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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 8th Aug 2012

by Rosalie Marshall - 2nd Aug 2012 - v3.co.uk

Quote... "Although the value of big data analytics is far from obvious in the London Olympics, it is fair to say the testing of the technology and its worth to communities has been greatly expanded due to the event."..............


Athletes are not the only ones in the spotlight as the Olympics heads towards its second week. IT has taken centre stage as different parts of the industry have come together to ensure the event runs smoothly and efficiently.

In partnership with Cisco, V3 has taken a look at the IT forming the backbone to the Olympics infrastructure and presence online, notably areas such as security, network management and online video, and the rising use of big data.

Of course, large amounts of data is constantly processed and analysed due to the numerous Olympics competitions taking place each day, from athlete's times and scores to other data such as wind speed and temperature for events like tennis.

The number of visitors attending the competitions will also be noted, as well as their spend, and all such data will be analysed by the UK government to see whether the some £11bn spent on the Olympics has been worth it.However, apart from the obvious use cases of big data during the Olympics, there are a number of more specific examples, especially in the areas of transport and security.

During the run up to the Games, and as they now unfold, the big question continues to be whether London's transport networks will withstand the potential 25 per cent increase in commuters due to the event.

To ensure the networks do not fall apart under the pressure, public authorities have harnessed big data like never before to co-ordinate travel around the city. Transport for London's sophisticated computerised system, Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (Scoot), which already monitors traffic control systems in London so they can be adapted according to traffic and congestion, has now been expanded to around 2100 junctions throughout London.

In recent weeks it has also emerged that TFL has made major changes to the phasing of the 1,300 traffic lights across the capital to help free up traffic on dedicated Olympic lanes, reserved for competing athletes.  A TFL spokeswoman confirmed to V3 that the lights will respond to traffic flows in real time, with the red light being prolonged at some junctions if the dedicated lanes become too congested.  In a recent interview with V3, TFL Games Transport director Mark Evers said the organisation would be tracking multiple data sources during the Games to track the movement of people around London.

Oyster Card information is one data source that is being tracked to ensure TFL's predictions on the numbers of people commuting and the peaks of travel expected, are on the right track.

Additionally, TFL is monitoring real time CCTV footage and data from traffic stewards lining the street. TFL had considered collecting anonymised data from mobile phones to monitor the public's whereabouts, but this idea was never put into practice. TFL confirmed to V3 that the plans had been shelved, although would not give a reason why.

Inrix, a big data firm specialising in providing traffic information, is helping TFL move people around London. The free Inrix Traffic app uses multiple data sources to help drivers determine the fastest route and avoid delays with up-to-the-second traffic information. The app provides traffic forecasts that help travellers know what to expect on the roads before they take a trip.

In terms of security, London authorities are very likely to be using all types of big data to prevent threats to the event, although the examples of this have not been made public, probably as a protective measure.

"Now information on electronic devices, CCTV images and packet level data on networks, as well as other data coming from a variety of sources can be pulled altogether and analysed. We now have the compute power to do this and the software to do it. Before it was only possible to analyse each of the data sources in real time," Ovum analyst Tony Baer told V3.  "You also have the software available that can pick apart different elements of CCTV footage automatically, and then aggregate all the data that is tagged to create very valuable information."


Neuralytix big data analyst Ben Woo expanded on the issue. "Big data is likely to be used during the Olympics in many occasions but in a subtle way." "For example, the British Airport Authority is likely to prioritise the athlete's planes and prioritise them through customs to get them to the event on time," said Woo. He added that big data analytics is also likely to be used to alert the government to the types of passengers flying into the UK for the event.

"I believe a number of authorities, including London Transport and Scotland Yard are all working in conjunction with each other," said Woo.

Woo also pointed to a number of media companies using big data during the Olympics to give their readers further information on the general coverage of the event. For an event that receives such widespread coverage by the media globally, the use of big data is an opportunity for news houses to beat their competitors in the number of online hits received for the period.

"It's interesting how the New York Times is using big data to drive readers to the site. It has 12 people taking the core information and looking at ways it can be visualised," said Woo.

"Those interested can find out not only the horses taking part in the equestrian race but also their blood line and the family of horses they are from."

Although the value of big data analytics is far from obvious in the London Olympics, it is fair to say the testing of the technology and its worth to communities has been greatly expanded due to the event.




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