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Payments, streaming and data: Technology at the Rio Olympics

The 2016 Rio Olympics is well and truly underway and technology is now playing a more prominent role (opens in new tab) - both for the athletes and fans - than ever before.

John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics (opens in new tab), takes a look at the different types of technology being used in Rio during this Olympics season, featuring payments, video streaming and data.


Along with being an impressive sporting showcase, this year’s Olympics will be a global technology showcase too. Millions are set to descend on Rio from around the world, meaning the brands involved will be working hard to convince attendees of their tech credentials. Mobile and contactless payments in particular will have a huge presence at the event, with Visa giving NFC enabled wristbands to attendees, while unveiling a proof-of-concept payment finger ring for its team of 45 sponsored athletes.

Although we have had contactless payments in the UK and the majority of Europe for some time, it’s important to remember that in some locations such as the US, most transactions still require a signature. In addition, although the likes of Apple Pay and Android Pay are being used, they are far from mainstream, with the majority of consumers sticking with cards. As a result, this gives Visa a great chance to expand its customer base, with attendees spreading the story through word of mouth and social media.

Of course, as all eyes are on the event, any performance or availability glitches could have a negative effect, with problems set to become news almost instantly. In light of this, the brands providing this technology need to ensure that they get it right first time.

Next generation streaming services

This year’s Olympics will also see in-sport technology bring new possibilities. Archery will now replace humans with electronic scoring allowing points to be determined instantly, while athlete’s heart rates will be tracked, allowing an audience to almost feel the tension as an arrow is aimed at the target. Rowing will also feature GPS data, allowing boats to be followed in real-time with information on speed and location giving spectators a wealth of new stats to analyse. As data forms an integral part of the enjoyment for all sports fans, this year’s event is set to provide a benchmark in enabling them to become immersed in the action like never before.”

Of course, how this data is consumed will rely heavily on the broadcasters, and in the US in particular there are some exciting developments. Comcast is providing an augmented streaming service that works across devices and platforms, giving consumers footage and interactive sports data in any format they choose. The company is even integrating with Snapchat to show highlights from the games in a first for the event. With consumers so diverse in the way they consume content, this comprehensive method of streaming will have other broadcasters following suit in the near future. However, with spectators so emotionally involved in sporting events, any performance or availability glitches, including breaks in the footage are set to leave them taking to social media to vent their frustration. For this reason, it is essential that broadcasters planning to launch similar services do not compromise on performance as new features are added.

Monetisation of sports data

As more sensors are added to sports technology, there is a great opportunity for brands to monetise the data created in new ways. For example, GPS from rowing races or cycling could be integrated with gym machines or apps to allow users to test themselves against Olympic competitors.

Over the next few years, we are likely to see this become a reality, with brands looking for new ways to engage with sports fans. As in-sport technology becomes more sophisticated, it is only a matter of time before it is gamified and used much more widely than its current scope.

Image source: Shutterstock/Filipe Frazao

John Rakowski
John Rakowski
John Rakowski is Senior Director of Technology Strategy at AppDynamics. John has more than 10 years of experience with systems management and monitoring technologies.