Smart suits and paying by glove: Wearables at the 2018 Winter Olympics

Connected tech set to appear in PyeongChang
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Just like its summer equivalent, tech is set to have a big presence at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. You just might not notice it's there.

Wearables are set to play their part out in PyeongChang, perhaps even more than they did at Rio in 2016. From the athletes to the spectators attending, it looks like there's going to be connected tech for all to sample during the Games. We're talking smart clothing, VR and much more.

Essential reading: How wearables powered Team US at Rio 2016

From startups to big tech names, we've taken a closer look at how wearables are going to feature out in South Korea over the coming weeks.

Skate smart

Smart suits and paying by glove: Wearables at the 2018 Winter Olympics

When it comes to short track skating, the deeper you sit the more power you can get out of your body, meaning more speed – which should ultimately help you win. Samsung decided it might be able to lend a hand in this department by providing short track skaters a new outfit dubbed the SmartSuit.

Read this: Future of Running Week highlights

This SmartSuit uses five lower body sensors to measure the skater's posture in real-time and wirelessly feeds that data back to the coach. This is shown as a simple centimetre measurement on the connected phone's screen. The coach can then send a nudge if the skater needs it which is felt as a small vibration on the wrist, allowing him or her to adjust themselves consciously.

"At the championship level, it's all about the details," says Jeroen Otter, national team manager for the Netherlands' short track skating team. "Training with the Samsung SmartSuit and the immediate feedback via the smartphone can make the difference between silver and gold." The skaters agree, with multiple world and European champion Sjinkie Knegt adding: "I always used to skate by intuition, so I had to guesstimate whether I'm bent deep enough. But now, my coach can see precisely if I have to bend just a bit deeper to find my ideal posture."

Under Armour is also joining the smart suit race by creating a speed skating outfit that aims "to get the body to be more aerodynamic than it is in its natural state," says Clay Dean, chief innovation officer at Under Armour. This isn't wired up smart though, but rather focuses on materials to offer maximum speed. Using what it calls H1 materials, drag is reduced in trouble areas like the arms and legs which create drag air pockets as they cut through the air. By using a rough texture, a bit like sandpaper, the suit can disrupt the air to avoid drag vacuums – much like a golf ball's divots do, only way smarter thanks to lots and lots of wind tunnel testing.

Attending events live in VR

Smart suits and paying by glove: Wearables at the 2018 Winter Olympics

This year Intel has teamed up with the Winter Olympic Games to bring its True VR to the sport, meaning anyone can strap on a VR headset and view the sports as if they were really there. This isn't the first time Intel has done this with partnerships across the NBA, NFL, PGA and La Liga all adding the immersive experience for this first ever global scale roll-out of the system. The result is the ability to watch events, from multiple vantage points, in virtual reality.

"Innovations in data and analytic tools take sports performance to new heights, while virtual reality and augmented experiences bring the action closer than it's ever been," Intel told Wareable. To achieve this, events are recorded using multiple stereoscopic pods equipped with up to 12 4K cameras which generate a whopping 1TB of data per hour. As a result you will need Intel specific hardware to experience the virtual reality views of the games.

Intel says: "With three to six camera locations per event, viewers can customise their winter Olympics experience by switching between multiple vantage points during events in VR." And if you're feeling lazy or miss an event, there will be three to five minute edits of the best bits for you to enjoy too. But that's not all. "Viewers will be able to tour the Olympic venues and 'fly' through the world of the Olympic Winter Games, giving the user a sense of the layout of the different locations of specific venues."

This VR experience can be viewed in many ways from VR headsets to PCs and tablets. You can find the complete list of compatible devices here.

Wearable smart armour

Smart suits and paying by glove: Wearables at the 2018 Winter Olympics

Few would argue with the claims that winter sports are generally very fast paced and often end up with crashes. Yet more often than not competitors seem to come out unscathed. Sure, a lot of that has to do with the pillowy snow helping to break the fall but that's often not enough – this is where wearable smart armour comes into play.

Dainese, the motorbike clothing manufacturer, has spent years perfecting armour that can withstand high speed impacts on unforgiving tarmac. So it's little wonder that it has managed to create a super smart system for skiers to stay safe while competing. This upper body wearable is call D-air Ski.

The Dainese D-air Ski protects Downhill and Super-G skiers by activating only when required. It's essentially an 800g airbag that's worn on the skier's upper body and inflates to protect them when it detects a high-speed fall. "When the protection inflates you can't feel anything, we will just need to adapt the suits to the shape of the protection but this is a huge step forwards in terms of safety," according to Italian speed specialist Werner Heel.

So why doesn't this blow up in the face of skiers hurtling down the mountain at 80 mph? Algorithms. "The D-air Ski algorithm deploys the system in all cases where the skier's body performs twists which go beyond what would be considered normal race dynamics, for example forward, rear or lateral rotations during a jump or rolling over on the piste," Dainese explains. "The algorithm only inflates the system when signals received from seven sensors exceed a preset threshold. For example, in the event of a low speed slide not followed by rolling, the algorithm can decide not to inflate the airbag."

Pay smarter

Smart suits and paying by glove: Wearables at the 2018 Winter Olympics

For those lucky enough to actually attend the Winter Olympics they won't need to worry about taking gloves off in the cold to fumble around for cash, or even roll up a sleeve for a smartwatch. Visa has come up with new payment wearables specifically for the event including winter gloves with contactless payment built in.

There are three new payment methods introduced for the games by Visa: gloves, commemorative stickers and badges – all NFC enabled for contactless tap and pay.

"The average temperature in PyeongChang will be – 4.8°C, so gloves will be a must-have," a Visa spokesperson told us. This payment glove will offer fans a way to pay safely and securely without having to get cold hands. The gloves contain a dual interface chip housed with a contactless antenna capable of completing purchases throughout official Olympic Venues and compatible readers globally."

There should be plenty of chances to use the contactless payment methods as Visa is running over 1,000 places that will accept contactless payments during the games.

How we test


Luke is an AOP Award-winning and APA Award-nominated journalist with over ten years' of experience in technology writing.

He works for The Metro, IdealHome, The Guardian, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Wired, BBC Focus, T3, Stuff, Tech Radar, Recombu, Trusted Reviews and more. 

Luke spent time at the world's best-selling gadget magazine, in charge of news, reviews, and presenting videos for 

He was news editor at Pocket-Lint where he sourced, wrote and edited daily tech news features and reviews.

Related stories