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“Brilliant Future for the UK after London Games”

Ian Foddering

Ian Foddering

As technology has become the lifeblood for any major sports event, London 2012 is no exception.

Among myriad technologies offered by tech vendors, Cisco provided the network infrastructure support for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To know the tech applications for London Olympics, RMN Digital invited Ian Foddering – chief technology officer (CTO) and technical director, Cisco UK and Ireland – for an exclusive interview with RMN Digital managing editor, Rakesh Raman.

Qs & As

1. Which are the factors that make the use of technology inevitable for major sports events like London Olympics?

The society in which we live is becoming more connected; wireless and the use of video, for example, is becoming more ubiquitous and major sports events are seeing the advantages of incorporating these types of technologies.

Whether it is the use of pervasive wireless to enable the spectators to connect and share experiences, order food, drink or mechanise while in the stadium and getting delivered to their seat, or watch replays of key sporting moments of the event, technology will have a major part to play in the shaping of major sporting events going forward.

2. What was Cisco’s tech support at the backend and frontend for London 2012?

Cisco’s role in London 2012 is as the Official Network Infrastructure Support for the Olympic (July 27 – Aug. 12, 2012) and Paralympic Games (Aug. 29 – Sept. 9, 2012). In that capacity, we are providing all the routing, switching, wireless, voice services and elements of the security, as part of a cloud-based email security solution.

To provide an idea of the scale, over 2,200 switches have been deployed, together with 1,800 wireless access points to enable the smooth running of the games over the nearly 100 locations which include 36 competitive venues.

Something that surprises people with respect to the technology we are deploying as part of the London 2012 is that there is no new or special technology being deployed for the first time just for the Olympics or Paralympics.

LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) wanted tried and tested technology, so everything had to have a 2 year track record. Therefore, the design and technology of the network is very similar to that you would see in any large organization in a mission-critical environment. The only real difference is we have some 4 billion people globally watching it via television.

That said, we are seeing a first with London 2012 from a technology point of view and that is the use of cloud technology. For example, BT “One Cloud” has been deployed providing 16,500 Cisco IP Telephony handsets.

Working with Atos, the Global IT Partner for the Olympics and BT in their role as the official communications services partner, we had jointly carried out over 200,000 hours of testing prior to the games to ensure everything worked and would work in games times. At the same time, ensuring that any redundancy or resiliency elements worked as planned.

3. Could technology bring any measurable improvement in the quality of experiences for sports fans?

With so many entertainment options, it is getting harder for sports events to compete for fans’ leisure time and entertainment spend. Homes have high-definition (HD) television, while movies have large-screen three-dimensional (3D) screens.

Therefore solutions need to deliver new experiences that transform and amplify the intensity of any event for attendees. Being able to efficiently and cost effectively deliver HD video and digital content to all TV displays in the venue, creating unique, compelling experiences and interactive opportunities to engage fans is the key. In addition, offering the new revenue streams with unique advertising and sponsorship offerings, while delivering new, dynamic concession and merchandising solutions.

4. Did Cisco face any bottlenecks while providing its tech support for the Games? If yes, how did you overcome that?

With the Olympics behind us, and the Paralympics still to come (at time of writing), we have yet to have any bottlenecks. As mentioned previously, with an anticipated television audience of over 4 billion people watching globally, the visibility of the network is potentially huge.

However that is where it is critical to have thoroughly tested the networking infrastructure in advance of the Games, as was done in the “London Prepares” events and the 3 Technical Reediness “TR’s” that took place in the months prior to the games.

In those situations, as with the Games themselves, it is key that you have a one team mentality, so whether it is working with BT, the official communications services partner, or Atos, the office global IT partner, communication and a clear common goal is critical.

5. Is it possible for Games organizers to measure the return on investments (ROI) made on technology at London 2012? If yes, how?  

The technological contribution Cisco is making to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games doesn’t end after the closing ceremony.

In fact, some would say it’s just the start, as we are committed to exploring new opportunities and providing a legacy that will strengthen relationships with a wide variety of Cisco’s stakeholders and confirm our position as a passionate and trusted technology provider to both public and private sector organizations across the UK.

It allows Cisco to further connect UK businesses, communities and consumers with the infrastructure, network and technology Cisco created for the Games for generations to come.

We are putting into motion many of our plans to build a brilliant future for the UK post London 2012. We are investing in a number of projects which aim to build on the legacy of 2012, and one which we are particularly excited about is ‘Out of the Blocks’ Series – an initiative to provide free Key Stage 4 Maths and Science resources to all state-funded secondary schools in the UK.

Distributed to over 7000 state and independent secondary schools the ‘Cisco Maths and Science Series 2012’, is a set of free activity books, including a welcome pack and resources inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the overall objective of encouraging students to further their learning in maths and science.

Out of the Blocks will also be a key partner programme in the Practical Learning strand of Get Set – the official London 2012 education programme. Get Set is for schools and colleges across the UK and it supports 3-19 year olds to explore the Olympic Values of friendship, respect and excellence and the Paralympic Values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality.

Photo courtesy: Cisco

This interview is published under the RMN Digital’s “Thought Leaders” series in which top tech market leaders of the world express their views on different burning issues and market trends.

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