2016 Rio Olympics will see plenty of U.S. innovations from Nike, Comcast and Cisco

By Steve Brachmann
August 4, 2016

Rio 2016The 2016 Rio Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be a momentous occasion for a number of reasons. It’s the first time that the Games will be held in South America, for starters. Golf will be making its return to the international competition for the first time in more than 100 years and rugby sevens, a faster-paced version of rugby featuring teams of seven players, will be making its first appearance at the Games.

The Olympics has seen its amateur nature fall by the wayside over the years and the event has become big business in terms of sponsorship and construction costs. This January, organizers announced that the overall costs for the games had risen by $100 million to account for temporary power and seating costs, bringing the total cost of the Rio Olympics to 39.1 billion reais ($1.2 billion USD) according to Reuters. Other outlets, like Public Radio International, peg the total public and private expenditures in Brazil on the Rio Olympics at $9.7 billion USD.

Whenever a lot of money is being thrown about, it’s not surprising to find a host of innovative technologies which will debut at the games. We’ve already reported on the use of new technologies in sporting events like archery and taekwondo, but the tech developments don’t stop there. A variety of innovations will look to improve the spectator experience throughout this year’s version of the Olympic Games.

One way in which innovation has already touched the games before it has even begun is in the figure of the famed Olympic torch, which travels the world before lighting the fire that announces the start of every Games. Rio’s version, the Tocha Olímpica, has a few unique technological aspects setting it apart from previous torches. Designed by Chelles & Hayashi, a São Paulo firm, the torch has movable segments which expand vertically whenever the flame is passed from one torchbearer to the next. When the segments expand, they unveil resin surfaces underneath which show the colors of the Brazilian national flag; other colors represent the land and water surrounding Rio. The torch includes built-in cameras to capture scenes of its journey across the world from Athens to Rio. In a nod to the Paralympics, the torch includes Braille writing for blind torchbearers and its center of gravity is located in the lower-third of the torch, increasing the ease of carrying for wheelchair-bound bearers.

A number of innovative concepts in sportswear are being brought to the games by American footwear and sports apparel company Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) of Beaverton, OR. The 2016 Olympics in Rio will see an updated version of Nike’s AeroSwift fabric that results in shorts, jerseys and other clothing, which is 10 percent lighter and provide 50 percent more stretch than previous Nike apparel. AeroSwift fabrics prepared for runners will also have adhesive patches, which help fabrics hug legs and forearms better to reduce wind resistance and drag.

reduced drag

Figs 4 and 5 of U.S. Patent No. 8,745,769.

One Nike patent protecting such a material that could reduce wind resistance in runners and cyclists is reflected within U.S. Patent No. 8745769, titled Apparel with Reduced Drag Coefficient and issued in June 2014. It protects a method of manufacturing an athletic garment including a panel for reducing drag on an appendage of a wearer, the panel having a first region with a texture that channels a flow pattern of oncoming air or fluid without disrupting a laminar flow, a second region including a group of ridges that transitions the flow pattern from a laminar flow to a turbulent flow and then a third region with another group of ridges wider than the ridges on the second region which increase the turbulent flow. This technology reduces aerodynamic drag in athletes without adding clothing items for drag reduction, a method often prohibited in competitive events.

(Image: reduced drag.jpg)

Sprinters should also benefit from Nike’s Zoom Superfly Elite shoe which will be worn by Jamaican gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The sneaker, which offers a lightweight base plate and optimized stiffness for transferring leg movement into forward propulsion, was designed to help the sprinter shave a reported one-tenth second off of her personal best. Innovative Nike sports apparel will also show up on the medal stand in the company’s Dynamic Reveal Jacket. This apparel provides mesh panels on the back and side for ventilation and colored sleeves which achieve an iridescent, color-shifting effect when an athlete moves to show of more of the color scheme of that athlete’s nationality. Team USA and Team Brazil will be two teams wearing these jackets.

The 2016 Rio Olympics should also prove to be a good testing ground for broadcast innovations developed by American mass media company Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), headquartered in Philadelphia. Reuters reports that Comcast will broadcast more than 6,000 hours of footage from this year’s Olympics, about 4,500 hours of which will be available through its NBC Sports Live Extra app and its Xfinity X1 interactive on-demand TV service.

This move seeks to reach a wide audience in the face of a dwindling cable subscriber base in America. X1 subscribers, for instance, will be able to search by athlete or event and will be able to search for these through voice commands as the X1 boxes have speech recognition technology. Comcast’s focus on the Olympics should extend through at least 2032 when the company’s Olympics broadcast rights end; Comcast spent more than $12 billion for broadcast rights to the Games through that year. Despite the subscriber losses suffered by cable companies, Comcast increased its subscriber base by 53,000 accounts during this year’s first quarter.

itv applications

Fig. 7 of U.S. Patent No. 9,363,560.

One patent owned by a Comcast subsidiary for interactive TV services is U.S. Patent No. 9363560, titled System and Method for Construction, Delivery and Display of iTV Applications that Blend Programming Information of On-Demand and Broadcast Service Offerings. This patent, issued this June to Philadelphia-based subsidiary TVWorks, protects a method of causing display of a blending of user-selectable content for a content category in a two-level hierarchy including linear broadcast programming and non-linear video on-demand (VOD) programming. This technology takes the video on-demand platform which is typical of VOD services like Netflix and Hulu and incorporates the ability to watch live programming from broadcast channels.

Providing the networks necessary for transmitting video from the Rio Olympics is the San Jose-based networking developer Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO). This April, Comcast’s NBCUniversal announced that it selected Cisco as its official Internet protocol (IP) video contribution and distribution service provider for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Cisco will support around-the-clock video broadcasting from 26 different sports venues mostly with the help of its Cisco Media Blueprint platform which was also unveiled in April. This cloud-based system is designed to provide both the infrastructure and the software necessary to accelerate the delivery and monetization of immersive content. Cisco is also looking to promote its networking services in Rio and throughout Brazil with support from its Rio-based Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Center to provide the area with city-wide WiFi services and location analytics among other smart city services.

Cisco has been developing tech in the sector of cloud-based network provisioning, as is evidenced by U.S. Patent No. 9392050, titled Automatic Configuration of External Services Based Upon Network Activity. It discloses a computer-implemented method of monitoring network flows traversing an ingress port of a first network element using an application programming interface (API), monitoring a load attribute of the network flows, issuing a high load notification to an application, provisioning an additional service on an external network and extending the software defined networking (SDN) enabled network to include the additional service. This innovation enables software which is executing on network hardware to automatically configure and incorporate third-party external services in response to a high load of network activity.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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