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Sochi Olympics Sports a Tech Heavy Side


Determining the winners of some of the most exciting Olympic events can depend on the smallest fractions of a second. Measuring those differences, let alone training to be an Olympic contender, depends not just on elite coaches and facilities, but importantly on the technology that prepares and evaluates athletes' every move. For us, the viewer, the technology employed is essential to experience and understand what we are seeing (or what we just missed!).

Show stoppers

This year's Olympics has been about pushing technology to new heights. For starters, broadcasting the games is no small tech feat. NBC Sports Group again contracted with Canon to capture the games using portable, mounted, and numerous telephoto hardware solutions that are enhanced through HD lenses and of course image-stabilization technology. And while the visuals are the preferred route to experience the games, the wireless network supporting real-time communication and reporting is a complex matter. Adiba is the core of the technology backbone for the Olympics, long an IT partner with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and began the preparations for Sochi seven years ago with the thrust of work commencing in 2010, according to a recent report in c|net. The systems infrastructure behind just the running and connectivity necessary for the games (from security, scoring, playback for judges, streaming for IOC, etc.) has been an immense undertaking challenging any other organizational IT infrastructure.

When we begin to think about the real challenges behind the implementation of Smart Cities and the network demands of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), perhaps more consideration of the Olympic IT challenges and system requirements might be worth exploring.

Wearable game changers

For the more casual athletes, there is the promise of a new round of consumer electronics (CE) that might just propel us to reach the training heights of Olympians, or at least think about trying. Training as an Olympian is, of course, rather different than the weekend warrior or even more serious, but still non-professional, athlete, and to this end the Wall Street Journal put some of the latest wearable fitness devices to a test back in November pitting Olympic contenders and their more sedate journalist counterparts against the tracking capabilities of some of the latest CE devices. Turns out that while for the CE consumer the devices available today may present exciting insight, limited data collection by their on-board sensors failed to really capture what an Olympian does. While that may seem a disappointment, it really points out the growth potential of these devices.

Currently, the wearable health and fitness sector is expanding, with forecast of quadrupling in interest this year according to Global Purchasing, and likely reaching well into sales of US $50 billion over the next five years. Unit shipments for wearable infotainment devices look to triple over the same period, rising from 51.2 million units in 2013 to an estimated 130.7 million units by 2018, based on recent iSuppli data.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:30 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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