Ralph Lauren’s wearable technology packs the heat so Team USA can bring home gold
35,000 spectators are expected to attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies this upcoming Friday at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. Anticipation is high among athletes and attendees alike. Added to the excitement, however, are widespread concerns that the stadium – which was built without a roof and without central heating – will be too cold for the ceremony’s audience members. Team USA, fortunately, is fitted with wearable technology that will keep them warm to withstand the chilling conditions.
The $58 million main Olympic Stadium omitted a roof and central heating in its design and construction plans as a time-saving measure and because it would have been “too expensive”, according to an internal document from the Olympic organizing committee. Last November, however, six people reported getting hypothermia while attending a concert at the stadium, calling into question the location’s security and safety.
At 7 degrees Fahrenheit, the 2018 Winter Olympics is expected to be the coldest on record since 1994 when the Olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Weather conditions then were at a low of 12 degrees Fahrenheit. PyeongChang is half a mile above sea level and is infamous for its biting winds originating from Siberia and the Manchurian Plain. To keep warm, Olympic organizers are providing spectators with heating pads, a blanket, and a raincoat. Polycarbonate walls will be set up along the highest points of the stadium to block wintry winds and portable gas heaters will be placed between rows to provide extra warmth.
To combat the cold at the Opening Ceremonies, the American athletes will have special uniforms designed by Polo Ralph Lauren. Drawing from the American flag colors of red, white, and blue, the athletes will be fitted with heated parkas powered by a battery pack. The parkas have printed strips of electronic, heat-conducting metallic ink. Akin to an electric blanket but using ink instead of wires, the parkas generate heat from electrons travelling through the silver ink and hitting resistive carbon pads. The parkas are also water-repellant and athletes can control the temperatures of the wearable technology using three different settings. Adopting engineering principles from heated car seats, the wearable technology is more flexible and stretchy and provides up to 11 hours of heat. “We knew about the cold,” said David Lauren, chief innovation officer at Ralph Lauren, “and hit on the idea of using wearable technology to keep our athletes warm.”
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