At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the iPhone and Android were one-year-olds; the whispers of an “iTablet” were just crazy rumors; Facebook and Twitter were tiny, obscure sites for college kids; and only 50% of world had a mobile phone.
Last summer, the tweets from smartphones at the London Olympics flew so hard and thick that the Olympic Committee had to request the audience to limit status updates “urgent” matters only. Mobile traffic had clogged up the network used by official TV reporters. Little did they realize that for this generation, everything on Twitter is urgent.
Cash makes a comeback
Visa made it possible for fans to pay with smartphones, with hopes of making this the first cashless Olympics. Although it got off to a good start, the system failed somewhere along the way, with Visa and Wembley Stadium pointing fingers at each other for the break down.
The mobile revolution
The biggest impact mobile had, other than crashing networks, was bringing to Olympics to parts of the world with no official broadcaster. Instant uploads to YouTube by mobile devices became instant downloads for people in many parts of the world that had no other access to the Olympics.
For athletes and coaches, mobile devices brought vast improvements in performance analysis. For example, the Indian male field hockey team reported using iPads for recording games, projecting replays, creating player reports and devising new strategies with customized apps. They even awarded iPads instead of cash for player achievements.
Coming soon to a Brazilian beach near you
Much like the iPad was in 2008, the next big tech player at the Rio Olympics in 2016 is probably only a rumor right now. The telecommunications infrastructure in Brazil is not ready for a mobile tsunami yet, so there will be a lot of work ahead.
Many expect to see stadium-only information delivered over 3G or 4G mobile networks. This is already in the planning stages to be tested by the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) side, the Wests Tigers, during the 2013 NRL seasons.
The world is not enough
Augmented reality (with background stats on athletes) on your mobile device is another technology we are likely to see at the Rio games. Google glasses can already project ads and information onto objects in the real world. That’s one idea from Philippa Oldham, at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London.
“Headsets could give instant performance analysis, track competitors and even offer cyclists a rear view mirror,” she suggested. “Spectators using the same hardware could get instant statistics on each rider or see the race as the athletes do.”
She also pointed to advances in wearables. ‘Wearables’ loosely refers to extending computing power, communication tech and sensors into ordinary objects. For Olympians, “ordinary objects” means shoes, bikinis, arrows, tennis rackets, horses, skis, and 17’ poles.
“In the future these sensors could used to measure every physiological change in the athlete, sending the data back to a coach who can then advise the athlete on strategy using an augmented reality headset,” Oldham explained. “The speed and depth of data analysis, both of which will be augmented by mobile technology, will have a major influence on the medals table.”