From fake snow to robot servers: Here’s all the startup tech seen at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous controversies, the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 continues as scheduled from February 4 to February 20. From the spectacular display of rising Olympic rings and a colossal ice cube to the unique “snowflake” Olympic flame, Beijing has set a new standard for the Winter Games with its advanced space technology at the opening ceremony.

According to SupChina, “Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee has called this year’s Games the “Science and Technology Winter Olympics” 科技冬奥.” Now, let’s take a brief look at various technologies that have been showcased during the inauguration. 

Artificially snow made out of 49M gallons of water

Since the slopes around northwest Beijing are too dry and warm, China took the help of Italian-based snow-creation startup TechnoAlpin to produce snow in the arena. 

According to the startup, the company is providing 350 snow producers, seven machine rooms, and pump stations housing 51 high-pressure pumps and nine cooling towers for the games. TechnoAlpin says it’s working on the setup for nearly three years. 

Looks cute? No, it is not! As per the International Olympic Committee, approximately 49M gallons of water are used to create all snow, which is a day worth of drinking water for nearly 100 million people, reports CNN. 

Wei Qinghua, Mountain Operation Manager of Zhangjiakou Guyangshu Cluster for the Beijing Games says, “In the entire Zhangjiakou venue cluster, water used for snowmaking mainly comes from rainfall and surface runoff, and the water can be recycled.”

“For water from melted snow, we have a reservoir and two lakes which can store it so that it can then be used for agriculture, irrigation, tourism, and landscaping,” he adds. However, Scottish freestyle skier Laura Donaldson has criticised the move and warned that this is dangerous for athletes.

Smart Beds with sensors and zero gravity feature

The Winter Olympic Village features smart beds for athletes equipped with sensors to capture body signatures. Notably, the sensors can measure factors like heart rate and breathing. 

The bed made out of memory foam comes with a remote, to allow users to change sleeping positions, including the one with ‘Zero-gravity, which reduces pressure on muscles and joints and supports higher quality sleep. In an interview with Newsweek, Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep specialist, says, “Athletes are flying from very long distances, and getting a good night’s sleep is critical to having good performance.”

Talking about the Zero Gravity feature, Winter says, “It’s a position on the adjustable bed that gets the user in a curved position with their feet and their head slightly elevated.”

“One of the things that people struggle with when they sleep is sleeping on their side; it puts a lot of pressure on the hip or shoulder. The zero gravity position is designed to maximally relieve pressure while allowing the individual to still be in a recumbent position,” he adds.

Fetch Robotics
Image credits: Fetch Robotics

Robotised village

With social distancing in works, hundreds of robots were employed in various activities, including disinfection, parcel delivery, medical care, and foodservice

A series of different kinds of robots have been deployed to assist visitors and athletes as well as enforce social distancing requirements related to COVID-19. Roving robots will scan the air for COVID-19 particles and disinfect rooms.

Outside the Olympic bubble, hundreds of robots have been deployed on city streets, university campuses to deliver packages and, inside event venues and hotels, to bring amenities to guests. E-commerce and food delivery giants, including Alibaba, Meituan, and JD.com have committed to using thousands of robot couriers on the roads. 

Breathing fresh air – a rare concept that’s now a reality in China 

Breathing fresh air is a rare concept in China considering it has some of the most polluted cities in the world. Thanks to India, thousands of visitors can breathe fresh air through the 45 heat recovery ventilators made by Gurgaon-based startup Bry Air.

According to Bry Air Asia MD Deepak Pahw, “Bry Air’s units reclaim energy from exhaust airflows of the air conditioners and then use eco-friendly heat exchangers to heat or cool incoming fresh air, as per the need. In this way, we recapture around 80% of the energy that is lost with the outgoing air, and also help in increasing the quantity of fresh air.”

Automated messaging service

To make landing and check-ins smoother, Beijing airport is utilising Kolkatta-based Skytech Solutions’s airport messaging software during the sporting event. According to managing consultant Ashutosh Chattopadhyay, the software dubbed as Central Information Integration Management Systems (CIIMS) is an automated messaging service between the airport and the air-traffic controllers, various gates, terminals, ground crew, and the numerous airlines.

He also says the Chinese authority is doing whatever they can to ensure Beijing airport is fully equipped to handle every situation. 

Other notable things are MY2022, a daily monitoring app for COVID-19, China’s digital money (Digital Yuan), and a 5G connection throughout the venue with total access to YouTube and Facebook, which are banned in general.

Judging by these several gadgets in use, anyone entering the Olympic village might be forgiven for thinking they had wandered into a sci-fi film.

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