How technology is transforming the Olympics
Milliseconds make the difference
Technology is transforming sport, and this year’s Olympics bears testament to the difference it can make.
Elite sport is all about making small gains wherever you possibly can; the difference between the very best performers comes down to milliseconds. It’s therefore crucial that you take any edge you can to outperform. Whilst this sadly leads some to cheat, it leads others to ingenuity. Dave Brailsford, head coach of Team GB cycling, found marginal gains in the minutiae of everyday life; pillow types, hand-washing techniques. The success was quite incredible.
Mounir Zok, director of innovation for US Olympic Committee has taken a slightly different approach — using technology and data to give Team USA the edge.
“My job is all about gaining that extra 1% edge by leveraging emerging technology”
Mounir Zok, Director of Innovation, US Olympics
The trick is identifying and employing emerging technology that others can’t access. Once other teams start using them too then the competitive advantage is eroded.
“Being able to see data in real-time is no longer a ‘nice to have’.
Sarah Hammer, US Olympic Swimmer
Tech is enabling all sorts of sports teams
Unsurprisingly, the US cycling team has turned to tech to compete with the world-dominating Brits and their marginal gains philosophy.
Solos, made by Kopin (a former defence contractor), provides cyclists with a heads-up display that doesn’t distract them from the track. In fact, it’s the world’s smallest optical module; fitting in a functional, and if I might say, stylish pair of shades.
Sarah Hammer, Olympic silver medalist and gold hopeful told Wareable:
“Being able to see data in real-time is no longer a ‘nice to have’. In order to be at the top of my game, I need to see what’s going on, while it’s going on. Not after the training session. The fact that Solos has afforded me the opportunity to do this safely, without taking my eyes off the road has been a huge leap forward for my training,”
Whoop is allowing swimmers, and others, to track their sleep. They’ve found that the time it takes them to get to sleep can be a strong indicator of how they’ll perform. Knowing this they’ve subsequently reduced their evening screen time; no more Netflix before bed; a small sacrifice in the life of an Olympian, but a big one in that of a millennial!
And then there’s Vert, tracking the jumps of volleyball players. And the Hykso sensor which is helping boxers understand the speed of their punches and the effectiveness of different combinations.
And it’s all working. The USA have dominated this year’s Olympics. Not even severed arms, green diving pools, civil unrest, or the David-like Brits can stop them. Tech is, as always, proving a massive enabler.
Mounir Zok told Wareable, “we have almost come up with a digital code of what makes the gold medal”
The trick now is going to be to stay ahead of the pack. To keep finding the technologies to help them outperform others. The technology they’re currently using will hit the open market soon and when it does everyone (amateurs included) will be using it; wearable technology is predicted to be worth more than £12 billion in 2018.
It’s finding these relationships with technology that give corporates (or in this case Team USA) the edge over the competition that really excites us at WiderPool. Technology enables progress, and we provide a bridge to it. In business as in sport, innovation empowers. At WiderPool we connect tech companies with big businesses to help them solve industry’s big innovation challenges, be they incremental or disruptive. If we were a person in this story, we’d be Mounir Zok — our job is all about finding the extra edge by connecting cutting-edge technology with world-beating business models. If you’re interested in how we work get in touch.
And, as you can probably tell, we really love sports… In fact, here’s some of the sports tech that we’ve been keeping an eye on recently.
Our top pick for sports tech
Golf — Zepp 2
Zepp 2 claims to instantly evaluate the areas where you can improve and offer you training programs that are tailored to your swing.
But does it work? Well, according to most yes it does. In fact, it’s comes highly recommended. Wareable gave it a glowing (and very detailed) review.
My thoughts… an app to help find lost balls might be a bigger help for my game. On that note if you’ve any tips, I’m all ears…
Tennis — Babolat PurePlay Drive V1
This racquet plays just like the normal PurePlay Drive (so, very well) but it has the added touch of sensors in the racquet handle. This allows you to track and improve your game; driving up consistency and power.
Does it work? Yes. All the data is there; well-presented and clear, but it’s only going to help if you put in the practise.
My thoughts… Consistency is key. Consistency wins matches; winning matches gives you bragging rights; bragging rights are better to have than to suffer. I’ll take it.