Rio Olympics Needed More Location-Based Technologies

I have enjoyed watching the athletic competitions of the Rio Olympics. It is thrilling to see the world quite literally come together in one place, to share and experience so much. But I cannot help but wonder if proximity technology could have helped manage some of the games more obvious challenges: long lines and empty seats? 

These are problems for any venue or team. The NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB miss out on more than $1 billion in yearly revenue from unsold tickets alone. That’s why already over half of all major league teams use proximity technologies to help manage lines, sell seats and engage and retarget fans away from the stadium.

Of course, the Olympics are different in that they are a huge, multi-site, multi-event competition that plays out over weeks. All of this happens under the critical glare of the world’s eye, and with the common knowledge that the host nation has spent billions to make it happen.

Given their significance on the global stage, anything that makes the Olympics experience smoother, gets people in the stands and creates additional value for the host nation must be a good thing. Here are my ideas on how proximity technologies could be used to make the next Olympics even better.

  • Manage lines and crowds. Reports of long lines and crowded public thoroughfares around Rio’s Olympic venues started as soon as the games did. Beacons, which provide a much more detailed location than GPS, could have helped alleviate the problem. Fans could have been alerted with alternate entrances and routes to their event seat, content updates on security protocols that would help make entrance smoother, etc.
  • Sell tickets, upgrades and merchandise. There were so many empty seats at the Rio Olympics. Soccer, basketball, swimming . . . it didn’t matter the sport, the venues for most qualifying rounds and even some medal rounds were half-empty much of the time. That’s a shame because beacons and proximity technologies are very effective for increasing revenue from season tickets, seat upgrades souvenirs and food ordered right to your seat.
  • Retarget fans and create future value.  All that Olympic data about how people move through that physical space, and in relation to different events, engagements and transactional opportunities -- How can the host nation use that to manage use of the same infrastructure go-forward? What can future host nations learn from the same data to plan and deliver future games? What’s the value of all that proximity data to optimize the huge capital investments of other nations/stadiums/teams going forward? Most enticingly from a long tail perspective, how can the IOC, host nations, teams and sponsors use proximity data from the 2016 Rio Olympics to retarget fans down-the-line?

The Olympics bring the world together every couple of years to celebrate and that’s a fantastic thing. But for the games to get to a new ‘personal best’ each and every quadrennial, it’s essential that organizers be opportunistic and follow the lead of the litany of professional and amateur athletics organizations using proximity technology to solve the same kind of problems that plagued the Rio Olympics.

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