Big data set to shine at Rio 2016 Olympic Games

We talk a lot about big data and the importance of managing it properly – because big data really does affect every aspect of our lives.

For example, the Rio Olympic Games 2016 officially opened last Friday. And as the Games themselves are set to be bigger and better than ever before, big data is also set to play a much larger role.

Developments in new technology have significantly impacted the way sporting events are reported on: they help improve athletic performance and create better user experience for the audience.

All the teams looking to improve their sporting performance and increase their overall chances of victory are turning to IT companies for guidance. Though the use of technology in sports is nothing new, the use of big data has increased significantly as more and more athletes are becoming aware of the potential of combining intelligence and the continual tracking of data to improve overall performance.

The Rio Olympic Games are expected to be the most data-driven Olympics so far. Every aspect of the Olympics will rely, to some extent, on data capture. Sensors, GPS trackers, heart rate monitors, digital lap counters, and smart glasses are just some of the few technologies that will be heavily featured.

Technology and the audience

This year’s Olympic Games will also be using the best of Virtual Reality (VR) technology and offering viewers the opportunity to watch events through a virtual world. NBC, for example, will be offering fans in the US 85 hours of VR coverage via an app on Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

360 degree images will also be available during the Olympics: the BBC will showcase 100 hours of sporting events during the Olympics made available on the BBC sports app and Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

More in-app data volume will also be available than ever before. Users will be able to track an athlete’s performance, recall previous results, and view results in real-time at the click of a button.

Technology and athletic performance

The use of sensors in the Olympic Games is widespread. They play an important role in determining results with amazing accuracy and they’re also used during events to record the exact position of athletes. For example, athletes taking part in road cycling events will be picked up by GPS sensors that will send real-time data back to reporters.

Sailing teams have used big data technology to analyse and track the exact currents of Guanabara bay helping them to perform better and ensure they are fully prepared for the challenges they may face.

British athletes competing in boxing this year have also taken advantage of big data analytics, allowing them to understand their own performance as well as gathering data on their opponents tactics and weakenesses. This helps them to improve overall performance and enables them to make informed decisions based on a wealth of data.

British rowing teams are also making the most of the big data analytics. Capturing data on the athletes, their performance and the performance of the equipment can help analyse patterns and trends to determine training, teams and how to reach optimum performance.

What’s next?

The reach and impact of big data analytics is showing no signs of slowing down, so in four years we still expect big data to be at the technological forefront of the Olympics and other sporting events. We also expect the rise in the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communication to be heavily featured at Tokyo 2020!

Whilst advancements in technology are certainly opening new possibilities, you do have to stop and ask yourself: how far can technology go before it becomes less about human achievement and more about who has the most money and can therefore afford the best advancements?

Russell Cook