Olympics Are Now a Global API Event

Michael Vizard
Feb. 14 2014, 08:00AM EST

In just about every major Winter Olympics event, the difference between gold and some other color of medal usually comes down to a tenth of a second. Keeping track of all those results and then broadcasting them out to the world is a vast ecosystem of APIs that connect everything from video streams to mobile computing applications all over the globe.

All the digital timing systems used to determine the winners and broadcast the results are interconnected via APIs. That data is then shared with any number of media outlets by APIs, which in turn expose that information to the outside world. The Olympics API for the Press Association alone has generated 50 billion transactions.

And now athletes are taking advantage of all the data to improve their performance. Athletes have taken to wearable technology devices such as FitBit in the hopes of shaving seconds off their times and pinpointing areas for improvement. APIs are even being used to give athletes access to mobile applications that help them find their way around Olympic events in Sochi. In fact, in recognition of how strategic the Web has become, the Olympic Organizing Committee has awarded SOASTA a 10-year testing contract.

This is only the tip of the API iceberg, says Sam Ramji, vice president of strategy for Apigee, a provider of API management software. APIs are being used to transform how we view sporting events across the globe. Whether it’s telemetry data from a race car or shirts worn by athletes, the amount of open data that athletes, coaches and fans can access in real time is exploding by the day. Even gambling sites are now accessing all that data to more precisely determine the odds on who might win what. In fact, as predictive analytics applications improve it may one day become a forgone conclusion as to who is going to win a particular event based on all the prevailing conditions at the time of the event.

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The days when sports fans argued over facts are coming to an end; all the data needed to resolve any argument is a click of an app away. That may not convince anybody to switch their allegiance from one team to another, but it does mean the points of contention over hazily remembered facts and figures will be a thing of the past.

How all this will ultimately transform sports as we know them remains to be seen, but the games we love to watch and play will certainly never be the same again.

Michael Vizard

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