The Swiss watchmaker OMEGA is, not surprisingly, obsessed with time. The brand’s 164-year legacy includes countless precision records, conquests of space and the oceans’ depths and, of course, sports timekeeping.
Every Olympic Games features some technological premieres. Here’s a preview of the equipment which will have its debut at the Olympic Games in London:
With an enhanced resolution of 1 µs (one millionth of a second) the Quantum Timer and the Quantum Aquatics Timer mark the beginning of a new generation of OMEGA Timing products. The resolution is 100 times greater than with previous devices. The Quantum also delivers precision of 0.1 parts per million (ppm). This means that there is a maximum variation of only one second out of ten million seconds or a thousandth of a second out of every thousand seconds. The previous devices had precision of 0.5 ppm so in this respect, the new ones are five times as accurate. The precision is achieved through the use of a component created by Micro Crystal, a company of the Swatch Group, which is embedded in the timer.
The OMEGA Timing design team drew on the unrivalled depth of knowledge in timekeeping across the world of sports to produce what will be the heart of many systems.
Innovative features include a complete backup built into the main unit, and with 16 independent clocks, 128 inputs and 32 outputs it will be a challenge to find a sport that Quantum cannot time.
The 16 independent clocks mean that 16 separate running times can be physically implemented in the hardware and the information for each can be simultaneously communicated to scoreboards or shown on television screens.
The same technology that allows the Quantum Timer to redefine cycling track timekeeping is also used in the Quantum Aquatics Timer and brings the same great timekeeping performance to water sports.
Athletics Starting Block
OMEGA is also introducing an updated athletics starting block at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The runners' reaction times are measured entirely by the measurement of force against the back block and not by movement. The new blocks can detect the reaction times of every runner – from children through world-class sprinters – without changing any settings on the device.
The central bar is thinner than that of the previous device allowing better starting positions for women and children. It has been reduced from 80 to 50 mm. The foot rest is now wider, having been expanded from 120 to 160 mm, allowing different starting positions.
Swimming Show (lights that indicate the three top finishers)
An innovative light system called the Swimming Show will also make its debut at the Olympic Games in London. There are lights mounted on the starting blocks positioned next to the touch pads at the end of the pool where the swimmers stop their races. A single large dot of light on a swimmer's starting block indicates first place; two medium-sized dots of light indicate second; and three smaller dots of light confirm a third place finish.
The Swimming Show light system was conceived primarily for spectators. They don't need to look at the main scoreboard to confirm the results; the three top finishers will be clearly identified at the end of the pool. The Swimming Show can also indicate intermediate rankings of the top-three competitors every hundred metres.
Open Water Gate
Among the most challenging of the Olympic disciplines are the men's and women's swimming marathon.
OMEGA's new Open Water Gate is set up not only at the beginning and the end of the race but also in intermediate positions so, at the London 2012 Olympic Games, new timing information will be available. Previously, times were only reported at the beginning and the end of the marathon. Now intermediate times will also be available.
The gate positioned at the finish has touchpads with vertical transponder antennas while the ones in the intermediate positions have horizontal transponder antennas that pick up the signals “on the fly” from the transponders the swimmers wear on their wrists. At the finish, there are also high-definition cameras mounted on poles that serve as a reliable backup system and which are also used when athletes are too close in time and cannot be ranked by the transponder system alone.
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