Rio de Janeiro has a lot going on these days.
With a struggling economy, an ongoing health care crisis, an outbreak of the Zika virus and a recession, Rio is also hosting what many consider to be the greatest games on Earth.
Despite protestors on the street and some already blaming this year’s host for the “worst-ever” Olympics, there’s still good news coming out of the games — and we’re not just talking about the climbing U.S. medal count.
Brazil has become known for many things. It’s unfortunate that its growing tech scene may not be at the top of the list. Though it’s easy to see why other happenings in and around the country have overshadowed Brazil’s tech community, Rio de Janeiro’s tech scene is quickly earning notoriety.
Brazil’s tech industry has been relatively immune to some of the economic slowdown that has impacted the country. In fact, the venture and entrepreneurial ecosystem grew by 20 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone. In general, venture capitalists are boosting their investments in Latin America, with funding reaching $594 million in 2015, a stark increase from $387 million in 2012, the Latin America Venture Capital Association confirmed.
“What we do know, however, is that efficiency-driving innovation will have its place, come whatever market environment,” Joshua Kempf, cofounder and CEO of online B2B industrial products distributor Gaveteiro.com.br, explained in his TechCrunch piece.
“Those entrepreneurs and investors who can thrive in a tough macroeconomic scenario are surely well-positioned for long-term success in the world’s seventh-largest economy.”
Sometimes Everybody Wins
If anyone is going for gold at this year’s games, it’s Airbnb. The homesharing company has made the most of the hundreds of thousands of fans that have descended into Rio and are opting to cut down on costs by renting rooms or homes rather than booking hotel reservations.
As an official Olympic partner, Airbnb is able to offer an “alternative accommodation” through its listings (nearly 40,000 and counting) spread out across the city, including neighborhoods that are not typically tourist destinations, Airbnb Brazil Manager Leo Tristao told CNNMoney.
The company is predicting its host income will reach $25 million during the Summer Olympics. An estimated 66,000 Airbnb guests are expected to occupy rooms during the games, roughly half of which are actually domestic travelers, while the other half is international.
Bloomberg is reporting that, based on an index of Airbnb booking prices around the globe, lodgings in Rio de Janeiro have overtaken those in every other city around the globe. At around $206 per day on average, Rio’s Airbnb offerings are now ahead of Miami’s and San Francisco’s by a matter of dollars and ahead of Paris’ by more than $100.
With the Olympics well underway, the games have actually transformed Rio into a center stage for showcasing advanced technologies from major companies around the globe.
A couple months ago, Visa announced the rollout of the next generation of payments wearables — an NFC-enabled payment ring. Naturally, the rings were brought to the Rio Games for Visa-sponsored athletes to use, enabling them to make purchases with only their ring at any NFC-capable payment terminal.
With an estimated 4,000 points of sale equipped at souvenir shops, concession stands and other Olympic venues, Visa has been able to put the short-range wireless connectivity standard to the ultimate test.
“Today, we are seeing other form factors emerging, beyond just the credit card, including the watch, the bracelet, the payment ring and the car one day,” Chris Curtin, chief of brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa, told RCR Wireless News. “Visa has been the plastic credit card for the past 50 years, so what we are focusing on is bringing all the same element to a Visa payment experience.”
Not only has Visa distributed its payment rings to select athletes it sponsors, but the company, along with Brazilian bank Bradesco, is also using the Olympics as a testing ground for an NFC-enabled bracelet. Roughly 3,000 bracelets were gifted to a variety of athletes, celebrities and customers attending the games to be used in venues across the city. Visa has also teamed up with watchmaker Swatch to launch a Visa prepaid card-linked watch that will also work with NFC-enabled contactless payment terminals.
The (Advertising) Haves And Have-Nots
Though the official spirit of the Olympics is one of camaraderie and international cooperation, some companies are letting their competitive sides shine when it comes to capitalizing on this year’s Rio Games.
Despite the fact that Samsung is the official mobile phone sponsor for this year’s games, allowing it to sell its products exclusively at Olympic venues, Apple may have found a loophole in the International Olympic Committee’s stringent sponsorship rules.
A piece from Reuters claims that Apple is using its nearest Apple Store location to the main Olympic park to exclusively sell unofficial and unsanctioned special-edition bands for the Apple Watch. In order to avoid going up against any trademark violations, the bands do not feature the highly recognizable Olympic rings logo or mention the word “Olympics” anywhere on the product.
But when purchasing the bands, consumers have their pick of 14 different colors, each representing the colors of 14 national teams, including the U.S., Canada and Brazil.
It looks like it’s no harm, no foul for Apple.
"As long as they do not use the Olympic logo, the Rio 2016 logo or our look, there is no infringement," Sylmara Multini, director of licensing and retail for the Rio 2016 organizing committee, explained to Reuters.
Hackers Go For Gold In Rio
With thousands flocking to Rio for this year’s Summer Olympic Games and millions turning in around the globe, hackers are winning when it comes to having their pick of vulnerable targets.
Not only do the Olympics attract a lot of people, they also offer up a huge distraction, leaving people more open to being taken advantage of by scammers and fraudsters.
Throughout Rio, one of the biggest ways hackers are compromising victims is through the use of rogue Wi-Fi connections that can inject malware into a user’s web traffic and even log activity and data of users.
With more than 500,000 visitors traveling to Rio for the games, hackers have a huge opportunity to perform large-scale theft of data and sensitive information.
“The Olympics attracts a lot of people,” Thomas Fischer, principal threat researcher at Digital Guardian, told Fast Company. “That’s a prime target for attackers to look at as far as, ‘How can we get them to give us some money?'”
A report released by cybersecurity research firm Fortinet revealed a surge in suspicious websites in Brazil leading up to the Olympic Games. Both spectators and multinational companies are being warned to stay mindful about phishing websites selling fake tickets that actually end up stealing personal information and bank account details.
“After extracting this information, criminals use it to steal money from victim bank accounts. To sound even more convincing, fraudsters are informing their victims that they will receive their tickets two or three weeks before the actual event,” a report from security researcher Kaspersky Lab stated.
Even those watching the games from around the globe should be wary of email and social media posts related to the Olympics that may actually link to video clips, downloadable apps, games and other content containing malware.