After Hours

London 2012 Olympics: Tech on the starting blocks

The London 2012 Games will see a number of technology firsts, from near-field communications payments to 3D TV.

The first completed apartments in the Olympic villages have been unveiled by Jonathan Edwards. Photo: LOCOG

The London 2012 Olympic Games will claim a number of technology firsts, from free wi-fi on the London Underground to mobile payments and 3D TV.

With 134 days to go until the Games opening ceremony, much of the infrastructure for the Games is nearing completion. Organisers today unveiled the first completed apartments in the Olympic village, which will be home to 16,000 athletes and team officials during the Games, and 6,200 athletes and team officials plus 1,000 referees and umpires during the Paralympic Games.

The athletes in the 2,800 apartments will have access to wi-fi and BT's 100Mbps fibre-to-the-premises broadband service.

Also, earlier this week it was announced that Virgin Media will offer free wi-fi at over 80 underground stations during the summer. After that period it will be available as part of Virgin's broadband and mobile subscriptions and as pay as you go.

The London 2012 Games is going to be bandwidth-intensive - not just because of spectators with smartphones and tablets. BT, which is responsible for the networking at the Games, is providing four times the network capacity of the Beijing Games four years ago.

Howard Dickel, who heads BT's London 2012 delivery and legacy programmes, said the company had put in place the same amount of fibre that would support a city the size of Manchester, largely because of the huge amounts of video and images being sent over its infrastructure.

BT's single voice and data network across 94 locations - including the Olympic Village and 34 competition venues - will also support 80,000 connections, 16,500 fixed telephone lines and features 5,500km of internal cabling and 1,800 wireless access points. At peak times during the Games, the network traffic is expected to hit 60Gbps.

The fibre broadband networks will remain in place after the Games, while the Olympic Village will become a new neighbourhood for east London, with 2,818 new homes.

Other technologies to be showcased at the Games include near-field communications mobile payments from Visa and Samsung, while the BBC will broadcast live 3D coverage to homes across the UK as part of a 3D trial, with coverage including the opening and closing ceremonies and the men's 100m final.

Sean Taylor of Panasonic, which is providing some of the 3D technologies, said: "Each Games, from a technology perspective, tries to have a first. London will be the first HD and 3D Games."

However, the athletes are unlikely to pay much attention to their high-tech surroundings. "The biggest challenge is getting a bit of privacy and bit of quiet," said Jonathan Edwards, Olympic gold medallist and chair of the Games' Athletes Committee.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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