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Special Olympics World Games Tracks Athletes via the IoT

The system, provided by Sigfox and its local operator iWire, located four missing athletes during the course of the Abu Dhabi event—not only at the stadium but around the city—each time within less than 30 minutes.
By Claire Swedberg
May 30, 2019

This spring, special-needs athletes and their trainers and families visited Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, representing countries across the world, as part of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. This year, these delegations took advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) technology to ensure that participants could be easily located no matter where they were.

Nearly 10,000 people wore IoT-based tracking devices provided by the Special Olympics organizers. They could press a button on the custom-made tracker if they required help, and they would then be located in real time, while organizers could also locate anyone who may have gone missing.

The solution employed Sigfox wireless 0G connectivity at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, and at other sites where the games took place, and also throughout the United Arab Emirates, to transmit the location data. It also utilized data from the public Wi-Fi system to better pinpoint each individual's location. iWire Connect, a Sigfox Operator for the UAE, provided the solution using wireless tracker devices made by LITE-ON Technology Corp.

The Special Olympics games took place in March, with 7,500 athletes participating at the 60,000-seat stadium. Long before the athletes began arriving, the organizers were investigating ways in which technology could ensure the safety and well-being of each participant, as well as 3,000 coaches, who would be visiting the city from 200 nations, according to Raouti Chehih, Sigfox's chief adoption officer. That meant gaining real-time location data regarding every individual, in case someone ended up looking for one of them. The system, in fact, located four missing athletes during the event, each within less than 20 minutes.

The challenge was to manage such a large number of people, Chehih says, many of whom have intellectual disabilities. Sigfox began working with iWire Connect and the Special Olympics organizers to create a solution toward the end of 2018. The first phase for iWire and Sigfox was to identify the organizers' needs, especially when it came to serving a special-needs community. "We wanted to understand their challenges and provide a usable solution," he states.

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