The 2018 winter Olympics kicked-off last Friday in Pyeongchang with one of the most dazzling opening ceremony ever in the history of modern-era Olympics. The games which made the news for peace, brotherhood, and solidarity among the two Koreas will be remembered more for being the most technology-intensive Olympics ever.
Organized in a country which is home to technology giants like LG, Samsung, and Hyundai, the 2018 edition of the Winter Games is set to create a new benchmark at the intersection of technology and sports around the world.
Insidesport.co compiles a list of many firsts and innovations on the technology front which are adding new dimensions to the overall experience of Winter Olympics.
HI-TECH UNIFORMS & EQUIPMENT
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams are sporting uniforms with a wearable heating component, designed to keep athletes warm in Pyeongchang’s freezing temperatures. The uniforms were designed by Ralph Lauren in collaboration with the US Olympic Committee.
The heating system, made from flexible and stretchable conductive inks, is printed in the shape of an American flag in carbon and silver ink that is bonded to the interior of the jackets. The water-repellent inks connect to a battery pack with three settings offers up to 11 hours of heating.
Two Dutch short track speedskaters will be wearing the Samsung SmartSuit during their competition. The suit is embedded with five sensors that can measure body posture and calculate how far a skater’s hips are from the ice. The data that when analyzed can give athletes a sense of how they can increase their speeds, even by just a fraction of a second. The data is sent to an app in real time to be analyzed by a coach, who can then send feedback to the athlete during the race in the form of vibrations. For example, a vibration on their wrist might advise them to correct their posture.
Dainese airbags, originally developed for MotoGP race to reduce the impact of riders falling on tarmac, is worn by a number of competitors. The device has seven sensors fitted into the vests which detects whether the athlete is losing control and could crash, causing the airbags to inflate to protect the athlete.
U.S. Speedskating will be wearing new suits designed by Under Armour featuring a new aerodynamic fabric and asymmetrical seam that reduces bunching. The team has switched over to the new suits after failing to win any medals at 2014 edition of the games, blaming poor quality and defective suits.
Multi-directional impact protection (MIPS) helmets have been introduced to minimize the impact of high-speed collisions. The ball-and-socket style slip panes on the helmet reduce rotational movement experienced upon the angled impact of a high-speed crash – especially for downhill skiers, who can achieve speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.
PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY WEARABLES BY VISA
Visa has introduced a new payment-connected winter gloves along with two other payment technology wearables for cashless payments at the Games. Visa has installed more than 1,000 NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals
The gloves contain a dual interface chip with an antenna that enables contactless payments throughout the venue. It will also offer four different commemorative Olympic lapel pins that enable payments and an array of thin, flexible adhesive micro tags that are embedded with NFC chips and antennas and can be attached to a variety of items.
ROBOTS, DRONES & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The games created a buzz on the Internet when a cleaning robot was found at the media and Press center in the Games Village vacuuming the floor. The host country, which has been developing applications in Artificial Intelligence (AI), has deployed 85 such robots across the Games venues to assist visitors with navigation, games schedules and tourism tips.
Intel, earlier had flown 1,218 drones for a spectacular light show for the opening ceremony. The drones (Intel’s Shooting Stars), synchronized and controlled by one computer and pilot, together featured the Olympic rings and representation of various sports and athletes. Intel has claimed the world record for the most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously, breaking its own the previous record of 500 drones in 2016 at Germany.
The drones, which were slated to fly during the ceremony, were grounded due to an ‘impromptu logistical changes, and a pre-recorded video from December 2017 was broadcast worldwide during the ceremony. The organizing committee made the decision to not to go ahead with the show citing too many spectators standing in the area where the live drone show was supposed to take place.
HIGH-RESOLUTION BROADCAST & VR
Host broadcaster Olympic Broadcasting Service along with the Silicon Valley giant Intel (Olympic Partner) is powering the game’s broadcast using Virtual Reality. OBC will be producing over 50 hours of coverage using Intel’s TrueVR and 360 Replay, created with the help of drone cameras. The first trial of the live VR technology happened during Rio 2016.
In what is the largest-scale virtual reality event to date and the first live virtual reality broadcast of the Olympic Winter Games, Intel will rotate roughly two dozen 180-degree cameras that it built in-house across 18 live events over the two-and-a-half week event. It’ll shoot 30 events in total — another 12 with 360-degree cameras — to create a mix of VR live streams and video-on-demand content.
The content, stored in the cloud, with live and on-demand footage is distributed across platforms including Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and Windows Mixed Reality, as well as through each broadcaster’s apps and digital offerings.
Pyeongchang 2018 is the first games to be broadcast live in 4K Ultra HD resolution. The technology uses images at over 8 million pixels to significantly help improve the range of colour and contrast. OBS has partnered with USA’s NBC, Japan’s state broadcaster NHK for the 4K HDR broadcast technology.
The opening ceremony was featured in 4K HDR. Events like figure skating, hockey, short track speed skating, ski jumping and snowboarding will also be streamed in ultra high-resolution technology.
IOC has also tied-up with mobile apps around the world for live streaming the games feed. The games can be accessed live on JioTV app India, NBC Sports app, Hulu, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV. IOC is live streaming the Games in the Indian sub-continent via its OTT platform ‘The Olympic Channel’ through its mobile app.
Olympic Channel, after it recently announced tie-up with Snap Inc, will provide original programming for shows will be made available on Snapchat’s Discover page and assets for creative tools. In addition, Snapchat will produce stories featuring archival footage provided by the Olympic Channel team, in collaboration with Olympic rights-holding broadcasters.
5G NETWORK & BLAZING FAST CONNECTIVITY
Intel, in collaboration with South Korea’s KT Corporation, is delivering the world’s fastest 5G network across the Games Village with a preview of 5G of the future. The Korean communication service provider is delivering first broad-scale 5G network paired with Intel’s 5G technologies.
5G, with broadband speeds 100 times faster than 4G network, is able to load webpages in a millisecond and carry data with a lower latency. Such blazing speeds will help fans, using their compatible devices, experience live 360-degree video streaming, VR, and AR.
KT and Intel are also providing a real-time 5G video system on the Alpensia ski slope, where skiers wearing GPS receivers that plot their exact positions, as well as wireless transceivers, and sends back real-time video of their perspective.
Among 5G’s capabilities is also the capacity for enabled devices to communicate with each other, creating ‘contextual awareness’ that allows networks to automatically adjust capacity to meet changing needs.
ALIBABA’S CLOUD BASED SERVICE
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (IOC TOP Partner) became the official e-commerce and cloud service provider of the games after a deal signed during January 2017. The deal is estimated worth $800m and will run through 2028.
Alibaba is using its cloud-based technology to enhance the fan experience by providing facial recognition payment systems, travel guidance and enhanced content creation capabilities for fans, athletes and the media.
The facial recognition technology has been put on trial at the games as a part of the plan to upgrade ticketing, media, and video services over the next decade.
The company is also hosting back-end systems on the cloud to see if these can be reused from Games to Games and enhance cost efficiency. The aim is to come up with a solution where local data and IT services would no longer need to be built from scratch ahead of a new event.
The venue has driverless buses powered by KT’s 5G internet services with screens instead of windows showing live video from around the venue’s sporting arenas.
The South Korean government completed the US$3.8 billion Korea Train Express (KTX) in November 2016. The train, linking Seoul to PyeongChang, travels at 300 kilometers per hour, bringing the journey time down from three hours by road to a mere 69 minutes.