Expected Technology at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

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Pending the spread of COVID-19, I will be traveling to Japan this year for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This will be my second trip to the Olympics for research purposes, but to be honest, this feels more like a trip into the not so distant future. I wonder if this is how my grandparents felt while visiting the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland in 1957?

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will arguably be one of the most advanced sporting events in history. Those who attend the Olympics this year will see a glimpse of what future connected cities will look like and what innovative technologies can truly do for humans.

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of this upcoming trip is observing how technologies that were demonstrated at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang will be deployed at scale for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Hi-Tech For the Win

Below are some of the technologies I expect to see daily.

Artificial Meteor Shower. A start-up based in Japan, Astro Live Experiences (ALE), which specializes in space entertainment, is expected to produce the first man-made meteor shower during the opening ceremonies. The company launched ALE-2 into space on December 6, 2019. This micro-satellite will drop hundreds of chemical pellets into the atmosphere, producing a meteor light show as they burn up.

Autonomous Vehicles. During the Summer Olympics this year, you will see the largest deployment of autonomous vehicles around Tokyo. Up to 100 self-driving cars from companies like Toyota and Nissan will be deployed to move spectators between Haneda Airport, Olympic Village and other strategic routes around the Olympics. In addition to this, Toyota will also be operating a fleet of SAE Level-4 automated vehicles in downtown Tokyo

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Robotics. Toyota will be leading the way with robots at the Olympics this year. Toyota will reportedly have T-HR3 Humanoid robots deployed that will allow spectators in remote locations to control a robot and interact with local events. It is also expected that several T-TR1 telepresence robots will be deployed with the ability to project images of users from remote locations so they can feel more present at the games.

Human Support Robot and Delivery Support Robots will also be deployed at the Summer Olympics. In select areas, Human Support Robots will guide people to their seats as well as convey items to them. Delivery Support Robots will deliver food to spectators who order from a dedicated tablet.

Last but not least, Toyota will dispatch Field Support Robots designed to deliver and retrieve items from the field of play.

Facial Recognition. This year, NEC Corp. will launch a large-scale system in Tokyo called NeoFace. This technology will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the Olympics. While this system will not be available to the public, it will allow quicker entry times for athletes, volunteers, media and other staff members. This technology is also being adopted by the airline industry.

Virtual Reality. During the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, I was able to experience the first-ever live virtual reality broadcast via Intel’s True VR. This year it is expected that Intel will deploy True VR at several events, ranging from the opening and closing ceremonies to boxing, gymnastics and beach volleyball.

3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT). Intel will also connect fans and athletes via new 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT), without special suites or cameras. Through processing data from normal cameras, Intel will be able to capture the motions of an athlete and analyze the biomechanics of his or her movements. This technology will not only help athletes train, but will also how the audience can experience the Olympic games.

Hi-Tech, High Risks

I once asked myself, what will the future Olympics look like, and what risks will come with these new hi-tech realities? Two years ago, during the 2018 Winter Olympics, the answer to these questions began to form in the wake of the Olympic Destroyer attack during the opening ceremonies.

While innovative technology and connected venues are a great achievement, they also create a larger threat landscape that becomes increasingly more difficult to defend and maintain. As a result, in 2018, a piece of malware was able to disrupt spectators, the opening ceremony broadcast, stadium Wi-Fi and created political strains between feuding nations.

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Simply put, more devices equals more problems with greater impacts when a failure occurs.

I will also note that the attack during the 2018 Winter Olympics was focused on the PyeongChang Olympic stadium, nearly 100 miles from Seoul. Had this attack happened in a downtown environment, it would have had a greater impact.  

So, while I’m excited about the expected technology at the Olympics this year, I’m again asking myself questions regarding the risk and threats posed by this rapid digital transformation. Of particular importance, how will cities be able to compete with the ability to host future Olympic games now that there are major connectivity requirements?

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