Former Real Madrid star Esteban Granero uses his artificial intelligence company to help fight the coronavirus in Spain

Former Real Madrid star Esteban Granero uses his artificial intelligence company to help fight the coronavirus in Spain

While Olocip typically provides predictive analytics in sports, it has recently been key to Spain’s attempts to minimize the impact of the coronavirus.

If Granero’s analytical mind has been pleased to see him throughout his career as a metronome midfielder, it’s something the Spaniard believes has helped his unlikely transition from player to AI entrepreneur.

“The key point is anticipation,” he says. “This is something that happens to a midfielder on the field, trying to anticipate what will happen on the next play is very important.”

“They are the best to anticipate, they govern the game and artificial intelligence, since we know that it is about anticipation, trying to make predictions to see the future in a very realistic way before it happens, so you can make decisions on stage with less uncertainty.

“Therefore, anticipation is key for decision-making in industry clubs, but also in health problems like this pandemic, and, of course, on the field when you’re a soccer player.”

Esteban Granero celebrates after winning the Copa del Rey against Barcelona in 2011.

The 32-year-old, who currently plays for the Marbella third division team, has devoted almost every second of his free time in the last five years to developing his company.

Granero founded Olocip while playing for Real Sociedad to fill what he saw as a predictive data analysis gap in soccer; data that help clubs, for example, to assess more precisely how a new transfer will work in the future.

However, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has shifted all its resources from focusing on soccer to helping combat the rapidly spreading outbreak.

So appreciated is the work that Olocip does, thanks in large part to the work of Concha Bielza and Pedro Larranaga, whom Granero describes as “two of the best artificial intelligence scientists in Europe”, that the Spanish government and the local government In each one of the autonomous regions of Spain, we have turned to them for guidance.

Dr. Antonio Salmerón, a fellow data scientist and Head of Mathematics at the University of Almería, says that Olocip’s models are valuable, as they are not only created using data, but also incorporate the knowledge of human experts.

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“Surprisingly, Olocip emphasizes prescriptive models, meaning that they are not only capable of detecting potential problems, but also give indications for their treatment,” he told CNN. “Which is especially interesting in aspects of sports medicine.

Granero has spent much of the past five years developing Olocip.

“I have been following the progress made by Olocip since the beginning of the [coronavirus] crisis and have adapted their models to predict the evolution of the disease, with good results: it has an excellent reputation in Spain, with first-rate scientists and data analysts. “

Olocip’s analysis has helped predict how the virus will spread across the country and which areas will be most affected, allowing decisions to be made on where to move resources “before the system crashes,” when to lift blocking restrictions. and be better prepared for future pandemics.

“I think our models are the best we can find about the pandemic,” Granero tells CNN from the closing of his house in Marbella. “It has already been used by institutions and we have been asked in different countries, not only in Spain, so we are happy to help.

“When a problem is so big, a global problem, and it is affecting older people and people with vulnerabilities, it is your responsibility to do your best to try to help, this is nothing heroic.”

“I think heroes are in hospitals treating patients and risking their lives and we are doing the best we can to make this prediction, that is our specialty.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

After being contacted by a friend who founded the ‘Stop Corona’ platform, Granero began to focus on the pandemic when Spain declared a state of emergency on March 13.

Although Spain has already passed the peak of its pandemic, Granero’s model says that this was on April 4, it has been one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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Spain has registered more than 232,000 confirmed cases, the fourth highest in the world and 27,888 deaths. However, now there is light at the end of what has been a devastating tunnel.

After seven weeks of the strictest blockade in Europe, the restrictions were slightly relaxed earlier in the month, as the Spanish were finally allowed to go out for limited exercise.

Throughout this unprecedented and constantly evolving scenario, Olocip has provided all of its data analyzes for free.

“It’s not always about profit,” says Granero. “We haven’t raised a penny with [helping] this problem, but we are very proud to have helped us in this way. Our models are available to anyone who needs them or thinks this can help with people’s health. “

Spain was the second country in Europe, after Italy, which was severely affected by the coronavirus, which according to Granero made it more difficult to anticipate solutions.

While the United Kingdom and the US USA They are among the countries most affected by the pandemic, Germany and Canada are widely considered among those that have handled it best.

Real Madrid celebrates the League victory in 2012.

“Germany did a good job because they are very realistic with the data,” says Granero. “And then they made the best decisions.

“Canada had this artificial intelligence system to predict how big this virus was going to be, so they crashed before the rest and had fewer problems.”

“I don’t think that we [Spain] I have done very badly. We could have done better, yes, but it was very difficult. So the most important thing is to try to do the right thing from now on, and the best way is to try to listen to the specialists and, of course, use technology in the best way. “

‘Complex problem’

Granero, who won the League and the Copa del Rey during his time at Real Madrid, recently joined Marbella after leaving the top side of Espanyol, drawn by the ambitious project of the southern club and the opportunity to bring the club to the first division.

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Before the coronavirus stopped football in Spain, Marbella was in second place and seemed certain of a playoff spot looking for promotions.

Granero believes that finishing this season should take precedence over starting the next, not because of personal interests with Marbella but to maintain the integrity of the competitions.

Granero joined Marbella this year and hopes to secure the promotion.

La Liga chief Javier Tebas outlined protocols for elite soccer in Spain to return to closed doors in June, although the plans were recently abolished when five players in Spain’s two main divisions tested positive for Covid-19.

“The first thing that we must take into account is the health of people, the health of spectators, players and referees,” says Granero. “The solution is not easy, but the competitions are better if they end.”

“They need to find a way to end the competitions because once something has started, it needs to be finished. Therefore, they need to find a way. The other [solutions] they are unfair by nature.

“Of course, it is a very complex problem and they need to wait until health is assured, but they need to end the competition. It is probably the only solution behind closed doors and this is something we will see.”

Isolation is certainly not the way Granero would have imagined his start in life in Marbella, but at least it has given him more time to focus on his growing company, which is now perhaps more important than he could have imagined. .

Lionel Messi tries to face Granero during the La Liga de Barcelona clash against Espanyol in 2018.

Always an analyst, Granero is already thinking about how this forced break can be used for the benefit of his team.

“When we start training and games again, we will be living a situation that no one has ever experienced,” he reflects. “It’s four months without playing and then starting again. So we are trying to see this as an opportunity to make a difference between us and the rest of the teams.”

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