Rio 2016 – The Tech Olympics

If you’re a resident, visitor or competitor involved in the 2016 Olympic Games, the influence of technology is being felt more keenly than ever before. From enhancements to training or competition, viewing the games in person or via media or just someone hoping to take advantage of the attention the Olympics will bring, there is something new that technology has to offer across the board, together with associated benefits and pitfalls. In this post, we take a look at some of the bigger changes.


For the athletes, technology has allowed them to make huge advances, both in training and in competition. For the US team, a range of wearable deviceshas transformed their training regimes, allowing more data to be collected than ever before. From heads-up displays for track cyclists to movement trackers in boxing gloves, more information than ever before is available to help athletes reach their dreams of Olympic Gold. The events themselves are subject to change bought about by technological advances. Underwater lap counters have been built into the bottom of the pools, so that competitors taking part in long-distance swimming events can which lap they are on without having to keep count themselves. The Archery and Shooting competitions will have laser-based scoring systems, meaning almost real-time updates for scores (previously, everyone had to wait for targets to be checked manually before a score was compiled). And in the Volleyball, video replays will be used to decide on close-call balls that land on or near the line. Unfortunately, there is another side to this particular Olympics, and that is related to protection. After a sailor in a pre-Olympic test Sailing competition was diagnosed with the flesh-eating MRSA virus, there has been a great deal of concern about water pollution. Fears for the safety of rowers, sailors and swimmers competing have led to contributions from engineers and scientists as they try to make things safer for their teams. One such example is the ‘second skin’ suits being prepared for the US rowing team.


It’s not just athletes that are concerned by conditions in Rio. With average worldwide viewing figures for an Olympic event reaching 3.5 billion people, a vast army of broadcasters and journalists will be descending upon Rio to help bring the spectacle to a global audience. Concerns about the Zika Virus have caused many athletes to pull out, including four of the world’s best golfers. It’s a concern that is shared by many of the tech workers who will be travelling to Brazil this year. Those that do make the trip to Rio will be busier than ever before. Comcast, for example, is ramping up its coverage to include live streaming of every single event, an undertaking that is expected to surpass 4,500 hours of viewing. This will also be the first ‘VR’ Olympics, as NBC have partnered with Samsung to bring several events in Virtual Reality, including the opening and closing ceremonies. Samsung, the official smartphone sponsor of the Olympics, has also brought out a special version of its S7 Edge phone. Other sponsors have used the event to showcase their technological advances, including Nissan, who have provided a fleet of clean-energy cars, and Visa, who have created an Olympic ring (I see what you did there) for 45 athletes to trial during their stay.


If you’d looked at the city of Rio on Google Maps just two years ago, you might be mistaken in thinking that there seemed to be far more open spaces than there actually were. This is because prior to 2014, Google had not been able to figure out a way to safely map Rio’s infamous favelas. They are able to do so now, thanks to an army of workers armed with smartphones who have been going around the areas, tagging small businesses and other places of interest. Given that one in five inhabitants of Rio lives in a Favela, this has had a massive and transformative effect upon their lives. Thousands of small businesses, including stalls, restaurants and other stores can be found, both online and off, giving them access to new audiences and customers. Local Brazilians have leapt at this new opportunity, and are capitalizing upon it. The economic crisis gripping Brazil has proven to be a boon to Airbnb, the home-sharing business. Renting out your spare room for the Olympics has proven to be a great source of income for cash-strapped homeowners, with the site claiming that over 50,000 guests are scheduled to be using the service during the Games. Google has also provided training to many service workers, including bus and taxi drivers, waiting staff and store owners in how to use their Translate app. Despite all these advances, there are still plenty of reasons to be careful while in Rio. Levels of crime remain very high, and there are plenty who are planning on taking advantage of the influx of visitors. A recent report discovered that while there were plenty of WIFI hotspots springing up around the Olympic areas of Rio, a quarter of them were not secure. You should make your WIFI choices very carefully (although bringing your own remains one of the safest methods to avoid trouble), ensure your phone is secured and password protected, and take heed of any other travel advisory warnings.