The tech behind London 2012

Acer raises the Olympic curtain

The tech behind London 2012

The man in charge of Acer's London 2012 involvement is sat in front of one of the desktops PCs that the company is providing in the thousands for next year's Olympics, explaining that he would love for his team of engineers to be bored out of their minds when the Games roll around.

"If they are bored then everything is going well," explains Michael Trainor, the project manager for the Acer Olympic Project.

Acer is just one of a group of tech partners for the London games tasked with making sure that everything runs smoothly; for the Taiwanese computer giant that involves preparing, providing and supporting an estimated 13,500 bits of kit over 107 Olympic venues.

Michael trainor

The scale of the project is clear, despite there being nearly 250 days until the opening ceremony on 27 July, Acer is already preparing thousands of PCs to hit the eventual total of 11,500 desktops and 1,100 laptops, as well as 900 powerful servers and a variety of monitors.

This work is being done in a secret location in Canary Wharf at the headquarters of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), and the collaboration between the various tech partners has gone well so far.

"There's no room for politics," says Trainor. "The success of the tech team is the only significant thing for everybody involved."

Companies involved include worldwide partners like Atos, Airwave, Omega, Panasonic and Samsung, London 2012 partners that include BT, and official London 2012 supporter Cisco – so no shortage of technology stakeholders.

Acer s test room

Acer's servers are at the heart of LOCOG's operation running all key applications from HR right the way through to accreditation and scheduling applications - and the company is providing Gateway games rack and games tower servers and Altos admin rack servers.

But it will be the PCs that garner the most attention, with Acer choosing its Veriton L670G as its standard desktop, which will be powering the specialised Atos software that will keep people across the Olympic venues abreast of what is going on, including commentary teams, other media and athletes.

The PC has been designed to be economical in its power use and, critically, to have a small enough footprint to be ubiquitous without getting in the way.

Acer s pc for the olympics

"Every PC has the same motherboard and the same RAM," adds Trainor, which simplifies the process of repairing and replacing faulty units.

The Athlete's Village will offer up access points to the isolated network, although competitors will also be able to take their own laptops and connect to the internet.

The logistics around an operation this size are fascinating - each sport has its own pod of computer equipment laid out in LOCOG HQ, and when a test event is run from an Olympic Venue it is shifted across and then back to the building.

The pods

Athletics has the biggest pod of computers, but every discipline from the Olympics and Paralympics is represented in the testing lab.

When the summer arrives, the computer equipment will be moved to the venues, and when the Paralympics finish it will be up to LOCOG what is done with it.

The technology and infrastructure is monitored from a special technology operations centre (TOC) with banks of people and monitors assembled in front of boards reporting any emergencies with Sev 1 the most critical - something that everyone involved is keen to not occur.

TOC

Trainor explains that the computers being used, including the Veriton desktop and the TravelMate laptops, are running with a 1-2 per cent failure rate.

"We can't run the Olympic project like we would any other business," he continues. "The operational requirement over such a large area means we will be doing zero repairs on site.

"If something fails then we will swap out the PC immediately. There is a reparation department within LOCOG."

ATOS software

When TechRadar asks Trainor what worried him most in terms of what could go wrong he professes to be relatively confident for the time being, although ramping up the staffing for the London 2012 period will be the trickiest job.

"We need to go from a relatively small UK operation up to 350 staff, and we are recruiting staff with similar skills to those being sought by other businesses in Canary Wharf," he explains. "And I'm hoping they will be the most bored individuals at the games."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Liked this? Then check out BBC to show Olympics on Super Hi Vision screens

Sign up for TechRadar's free Week in Tech newsletter
Get the top stories of the week, plus the most popular reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register

Follow TechRadar on Twitter * Find us on Facebook * Add us on Google+