After Hours

2012 Olympics and tech: What will remain once the cheering stops?

Once the Olympic juggernaut has rolled out of London, people expect its biggest tech legacy to lie in comms infrastructure. But London 2012 may leave behind a more subtle change.

With thousands attending the 2012 Olympics, the fear was that London's infrastructure wouldn't cope. Photo: Toby Wolpe/TechRepublic

Written in my living room while watching London 2012 and despatched to TechRepublic at 40Mbps over my office wi-fi system.

Along with the main Olympic events themselves, there is a lot of chatter about the legacy of the London 2012 Games. The urban regeneration, the new park and stadia, and all the purpose-built facilities in and out of London, the raising of the visibility of individual sports, new champions and role models and so on.

But when the event is over, when everyone has gone home, what will really be left?

Before the games, the single biggest worry beyond security and some terrorist attack was the infrastructure. Would the roads, rail, underground and airports bear the weight of the thousands of visitors coming to the Games? Would the hotels, shops and restaurants cope?

Under normal daily loads, London struggles with insufficient capacity and is burdened with an ageing infrastructure. So the expectation before the Games was not a happy one.

What happened? Hotels have empty beds and are slashing prices by 50 per cent or more, restaurants and shops are deserted, and travel around the city is in free flow the likes of which no one can ever remember.

Even the trains and underground are no longer overcrowded, while Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have more than coped with minimal delays and congestion. Where is everybody?

Faced with the pre-games prospect of total transport chaos the millions of workers who normally flock into London have either gone on leave or opted to work from home for the duration. No one forecast this possibility. No one expected it to be this way.

But talking to cabbies, and members of the normal working population before the games, there were some common themes, such as: "I'm leaving the country," or "I'll work from home" or "I'm avoiding London at all costs."

So, what will be the lasting London 2012 legacy? It might just be home working. The city, companies, offices and institutions have operated as normal without their people being in London. And I can almost guarantee that more work has been done as a result.

"The only reason I go to the office is to be interrupted."

The UK already has the biggest proportion of any workforce anywhere working mobile and from home. And offices routinely accommodate less than 80 per cent of the full workforce in any one working day, with mobile workers who operate out of hotels, cars and homes making up the rest.

The intense activity of this past week might just lead to all those mobile and home-working percentages increasing permanently.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

26 comments
thebitcommons
thebitcommons

There are enough shared Mobile base station capacity to cover most of NI, Wales and Scotland if it was moved about. Did the athletes village get FTTH?

peter
peter

A great event - well managed and delivered with lots of live coverage - athletes that excelled - a crowd that enjoyed - and not a single terrorist to be seen :-)

dale.mccart
dale.mccart

When the Olympic Games came to LA in 1984 there was the same gloom and doom predictions about traffic. Workers shifted work schedules, truckers delivered early and picked up late to keep out of the prime traffic times. After the games there was much comment about the lack of traffic jams during the games. Of course the jams returned as everyone returned to their old schedule.

tony
tony

Many used it, but probably few noticed it. But during the Olympics, the face of broadcasting changed significantly. What changed? Well the BBC did a great job of streaming 24 sports live. For those who follow a particular sport (dressage in my wife's case) that is hardly ever on TV, being able to watch it live - we have a TV with an internet connection - was great for her - and being able to rewind to any point for a few hours. The second thing that changed was that we also got live 3D TV - the opening ceremony was stunning in 3D - we had friends round to watch it specially. It was the most natural 3D TV I have seen so there was not the usual eye strain. It is also interesting to see that it constrains the photogtaphy - wide angles and long telephot shots don't work to the same extent that they do in 2D.

Long shadoW
Long shadoW

But we're all not born contractors yes, the professional, upfront, enthusiatic person will do well, most of the time, almost most of the time. . But then Gran-Gran comes for a visit and ...well it's 87year old Gran Gran she just visits for an hour - or so. Schedule please, yes, it’s great that you’ll "make up the time later", unfortunately Mr.Richie wants the payroll out THIS MORNIG! And while it’s great that the engineer is at home with his family, working ;-) but then the GB team scores a goal, he goes to watch and little Suzy wanders over to the pc, flips back a few pages and wants to see if 1+1 really equals 5 like her brother says – ooh, here comes dad – put things back like they were, mostly. Dad finishes the job and viola! The widget has 5 holes in it instead of two or maybe the bridge is 5 cm short. Not to mention becoming a nameless faceless horde. Say, says the machine, #3b2fq has had a lower output for 1.73 days this quarter – reject. And you think bosses are a bag of fun now? - You want a raise?!? You sit around at home doing NOTHING all day; I don’t even know why we pay you !! Team work assignment, yea, Joe down the hall is a dufus , he sends an email on everything when he can come over and just ask a question and get an answer. Well he can't do that anymore; neither can the other 7 members of the crew, yes I’d love to spend 3 hours in a conference call, especially if someone has the telly on!! Written without morning sugar fix, I am sure with this concept nothing can go wrong go wrong go wrong go wrong

lastchip
lastchip

Not only are people generally more productive, they have more personal time too without the travelling. I suspect most will be more relaxed and work more flexibly too. You have the added bonus, that it removes most office politics and bickering. In fact if a worker can't see what their colleagues are doing, they won't worry about it. So Bloggs in the corner spending his/her day on Facebook, becomes a non-issue and will be picked up by the auto-monitoring system (lack of output). The bosses will be less than enthusiastic, as clearly there's an opportunity for the top brass to cut a layer or two. If it is proven constant supervision is not required, why do you need those people? Furthermore, production output could be monitored automatically in most cases and human intervention and checking only required when someone appears to be doing less than they should be. It may be there's a good reason, or perhaps the individual needs some training or help. Either way, that would be the time to take a look and sort the "problem" out. Constant monitoring by humans in this day and age is futile and a complete waste of money and resources. I've been saying for several years, the daily commute for white collar workers is a pointless frustration and definitely in this day and age, in many cases, unnecessary. We now have automated systems along with (relatively) high speed Internet connections that make the whole traditional concept of work, questionable.

grax
grax

The most obvious "benefit" is already apparent. MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra). With the success of the Team GB Cycling Team there is a proliferation of people riding bicycles (with all the necessary accoutrements). That's the good part. The flip side is that they think they own the road and are immune to attack from irate motorists. newport_georgeg@ said: "This being August, doesn't all of London leave on vacation?" Sadly, London is not Paris.

Waddyranger
Waddyranger

Now that the technology is available to enable white collar workers to work from home, why don't more of us do it? Is it that bosses love to see the white's of employees eyes, is it really that workers are not trusted to get the job done? If that is the case, why employ that person that the bosses don't trust in the first place. Working from home is great. I personally gain 2 hours a day less commuting time, my car is not polluting or clogging up the roads. The company I work for gets things done. As for collaboration, I have the IT tools available to get things done. Fantastic! So why aren't more of us doing it? Is it really that we are not trusted? If so, that's sad we are not kids at school - we are paid professionals. If you don't trust an employee to do a job without being watched they can find another opportunity or the boss can grow up and become more enlightened about work in the 21st century!

newport_georgeg
newport_georgeg

LA in 1982 had the same hype before the games. Oh, the smog will kill the participants. Congestion on our busy freeways will mean nobody will go to the events which were scattered between Mission Viejo in OC to Lake Casittas north of The Valley. The reality was no smog and no congestion. People took vacations outside of LA. The air was so good that a reporter asked if LA would want good air every day. I guess the people who predict such things enjoy the hype. It sells more papers or airtime. This being August, doesn't all of London leave on vacation?

joethejet
joethejet

Same exact thing happened in Atlanta in 96. The roads were empty, the trains less full (except at the exit of big events) than expected. Lots of people went on vacation or worked from home I guess.

peter
peter

I doubt it - but the wifi and 3G coverage was dense!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If you expect the worst, you will get it.

peter
peter

As 'a boss' I can suure you it is extremely easy to see who is pulling their weight and who isn't - working in the office or at home!

peter
peter

Just seeing large numbers of human beings doing 'good stuff' instead of 'killing each other' has been quite a tonic, and to host or not to host - JDI - the outcome is positive in the extreme.

doreen.mallett
doreen.mallett

I hope you are taking pictures of them. It is refreshing to know that middle aged men can go out and have fun like every one else. Lighten up and enjoy the scenery. Life is about fun. Most of the athletes who have done well have also admitted having fun at it.

peter
peter

Bosses remain a substantial problem - but soon they will be replaced by a new breed with a different expectation. I've been home working for decades - it works!

peter
peter

The gloom and doom artists are always there on the sidelines....they never go away!

peter
peter

It sure would be interesting to see the figures event by event, technology by technology etc!

peter
peter

For sure this seems to be mostly the case! Always look for the upside and you will generally find something positive

lastchip
lastchip

The further point is, you don't necessarily need humans to do the monitoring. In fact, I've come across first hand workers (civil service) who were not pulling their weight, but weak management let them get away with it. In fact they were paying outside contractors (on lower salaries) to do the work rather than confront the issue. Automated systems removes this human weakness.

peter
peter

I like a glass that is half full rather than half empty....and I have had a mountain bike for years - although I am now on the wrong side on 'middle age' :-)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Was far better than the so called Main Event. I actually thought that they had it right when they thanked the first show for running to sort out the problems for the main event. Far better sportsmanship all round in what was really a better meet. Col

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

but I didn't waste my time turning the TV on at all during that period. I also got enough of the news info off the Internet to know most of the athletes were as dense as the crowds at the venues. What idiots mouth off in social media to abuse the refs etc - dumb and dumber.

peter
peter

Depends on the TV station you watched :-)