Beyond the games
13/06/2012 15:46 | By Simon Munk, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

The technology behind the London 2012 Olympic Games

We take a look behind the scenes at the tech that's running this summer's sporting showpiece.

London 2012 promises to be the most tech-laden Olympic Games yet - featuring everything from new sensor-heavy training regimes to 3D broadcasts to cyber anti-warfare measures. MSN visited the Olympics tech headquarters for a closer look at the gadgetry running the Games...

Technology Operations Centre (© LOCOG)

Technology Operations Centre
The Technology Operations Centre (TOC) is the nerve centre of the Olympics IT infrastructure. Throughout the Games, hundreds of technicians will man hundreds of screens in this room at Canary Wharf to monitor and coordinate all of the IT and tech requirements from 94 Olympic venues.

That's no mean feat. Challenges have already ranged from building websites to logging over 200,000 hours of testing on all of the IT kit in the Integration Test Lab, with each sport's kit undergoing test events. Around 4,500km of cabling was installed between venues. During "Games time" keeping the 13,000 PCs (plus servers, laptops and 14,000 smartphones) up and running, as well as a feed with an estimated 6GB per second of outgoing data, will be top priority.

That lot has kept the tech sponsors on their toes - Acer handles computing, Samsung mobiles and Panasonic deals with TV and other audiovisual (AV) tasks. More behind-the-scenes, Atos Origin handles software, BT communications infrastructure and Cisco is doing networking.

Integration Test Lab (© LOCOG)

Cyber warfare
The TOC isn't just there to ensure the media get their feeds from the venues, or the results are accurate, though. Despite the fact that broadcast feeds and results will be kept separate from the IT required to make each venue work, the TOC is also there to guard against cyber-attacks.

Atos Origin has said that 400 "relevant events that could have impacted on the Games" were experienced during Beijing. More attacks are expected for London 2012, but Gerry Pennell, chief information officer at London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) said: "We can use a content distribution network, so it is very hard to launch a DDos [Distributed Denial of Service attack] on us, because our front end is so dispersed."

Commentator information systems (© LOCOG)

Information overload
New software and hardware is about more than protecting against cyberwarfare. For the first time, the touchscreen 'commentator information systems' (CIS) used in the last five games, will include every single Olympic sport, and five Paralympic sports, too. These deliver results directly to commentators in the venues in 0.3 seconds; before the crowd has time to react, commentators can be talking about the result.

Such information and broadcast feeds are a key part of the Olympics. As well as the CIS, London 2012 is launching the myinfo+ site that will be available to the likes of accredited journalists, staff and athletes, enabling them to see results and schedules in real time.

On top of that, Panasonic is helping make London 2012 the first 3D TV games. Its 3D cameras will record the opening and closing ceremonies - as well as other key events - and send the images to broadcast feeds. Its 103-inch plasma TVs will be in place at indoor events, and the "largest area ever" of LED large display screens will be at competition venues (as well as around the Olympic Park).

The BBC will also test three 4K 'super hi-vision' screens that will show the Games in London, Bradford and Glasgow. And Panasonic is even getting involved in the opening ceremony - supplying the world's smallest and lightest 20,000 lumens projectors for it (the PT-DZ21K and PT-DS20K).

Hi-tech starting blocks (© Omega)

On the starting blocks...
Technology is infiltrating every element of London 2012; there's now even gadgetry in the starting blocks! Created by Omega, these measure starts by force against the back block, rather than by movement, giving a more accurate start register on a broader variety of runners.

The sound of the starting 'gun' will be put through speakers in each block - so all competitors hear it at exactly the same time. Omega's race timer has also gone 'Quantum', with accuracy down to one millionth of a second.

Tech will also be used by the coaches on the events' sidelines. The British Olympic Association is working with video technology specialist Dartfish. Live broadcast feeds from Olympic events will be fed through Dartfish's software directly to the smartphones and tablets in the hands of coaches. They will be able to analyse and tag their athletes' and rival athletes' performance, therefore making quicker, more informed decisions.

Train with tech
Of course, even before the Games begin, athletes are using technology to get an edge. Blind runner and Olympic torchbearer Simon Wheatcroft uses the Runkeeper app and Siri on his iPhone to track distance and be aware of obstacles on his route.

Technology is also being used more than ever in training. The ESPRIT programme from UK Sport aims to combine pervasive computing, biomechanics, complex system modelling and other technical areas to boost UK elite sport performance.

For 2012, swimmers have been analysed with wearable acceleremoter, gyroscope and force profile sensors to perfect athletes' entry angle, turns and other key moments. In the same way, inertial sensors are being deployed to try to improve the construction of wheelchairs for the Paralympic sport of wheelchair basketball.

CityScan (© University of Leicester)

Beyond the park
Technology use during the Olympics extends far beyond just training aids and the infrastructure at venues. London 2012 is also being used as a tech testbed to monitor the effect of the Olympics on the capital.

Researchers from the University Of Leicester are planning to place three new CityScan pollution monitors in key locations across London during the Games to monitor what effect an extra 11 million visitors and estimated three million extra car journeys on the busiest day alone will have in terms of pollution.

The monitors are able to map 3D pollution profiles with accuracy down to individual buildings and roads. Existing spot sensors only measure pollution at a specific location.

10/07/2012 09:47

What a load of rubbish these games are.  The government and tabloid press have conspired to stop Brittish pistol shooters from taking part in the Olympics. Instead of improving the facilities at Bisley on the outskirts of London which is the world centre for shooting, They have spent £30 million building a temporary shooting range on the east side of London which will cost £15 milion to demolish when the games are finished, leaving no legacy for target shooters in the future.




Can you imagine the England football team being forced to do all their training in another country  before a big match, the same as pistol shooters.

10/07/2012 07:15
There doesn't seem to be a comment about what Cisco is actually doing.............I'd be interested to know
10/07/2012 00:44
10/07/2012 10:08
Does all this technology make for a better Games? Work harder, run faster, jump higher, throw further, etc.
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