Glasgow 2014: what the most connected games ever means for tech innovation

The Games have been a key catalyst for long-term business

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has been the latest highlight in a fantastic summer of sport. For the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland, Glasgow has played host to 15,000 volunteers, 6,500 athletes and 1,400 Games employees alongside thousands of spectators and fans.

The atmosphere in the city was electric and the games are rightly being heralded as the most successful to date. Behind all this, however, is another triumph in technology and engineering – the network which made Glasgow 2014 the most connected Commonwealth Games to date.

Sport and technology have had a symbiotic relationship for a very long time, and arguably it is the advancements in networking technology that have had the greatest impact of all. Networks, in one way or another, have been involved in sports for over 100 years ever since early telegraph-based broadcasting.

Massive traffic

Today, organisers rely heavily on the network to support nearly every aspect of large-scale sporting events. This includes handling the data traffic created by the huge volume of social media activity generated by excited spectators, to broadcasters bringing real-time coverage and analysis to their audience. And let's not forget advanced connections within venues such as smarter ticketing and accreditation. In essence, the sporting world is becoming ever more entwined with the network to improve efficiency, reduce costs and keep fans updated on the latest action.

As the official network infrastructure supporter of Glasgow 2014, Cisco provided a highly secure and robust network infrastructure enabling the connection of devices, data, voice and video services across all 13 venues.

This totalled a staggering 240km of fibre across the games' site – the equivalent length of 600 Hampden Park running tracks resulting in an installed bandwidth equating to 520 gigabits per second. Glasgow has seen more Wi-Fi, more venue enhancements, and smarter ticketing and accreditation than any Commonwealth Games to date – and having a reliable network which can provide the backbone to accommodate this was absolutely crucial.

The future evolution of networking technology, already in development today, will continue to enhance spectator experience as well as open new business models and revenue streams. Venues themselves are already becoming smarter and more capable, thanks to technologies such as Cisco's own StadiumVision, which enables everything from dynamic price lists and photographs on concession stands to stadium-wide live mobile video featuring instant replays and alternate angles for individual fans.

Connected athletes

This is just the beginning, however, and as the Internet of Everything gathers pace not only will physical objects be connected, but also athletes. At Cisco, we predict that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world; this will in part be driven by the ever increasing popularity of wearable technology. By using wearables, athletes will be part of a network providing better information to trainers, fans and media channels as well as to the athletes themselves. The result is a growing sensor-enhanced, data-driven community that will have a radical impact on the way that we all experience sport.

Looking to the future, Glasgow 2014 is the beginning of a new age for Scotland's innovators and entrepreneurs. In addition to the technology installed for the Games, Cisco is building out its focus on innovation in Scotland through the expansion of our National Virtual Incubator (NVI) programme. A key part of Cisco's British Innovation Gateway initiative, which aims to give support to technology entrepreneurs and startups through mentoring and financial support, the NVI programme aims to connect entrepreneurs with likeminded innovators.

In Scotland, the NVI programme is being extended with the set up of two new nodes – one at the University of Strathclyde and the other at the University of Abertay. These nodes will enable young entrepreneurs at these universities to access collective wisdom, big ideas and collaborative guidance by connecting them with a nationwide network of likeminded peers. A fitting legacy following the most connected games in history.

Glasgow 2014 has set the standard for the future in terms of connectivity both on and off the field. Although it currently holds the record for the most connected games ever, it will no doubt be one which will be continuously broken. For us, Glasgow 2014 has not been about just helping to deliver the games today, but investing in the people and business connections that will help to foster that innovation for many years to come.

  • Andy Chew is Managing Director, Architectures, at Cisco UK&I