The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will begin tonight, and by the time they’re done, more than 4 billion people will likely have watch the various athletic events.
Alibaba is providing the cloud service and e-commerce for the Olympics, and it is sending several hundred employees to South Korea to handle the operations. The effort is a dry run for China’s turn hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022. And Atos, a French information technology company, handles the IT for the event. Atos has moved all of the critical IT systems for the Olympics to the cloud — a first for the Olympics as cloud computing has become the most efficient way to distribute digital entertainment.
“This is what we call the digital transformation of the Olympic games,” said Marta Sanfeliu, chief operating officer at Atos for the Olympics and major events, in a press briefing. “It’s a real journey.”
Above: Atos charted the evolution of IT for the Olympics.
Image Credit: Atos
The Olympics employs about 200,000 people in 37 countries. The Pyeongchang games will have 36,000 volunteers, 3,500 technical staff, 4,500 athletes, 12 venues, and 50 critical IT applications. About 25,000 media professionals will be attending. There will be about 4 billion worldwide viewers across 250 digital platforms, and digital coverage of the events will likely be twice as much as TV coverage.
Atos, which has been involved in the Olympics 1989, will run about 100,000 hours of testing on the cloud infrastructure for the games. Back in 1992 with the Barcelona Olympics, the servers were all run on local physical services. Now, the various cloud-based systems are much broader, and those systems have to deal with tasks such as enabling web sites, mobile distribution, apps, social media, live results, and cyber security.
“Setting up these environments in a new place every two years is very difficult,” Sanfeliu said.
Intel will enable fans to watch Olympics content in virtual reality, and it will be deploying drones to shoot footage. Samsung provided SmartSuits for athletes with sensors that capture the metrics of their movements for training and race-time analysis. And the International Olympic Commitee has worked with Intel and Korea Telecom to create 5G wireless infrastructure at select Winter Games venues.
Above: Comcast will have a variety of navigation screens to sort through the programming.
Image Credit: Comcast
Comcast, meanwhile, will be broadcasting the Olympics via its NBCUniversal division. It began work on building its infrastructure for the Olympics 18 months ago. It has created on-demand channels so you can view all of the Olympic events in their entirety, regardless of what is showing on primetime TV. You can use the Xfinity Sports App on mobile to watch livestreams or on-demand archives.
NBCUniversal will deliver 2,400 hours of live, on-demand, and online streaming coverage across 102 events. It will be encoded in 4K HDR at 20 megabits a second. And the 60 percent of Comcast’s 22 million subscribers with Xfinity X1 set-top boxes will get access to 50 custom “virtual” channels that are like a video Pandora or continuously rotating YouTube channels — collections of related videos where you can watch one stream after another.
Above: U.S. downhill and Super G skier Laurenne Ross tries out VR skiing.
Image Credit: US Ski & Snowboard
For fans on site, Visa will be showing off 1,000 contactless payment terminals throughout the venues.
The athletes have also benefited from technology. Ralph Lauren is providing parkas with built-in heating systems for athletes, so they won’t be shivering all of the time. The parkas have batteries that last for 11 hours and three settings for heat levels. The U.S. skiers and snowboarders also benefited from virtual reality training systems that put immersed them in the Pyeongchang area slopes.
And McAfee warned that the fans both on site and at home will have to be wary of Olympics-related bait from cyberattackers. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT) issued warnings for fans on safety measures, like turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections for smartphones when not in use.
“Unfortunately, in the heat of an exhilarating victory or crushing defeat, common sense often goes out the window,” said Eric Cole, chief technology officer at McAfee, in an email.”Don’t let yourself get so carried away that you forget that the bad guys are just waiting for you to slip up.”
Cole says the public should stay off public Wi-Fi, use only one credit card, avoid ATMs, and be careful using social media and email.
“If you’re halfway around the world in South Korea, do you really want others to know that your house might be unattended?,” Cole said. “They will if you post photos and updates from the Olympic venue on social media. Wait until you get home to post your photos. Be extra vigilant about emails, especially those that might point you to tempting sites for discounted event tickets or offer ‘exclusive’ information about scores or athletes. Don’t click on links or downloads, even from people who appear to be someone you know – they could be the adversary trying to trick you. Stick to text communication only in your emails.”