracy of the model, Zhang Tong, head of the Beijing Big Data Lab of Baidu, said that the company also took into consideration five factors: the teams' strength, home advantage, recent game performance, overall World Cup performance and bookmaker odds.

Tech companies such as Baidu, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, and investment banking firms such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, all took their chances predicting 2014 World Cup games.

Generally speaking, tech companies outperformed Wall Street investors. Baidu and Microsoft both correctly chose the four teams in the semifinals. Goldman Sachs erred in picking Spain to reach the final four, while Deutsche Bank even predicted that England would win the tournament.

Bryan Wang, principal analyst with Forrester Research, a multinational technology and market research firm, said that as a company that processes search requests every day, Baidu enjoys an edge in big data-based prediction.

He said accuracy is based on how much data companies use in building the models. "The more soccer-related data you put into the model, the more accuracy you get," he said, adding that accuracy isn't necessarily equal to a company's capability in big data technology.

Recent media reports said that a soccer-loving girl in Northeast China won more than 3.3 million yuan ($528,000) from betting on the 2014 World Cup and her secret weapon was Baidu's World Cup predictions.

But Bi Yajing, a soccer fan in Beijing who has spent 1,000 yuan on soccer lotteries during the World Cup, said he never uses such big-data prediction. "There is no fun if you can't vote for your favorite teams," he said.

Gao Yuan contributed to this story.

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