In no sporting competition are the margins of victory finer than the Olympics. The specificity of the events and the skill of the athletes make improvement difficult, and even the most minor advantage is of incredible value to those competing. Jumpers deal in centimetres, sprinters deal in split seconds, weightlifters aim for that extra kilo and the angle of a diver’s entry into the water needs to be near perfect to stand a chance of snatching gold. Athlete’s and trainers, then, are always looking for that training technique, that piece of technology or equipment that can squeeze the extra one percent that can prove so decisive.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Rio 2016 games is set to be a parade of wearable technology, from smart rings to connected vests. Where the technology found in sports wearables was once confined to the lab, analytics teams are now able to gather data from a totally natural environment for the athlete and get real-time feedback from increasingly discrete devices, Technology is not limited only to performance, though; the games will be a demonstration of the more everyday potential uses of wearables. With Rio under a month away, we’ve picked out some of the key wearable technology likely to be in use at the games.
Generally, wearables are thought of as accessories - smart glasses, smart watches, smart rings - but Hexoskin vests cover the full torso to give a more in depth reading of the wearer’s physical state. The vests measure biometrics like heart rate, breathing, acceleration, calories burnt and VO2 max, whilst also logging the wearer’s sleeping habits.
The device provides real-time information to a synced phone or tablet and, through comparing past performance with current, can suggest areas of improvement in real time and highlight important data for coaches to be aware of. Hexoskin is an example of the direction in which wearables are expected to go - lightweight, responsive and able to highlight trends in data before coaches do.
Similarly, Arena’s Powerskin swimsuits connect to a smartphone app to give feed from tags on the back of an open back swimsuit or the hip of a pair of jammers. The first version of the technology was used by 35 medalists at the London Olympics, including 10 gold medal winners, according to Business Weekly. The latest version is set to be used even more heavily at the Rio games, with improvements having been made to optimize the technology.
According to Business Weekly, ‘The Powerskin Carbon series introduced a carbon weave, which provides intelligent compression, keeping the athlete’s body in the optimum position at all times. Carbon fibres are thinner than a human hair and intricately woven into the suits. The result is a suit that is remarkably strong and durable, and able to compress without constricting’ - the Powerskin is an example of where wearable technology meets intelligent material.
Solos smart cycling glasses
The concept behind Solos smart cycling glasses is a relatively simple one - why shouldn’t cycling glasses have a heads up display which negates the need for a handlebar mounted smartphone or computer? The eyewear is functional and aerodynamically designed for elite cyclists, and provides real-time data through a pupil size adjustable micro display for riders to reference at a glance - everything from speed, to heart rate to cadence.
The glasses are endorsed by Team USA, and will be worn by its riders at the Games. A consumer model is not yet available but, according to Gizmag, is expected to hit the market next spring, and to cost less than $500.
Off of the track and field, Visa - the exclusive payment provider at the games - will be rolling out its NFC payment ring. The ring, which will be given to a group of 45 Team Visa athletes at the games, allows the wearer to make payment by tapping the ring on a payment device as they would a contactless bank card.
The ring has no battery so, unlike many wearable payment devices, does not require charging and is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters, allowing athletes to travel around the Olympic complex without carrying a wallet or card. This kind of technology is already on the high street - Topshop’s bPay accessories are conceptually similar and have been on the market since late 2015.
With wearable technology moving so quickly, much of the tech on display at Rio 2016 would have been unavailable for London 2012. Such is the pace of change that by the time the Tokyo 2020 games roll around, similarly, the tech on display in Rio will seem basic.