Original post: Author’s Linkedin

Olympic automation

What happened during the 2016 Olympics in Rio – where a pool turned dark green? Here’s how Olympic automation could’ve saved the organizers from some embarrassment…

Olympic automation: The stage

During the Olympics, the world comes together to push top athletes to win the long-awaited gold medal. Olympic competitors spend years laser-focused on having the best performance. And sometimes they perform for less than 15 minutes, with eyes in every country watching! I imagine that a movie passes before the eyes of every athlete, each reviewing a different experience. Some have more structure to dedicate their lives to being the best in their sports. Others lack that support but have the passion and faith to believe they can win gold one day.

Olympic automation: The play

The investment in the 2016 Games in Rio came close to 39.9 billion reais (12.7 billion U.S. dollars). During Rio’s candidacy for hosting the Olympics, the first forecast projected R$28.8 billion ($9.2B). Many Brazilians had misgivings, after the experience with the World Cup. Several issues pointed toward a complicated Olympic stage: the city structure, the traffic conditions, the crime. People argued that Brazil was not prepared to receive the Games.

I believed that investment in smart technology helped Rio greatly. A big automation company pushed its tech solutions on various media channels for better lighting and other improvements for Rio 2016. Nonetheless, problems did occur, such as when the diving pool turned dark green.

The communication director for Rio 2016, Mario Andrada, explained that the pool water changed colors because of a decrease in alkalinity. Andrada admitted to a failure to plan for this possibility, but he also said that the color should return to normal and would not pose a risk to the health of the athletes.

Olympic automation: The review

In a new plant, usually less than ten percent of its total investment goes to automation. The Rio Games gave us a real-world example of how important it is to monitor process variables. It also helps tremendously to automate this monitoring.  At Rio 2016, an employee or volunteer simply forgot to verify the pool’s alkalinity. Because of that, people said Brazil was not prepared to receive the Games. Considering the total investment of $12.9 Billion, Rio could have set up an automated pH, chlorine, and oxygen monitoring system. If the organizers had used wireless SMART devices, then the system would’ve cost less than one percent of their total investment.

The pool at Rio 2016 teaches us that operators still need to go in the field to check certain variables. If someone forgets to check a process value, the result can cause anything from embarrassment to harm, perhaps even death. So SMART devices offer an excellent solution by providing simple monitoring for a fairly low cost. They also provide data to control quality and avoid shutdown. Had Rio invested in this solution, it would’ve saved the city’s international reputation, which is priceless.

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