Tokyo 2020 to be the most technologically advanced Games ever

Tokyo Olympics
Image by Sofia Terzoni from Pixabay

Major sporting events have become major showcases for technology, as well as both opportunities and challenges for service providers before, during and after the event itself. The Tokyo Olympics is no different. It’s already apparent that this is going to be the most connected, most technologically advanced and most mobile Games ever.

While the Games represents a challenging peak in demand for connectivity, this comes on top of a background of surging demand for guaranteed high-capacity connectivity between APAC and the rest of the world, according to international communications enabler BICS – which says demand is being driven by increasing IoT connectivity and the rollout of 5G. But the sheer number of visitors and the amount of technology being embedded in the Games is set to boost connectivity demand even more.

Keen to maintain its reputation as a cutting-edge country when it comes to technology, Japan has plans for robots to greet athletes and guests, and retrieve javelins. Autonomous taxis will move visitors from the airport to sporting venues. 3D Athlete Tracking will be delivered on live broadcasts; virtual reality training will support athletes; and immersive event opportunities will delight audiences worldwide. While AI facial recognition will be used for increased and efficient event security, and instant, automatic translation devices will overcome language barriers.

Even the 5,000 Olympic medals will be made out of recycled mobile phones. Japanese citizens have donated 4.32 million of them, along with 34,000 tonnes of other electronic devices. And, in little more than a year, over 36lbs of gold (16.5kg), 3,960lbs of silver (1,800kg) and 5,940lbs (2,700kg) of bronze has been retrieved, which is being used to manufacture the Olympic medals.

Demand for connectivity has seen a specially commissioned satellite deployed for the duration of the Games. While BICS has deployed an additional point-of-presence (PoP) in Tokyo that connects directly to its global network infrastructure in order to reduce latency and improve quality of service. It has also added new routes from Hong Kong to Japan, and from Japan to LA, which have resulted in a tenfold increase in connectivity and a significant reduction in latency. As Japan is only accessible via submarine networks, adding capacity at the right cost and quality can be challenging.

“Due to our active footprint in the APAC region and global infrastructure, we’ve been able to upgrade capacity and connectivity in Japan and offer higher quality services at competitive prices. With the service now live, benefits are already being recognized by operators, subscribers and IoT businesses – all of which can feel confident that our global network will support their future connectivity needs too,” says Malcolm Chan, MD Asia Pacific at BICS.

Meanwhile, national carrier NTT is deploying 1,300 WiFi access points at the main venue for the 2020 Olympics. This will enable spectators to seamlessly stream and receive video to their mobiles. “We want to support the quadrennial games by preparing the world’s best Internet environment,” it said in a statement.

NTT is both a major sponsor of the Games, as well as in charge of the comms infrastructure and cybersecurity. Amongst a range of innovation it is rolling out is an AI-based anti-congestion system which will assess the flow of traffic from both domestic and roaming users, combine this with information from the Tokyo Metro, and then predict potential congestion to help the Metro improve planning for its train services.

However, in the age of smart devices, IoT and drones, Tokyo is also bracing for a slew of cyberattacks and fraud attempts. The number of cyberattacks has risen steadily over the last few games, with London 2012 seeing 250 million attempted attacks, and Rio 2016 experiencing 500 million. Tokyo 2020 could very well see that number double again and break the billion, as attacks related to the event have already started.

In September 2019, for example, Microsoft reported that at least “16 national and international sporting and anti-doping organisations” were attacked using tactics such as spear phishing, password spraying and exploitation of vulnerabilities in internet-connected devices.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese government has made cybersecurity high priority and a means of increasing its expertise in this area. Although it has to be said, the Japanese press recently had a field day when it was revealed the minister in charge of cybersecurity had never used a PC and didn’t seem to know what a USB drive was, leading to jokes that his offline presence *was* his cybersecurity policy.

But even beyond the cyber risks, fraud has also increased with a 2018 attempt to dupe people in the US and Japan with fake ticket offers, and organisers having to void nearly 7,000 tickets bought with fake IDs. ID verification is therefore high on the priority list of technologies being utilised to improve the visitor experience.

Tokyo 2020 offers the opportunity for Japan to showcase its technological credentials, throwing down the gauntlet for New Zealand’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup (2021) and Qatar’s FIFA World Cup in 2022. It’s also a showcase for a range of emerging technologies, as well as providing lessons in resilience testing for QoE in demanding connected environments. B2B service providers worldwide would be wise to keep a weather eye on its successes, challenges and hard-learned lessons.

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