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The smarter, faster, tougher future of Pan Am and other tech-powered sporting events

The coordinator of an art exhibition related to the recent Toronto 2015 Games discusses the fashion and functionality that athletes are coming to expect


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Besides the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games which recently came to a close, Toronto has also been playing host to an exhibition on sports, fashion and technology called Smarter. Faster. Tougher.

While strolling through the show last week, I realized that ‘smarter, faster, tougher’ is also a pretty apt description of what enterprise IT needs to be these days.

First, let’s start with the exhibition. Although it’s located in a historic, cobblestoned area of Toronto called the Distillery District, the show (running until Oct. 12) contains examples of wearable sports technology that are ultra futuristic.

There’s a pair of biometric racing pants, fitted like a second skin, embedded with sensors to indicate whether an athlete has simply been bruised or could have a more serious injury like a broken bone. These are particularly useful for quickly detecting leg injuries in para-athletes with limited or no feeling below the waist.

Another display shows off fitted Hexoskin shirts with sensors that relay real-time data like speed, impact, distance or height to a coach’s iPad, where the numbers can be analyzed for an entire team of wearers or just one individual player.

Taking in all this super cool eye candy, it was easy to see how the words ‘smarter, faster, tougher’ apply to wearable sports technology overall.

The data collected and analyzed via these wearables allow the athletes to train and compete in a smarter way. The data is collected and analyzed in real time and also helps many athletes cut their race times, thus the ‘faster’ part of the title.

By detecting and preventing injuries like concussions, for example, biometric sports helmets can make athletes ‘tougher.’ After walking through the show, I then thought about how enterprise today demands IT that’s ‘smarter, faster, tougher.’

How do we make enterprise IT smarter? Analytics is one major tool for that. How can we make enterprise IT faster? Enable real time everything. How do we make enterprise IT tougher in the face of escalating threats? Well, cybersecurity experts are going to be working on that one for a long, long time.

As coordinator Tara Akitt explained certain exhibition pieces to me in greater detail, I realized that sports wearables have even more in common with enterprise IT.

Some of the displayed wearables boasted flashy, blinged out, look-at-me fashion statements with minimal technology woven into them. Others carried some serious data collection and analytics cred … but looked like boring, plain, black or grey workout wear. Many were an amazing blend of fashion and tech functionality.

Yet all wearable sports technology must have one crucial element: a good fit. If it doesn’t feel comfortable on the athlete’s body, it’s probably going to hinder their performance rather than help it.

I think enterprise IT comes down to fit, too. Based on the case studies and surveys I’ve seen over the years, adopting a certain technology mainly because it’s the latest flashy new trend (and, like a T-shirt, it’s the easiest one to slip on quickly) doesn’t usually get the desired business results.

Neither does deploying a technology based mostly on the fact that it ticks off the highest number of functionality boxes on your endless checklist. Like putting on a heavy three-piece suit when you just need a sweater.

IT has to be a truly good fit for the workers who are going to use it at your business (and the customers they service). Before committing to that new solution, ask yourself the same question athletes consider with wearable tech: will it elevate your performance?

Now, a brief parting shout out to the phenomenal performances during the 36 days of the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games – by the 6,000 athletes, the 23,000 volunteers and the event’s official provider of UCaaS, hosted collaboration and other managed IP services, Allstream. Well done.

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