Omega to debut new technology

Monday, February 5, 2018

It’s widely known how some Olympic sports work, like hockey or figure skating. Other events, though, feature athletic feats that seem impossible to the spectator’s eye. When the Olympics open in Pyeongchang next week, Olympic timekeeper Omega will be there to quantify — and perhaps demystify — those sports, like ski jumping, whose practitioners can appear to be insane.

Omega, which has been timing the Winter Olympics since 1936, according to the company, will return in that role for the 2018 Games with some new technologies that will likely enhance viewers’ understanding of what goes into the Olympics’ more complex sports. And that’s on top of the 300 timekeepers, 350 volunteers, and and 230 tons of equipment the company will haul to South Korea.

One sport in particular, the Ski Jump/Nordic Combined, will feature a multitude of antennae positioned throughout the course that will receive data such as speed from a transmitter on the back of athletes’ skis. Omega will be able to capture real-time “in-run” and takeoff speeds (as well as mid-jump speeds and comparative speed throughout) for each jump and display that info on TV broadcasts and event-site scoreboards. Another technology, STROMOTION, will break down each run into frames that can be analyzed in close detail for an athlete’s technique and how it compares to prior skiers, and a specialized replay camera can overlay one jump on top of another for precise comparisons of technique.

Those same Stromotion and Simulcam technologies can also be applied to a number of other sports, such as alpine skiing, where they can show TV viewers where a competitor won or lost time.

For the majority of skiing events, Omega will also track and display speed throughout each athlete’s run. Specifically for Cross Country and Nordic competitions, the company’s new Positioning System will follow the real-time position of individuals and groups and show the distance to the finish, as well as show individual athletes’ position relative to the leader.

For sports like snowboard freestyle and half-pipe, Omega technology will calculate each athlete’s highest jump, average jump height, and number of rotations in each jump; that information will pop up on TV screens and scoreboards after each run. And for speedskating, Omega can display on TV the live change in speed as skaters move throughout the course. Also visible on screen will be skaters’ progress, shown as change in speed relative to other skaters, and, with Positioning System, viewers will be able to see the live position of each athlete and the current position to beat.

For the bobsled competition, sensors will be placed on each bobsled that will transmit data on G forces, angles, trajectory, and acceleration in order to provide crucial information to teams. For TV viewers, Omega will track each bobsled’s live speed and display it as a white line, with a green marker indicating a specific sled’s fastest speed. But perhaps the most innovative technology for bobsled is a proprietary Sled Path system that will compare the performances of different sled teams by highlighting the focus sled in red and the leading sled at that point in blue.

All of this new technology will likely help advance the skiing, skating and sledding sports that in many ways define the Winter Olympics. But for those who are more invested in mainstream sports like hockey, Omega will bring new tech to the rink as well.

Using sensors on player uniforms, antennae on the roof of the hockey venue will beam back information on the movement of athletes and the puck; athlete speed; time on ice; distances between athletes; and team formations. That data will be available to teams and viewers while the game is live and for replays and other situations.

All this is to say, expect this edition of the Olympics to immerse viewers in the events whether they’re in Pyeongchang or watching at home.