Former Real Madrid star Esteban Granero uses his AI company to help fight coronaviruses in Spain

Former Real Madrid star Esteban Granero uses his AI company to help fight coronaviruses in Spain

While Olocip normally provides predictive analysis in sports, it has recently proven to be essential for Spain’s attempts to minimize the impact of the coronavirus.

If Granero’s analytical mind has pleased him to watch throughout his metronomic midfielder career, it’s something that, according to the Spaniard, has helped his unlikely transition from player to entrepreneur.

“The key point is anticipation,” he says. “It’s something that happens on the field for a midfielder, trying to anticipate what will happen in the next game is so important.

“They are the best at anticipating, they govern the game and the artificial intelligence because we know that it is anticipation, to try to make predictions in order to see the future in a very realistic way before it does happen, so you can make scenario decisions with less uncertainty.

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

The 32-year-old, who currently plays for Marbella’s third division, has spent almost every second of his free time in the past five years developing his business.

Granero founded Olocip while playing for Real Sociedad to fill what he saw as a vacuum for predictive data analysis in football; data that helps clubs, for example, to more accurately assess the performance of a new signature in the future.

However, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has shifted all of its resources from focusing on football to fighting the rapidly spreading epidemic.

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 scientists in artificial intelligence in Europe” – is so highly regarded that the Spanish government, as well as the government local in each of the autonomous regions of Spain, came to ask their advice.

Dr. Antonio Salmeron, a fellow data researcher and director of mathematics at the University of Almeria, says that Olocip models are valuable because they are not only built using data, but also incorporate knowledge from human experts.

“Remarkably, Olocip emphasizes normative models, that is, they are not only capable of detecting potential problems, but also of giving indications for their treatment,” he said. at CNN. “Which is particularly interesting in certain aspects of sports medicine.

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

“I have followed the progress made by Olocip since the start of the [coronavirus] crisis and they have adapted their models to predict the course of the disease, with good results – it has an excellent reputation in Spain, having first-rate scientists and data analysts. “

Olocip’s analysis predicted how the virus would spread across the country and which areas would be hardest hit, helping to decide where to move resources “before the system collapses”, when to lift lock restrictions and better prepare for future pandemics.

“I think our models are the best we can find about the pandemic,” Granero told CNN since the foreclosure of his home in Marbella. “It has already been used by institutions and we have been contacted in different countries, not only in Spain, so we are happy to help you.

“When a problem is so huge, a global problem, and it affects the elderly and the vulnerable, it is your responsibility to do your best to try to help, it is nothing short of heroic.

“I think the heroes are in hospitals to treat patients and risk their lives and we just do our best to make this prediction, it’s 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 it was April 4 – it has been one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

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

After seven weeks of the strictest lock in Europe, restrictions have been slightly relaxed at the start of the month, the spanish were finally allowed out for a limited exercise.

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

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

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

While the United Kingdom and the United States were among the countries most affected by the pandemic, Germany and Canada are widely considered to be among those who managed it best.

Real Madrid celebrates their victory in La Liga in 2012.

“Germany has done a good job because they are very realistic with the data,” said Granero. “And so they made the best decisions.

“Canada had this artificial intelligence system to predict the magnitude of this virus. So they locked themselves up before the others and had fewer problems.

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

“Complex problem”

Granero, who won La Liga and Copa del Rey during his stay at Real Madrid, recently joined Marbella after leaving Espanyol, a high-level club, attracted by the ambitious plan of the southern club and the opportunity to lead the club in the first division.

Before the coronavirus stopped football in Spain, Marbella was in second place and seemed guaranteed a place in the playoffs looking for promotion.

Granero believes that finishing this season should have priority over the start of the next one, not because of personal interests with Marbella, but to maintain the integrity of the competitions.

Granero joined Marbella this year and hopes to get promoted.

La Liga boss Javier Tebas defined the protocols for the return of elite football to Spain behind closed doors in June, although plans were recently undermined when five players from the two main Spanish divisions were revealed positive for Covid-19.

“The first first thing to think about is the health of people, the health of spectators, players and referees,” said Granero. “The solution is not easy, but the competitions are better if they are finished.

“They have to find a way to end the competition because once something has started, it has to be finished. So they have to find a way. The other [solutions] are inherently unfair.

“Of course, this is a very complex problem and they have to wait for health to be secured, but they have to finish the competition – behind closed doors is probably the only solution and that is probably something we will see.”

Isolation is certainly not the way Granero would have envisioned entering life in Marbella, but it has at least given him more time to focus on his growing business – which may be now more important that he could not have imagined it. .

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

Still an analyst, Granero is already thinking about how this forced break can be used to his advantage.

“When we start again with training and games, we will live a situation that nobody has experienced,” he wonders. “It’s been four months without playing and starting again. So we’re trying to see this as an opportunity to differentiate between us and the rest of the teams.”


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