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February 20, 2018

The need for speed: why the most exciting Winter Olympics story will be the tech one

Looking specifically at the Winter Olympics, we can see significant and tangible benefits of technology in many disciplines.

By James Nunns

You can be forgiven if, when you think about the forthcoming Winter Olympics, your mind doesn’t immediately race to the data centre technology behind the games. But,

Darren Watkins, managing director for VIRTUS Data Centres

with Hee-beom Lee, president of the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee telling us: “We are dedicated to making the 2018 Winter Games the most digital games ever,” and reports that this Olympics will be the first to see all critical systems in the cloud and managed remotely, the tech story at PyeongChang is likely to be fascinating.

We’ve often talked about the impact of technology in the sporting arena, and we know that behind any high profile sport is a great tech story. Nearly all athletes now use Internet of Things (IoT) technology, for example, and data is captured and analysed to optimise training, improve performance and even to reduce the risk of injury. And excitingly for fans, this same data is often used to make the viewing experience richer and more interactive than ever.

Virtual Reality (VR) technology is also hitting the sporting headlines. Fans who aren’t able to get their hands on a ticket to a big event, or those who would love a seat closer to the action, are now one step closer to having their wish fulfilled. Furthermore, they can use social media to share their experiences and interact with other followers around the world.

So the possibilities for technology in sport are extensive. But they are arguably only as good as the infrastructure behind them. As technology experts, we know that IoT, big data and VR puts intense pressure on the security, servers, storage and network of any organisation – and the impact of these demands is being felt across the entire technological supply chain. Ultimately, this means that the data centre really is at the heart of the sports story.

Sporting organisations, just like any other commercial business, need to deploy more forward-looking capacity management to be able to proactively meet the demands that a tech-first sporting industry requires – and this is no easy feat.


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Looking specifically at the Winter Olympics, we can see significant and tangible benefits of technology in many disciplines.

Skiing has seen great progress fuelled by technology. Changes to the shape of skis and huge amounts of research into aerodynamics have allowed teams and skiers to make significant strides. This progression is happening across all areas of the sport and none is more exciting than in Ski Cross. Ski Cross, unlike most skiing disciplines, is not against the clock but against three other competitors. If you haven’t seen it before, this is what it looks like:


Technology is helping Harry Lovell, a Ski Cross athlete for the British Academy. It plays a huge part in Harry’s training, and his performance is significantly influenced by great technology. Cameras are used to capture information about his performance, helping him develop and refine technique. Harry’s smartwatch also helps him to reduce his resting heart rate, assisting his ability to perform at altitude, and even Harry’s clothing is engineered to give him extra speed.

The pace of change means that nobody can afford to be complacent – and virtually all athletes are relying on technology to help improve performance and take on the competition. However, the data processing requires a vast amount of storage and computing requirements, and many organisations are realising that they cannot handle these challenges alone.

Intense pressure for real time analysis and response, huge data rates, available frequencies and acceptable latency – and system reliability in hostile environments – all require extensive and sophisticated infrastructure. Colocation providers are well placed to provide just this, offering deep expertise, flexible and scalable technology options, and boundless capacity. Therefore, it’s perhaps no surprise that sporting organisations are turning to these vendors to help.

The question then becomes how do teams choose a technology partner which will grow and scale with them, and offer them the reliability they need. Of course, there are many ways to do this – but we believe that transparency, flexibility and security are the key requirements from any colocation vendor.

Security, as you’d expect, is often paramount. Performance data can make or break a team or player, and so it’s vital that sporting teams make sure any third party they engage with has security concerns at its heart. Intrusion detection systems offered by many providers monitor incoming data and identifies suspicious activities, while firewalls protect the data in the data centre. Data and backup files are often exchanged in an encrypted format or transmitted via secure fibre-optic cables – and the most reliable providers make security a fundamental priority.  We believe that it’s vendors who can offer this sort of assurance who will ultimately win the day.

During the Winter Olympics this month, we’ll see lots of examples of great technology enhancing performance – and making the fan experience rich and immersive. Hee-beom Lee is right; this is likely to be the most digitally advanced Games yet. But, for us, the real story will be under the covers as we look at how the technology works; and the challenges that technical teams need to overcome to deliver make or break performance enhancing developments. Ultimately the key component to success is to ensure that teams are equipped to handle the rigorous demands these technology innovations place on them, and are empowered to work with experts in the field who can help.

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