Tag: london. olympics

Londoners told to stop using mobiles

Long suffering Londoners, who are yet to see any benefit from the Olympic games, were told to stop using their mobile phones because they were interfering with telly coverage of the event.

Londoners were told on Sunday to avoid non-urgent text messages and tweets when events were being screened because overloading of data networks was affecting television coverage.

Commentators of Saturday’s men’s cycling road race were unable to tell viewers which bum in the air belonged to who because the GPS satellite navigation system travelling with the cyclists was broken.

Of course it was all being touted as particularly annoying for British viewers, who had tuned in hoping to see a medal for sprint king Mark Cavendish. Of course they forgot briefly that they did not watch because Cavendish, like most British great white hopes, was unlikely to get anything.

Apparently when they could not get through they vented their anger on Twitter at the lack of information and made matters worse.

The replacement for the UK’s democratic government, the International Olympic Committee spokesman, said the network problem was the fault of those silly UK residents who sent hundreds of messages as they lined the streets to cheer on the British team.

The spokesman denied that the Olympic Committee was suggesting that people should not use their phones.

It was just if it was not an urgent call please kind of take it easy, he said. He admitted that asking Londoners to stop using their phones was not really going to have much effect. It is not as if the IOC has rocket launchers on most of the tall buildings in the capital or anything.

Network pressure has also been caused by the fact that you can see many events live on smartphones.

Mobile operators and infrastructure companies had said they expected to be able to meet the extra demand but the IOC spokesman said it appeared the problem lay with oversubscription on one particular network.

It did not mention who the telco was but the official 2012 Olympic communications services providers are BT, Vodafone and O2, owned by Spain’s Telefonica. They all said they had not seen any network problems. BT says it has provided four times the network capacity of the 2008 Beijing Games and laid more cable to manage the feat.

O2 network shambles spells Olympics anxiety for carriers

British carrier O2 has left hundreds of thousands of its customers in the dark with a near network-wide blackout of its services, including voice calls and text messaging. While its customers are furious it spells bigger trouble ahead with the enormous payload of data and network traffic that is going to lean on all providers when the London Olympics kicks off this month.

Infrastructure in the UK has, quite suddenly, been turned on its head. The M4 motorway, a key road between Heathrow and the Olympic park, has been shut down because of a crack in a bridge. Natwest found itself in the midst of disaster as customers were unable to withdraw their money or access their bank accounts. Now, O2 has cut off communications for hundreds and thousands of its customers, altogether, and it is one of the largest carriers in the UK.

So far, so bad. The latest from O2 is that frustrated users should try disabling their 3G connection but this feels like little more than a distraction technique for customers to try as the company’s technicians try desperately to bring systems back online. Now,  it claims to have restored 2G connectivity and users are starting to get their services back.

Mobile networks are clogged anyway. Cisco and other networking giants recognise that there is too much data leaning on the carriers for them to handle or keep as a sustainable model, particularly as more and more smartphones and 3G connections are activated every day, not to mention LTE on the horizon – eventually – on these shores, already established in many corners of the world.

Telecoms analyst house Ovum agrees that there is a looming disaster for the UK under the considerable demand of the Olympics. Steven Hartley, practice leader, warns that there will be enormous network traffic spikes which will put significant pressure on the UK’s mobile networks, which are not exactly considered a shining example of European infratructure already.

“While UK mobile operators claim to be prepared,” Hartley says, “they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans”.

Hartley does not doubt that mobile capacity upgrades at heavy-use areas will take place. But, he warns, if there is a major public transport failure – and who could consider such a thing in London? – there is a threat of people spilling over from well prepared, high network traffic locations to under-prepared peripheral cells. And this could “prove disastrous”.

Ovum points out that the BBC has plans to stream live video of 27 different events on two Saturdays during the games, while BT admitted it needed to push fixed broadband investments forwards between six to 12 months to deal with the heavy demand.

According to Hartley, where that demand will appear will be difficult to predict and, as a result, fixed and mobile preparations are both difficult to assess.

Technology performance company Compuware draws parallels between the banking problems with Natwest and RBS. Director of IT service management, Michael Allen, said in a statement: “Not being able to make a call will be as serious to many people as not being able to take cash out of the bank.

“Unfortunately, these problems will only continue to increase unless organisations take a fundamentally different approach to the way they manage the peformance of the IT systems we rely on.”

IT systems are getting increasingly complex and independent, so O2 delivering a good service to customers depends on a long list of different components, systems, and applications working together in harmony.

“This can make preventing these types of service disruptions difficult as well as finding the root cause time consuming,” Allen said. “This is why a new approach needs to be taken – companies must manage their IT services in a much more integrated service-centric manner”.

Telecoms software provider, Tektronix Communications, believes the Olympics could pose a serious challenge to operators, and that they must be ready for it. “Operators need to assure the connected experience for the long haul,” Lyn Cantor, president of the company, said.

Threats of a less mundane nature cast their shadow over the Olympics, too, if MI5 chief Jonathan Evans is to be believed. Just one month before the national security spend-a-thon of London 2012 opens its doors to the world, he announced the UK faces an “astonishing” cyber security threat.

Meanwhile, software expert Professor Robert Dewar told TechEye unmanned drones have not been thoroughly tested in UK airspace and there is a slim, but real chance that a software failure could threaten a nasty surprise to the people of London.

Twitter suspends London Olympics protesters

Twitter has bowed to pressure from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, or LOCOG, to shut down the Space Hijackers account.

The Space Hijackers describe themselves as an activist group which uses spoof and satire to ridicule authority and large corporations. They have previously targeted the world’s largest arms fair – DSEi – Nike, and are now looking at the Olympics.

It has declared itself the official protest group of the Olympics. On its website, the group has altered the official Olympics logo to display black and red, the traditional colours of anarchism. It seems like this attracted the ire of LOCOG, a committee which critics say has dedicated itself to serving the interest of the Olympics’ corporate sponsors.

The account holder received an email from Twitter staff that read: “We have received reports from the trademark holder, London organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd., that your account, @spacehijackers, is using a trademark in a way that could be confusing or misleading with regard to a brand affiliation. Your account has been temporarily suspended due to violation of our trademark policy.

“The suspension is temporary,” the email continued. “If you have created a brand commentary, fan or news feed account, you will need to edit it to comply with Twitter’s best practices before your account is reactivated.”

The only conclusion to draw is that LOCOG has plans for its own official protesters. We expect the contract will go to G4S.

When LOCOG isn’t clamping down on knitting enthusiasts, it is acting as an enforcer for the big name brands involved in the Olympics. For example, only certain brands will be permitted in the entire designated Olympic area of East London, and advertising from rival brands is banned outright.  

The Hijackers list the reason they are protesting the Olympics on their website. In a statement, the Hijackers dismissed the accusations of trademark infringement. 

“We have to say we were surprised at the speed our account was taken down as it is clearly parody,” the Hijackers said, “and there is no chance of us being confused with the IOC or any other regulatory body. The fact that we are calling ourselves the ‘Official Protesters of London 2012 Olympics’ points to the parody at every stage”.

“Given that there is an official chocolate bar, an official junk food supplier, a never ending list, we felt someone had to step up to the mark and declare themselves the Official Protesters”.

The statement finished: “We were shocked and saddened that a company who so vociferously supported the Arab spring were so quick to curtail our freedom of speech when approached by a large corporate interest.

“This is not simply abut us making an anarchist Black and Red version of a logo, it’s about silencing all dissent around the Olympics in order to protect the brand recognition and sales opportunities of a few multinational companies. We feel the sport, the point of the games, has got completely lost under the weight of logos and corporate sponsorship”.

Twitter told TechEye that it does not comment on individual account suspensions. LOCOG was approached for comment, but at the time of publication, it hasn’t replied. 

*Update The Space Hijackers account is back. On its return, the group tweeted: “Please understand that your account is subject to permanent suspension if it is found to further violate our Rules regarding impersonation”.

Acer becomes London Paralympic Games sponsor

Taiwanese hardware company Acer has just announced that it is putting its support behind the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and has officially signed an agreement with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

The games, following on from the London Olympics, will take place in London from 29 August.

Acer CTO Jackson Lin said in a statement that supporting the Paralympic Games will demonstrate the company’s dedication to “promoting the true spirit of excellence”.

“The participants of the Paralympic Games go beyond their limits and demonstrate truly inspirational examples of passion for sports and a winning spirit that everyone at Acer admires,” Lin said.

LOCOG commercial director, Chris Townsend, said that Acer’s support has been “invaluable”.

Acer also said it will show off its “best equipment and teamwork” during the event.

Hydrogen taxis are unveiled for the 2012 Olympics

Taxis at London’s 2012 Olympics could be running on hydrogen fuel cell technology, if current trials are successful.

The hydrogen taxis would look identical to London’s usual black cabs, but like electric cars, the new taxi does not produce any emissions.

The fuel cells for the taxis are designed and built by Intelligent Energy, and use hydrogen to make electricity. Sports carmaker Lotus is responsible for integrating the fuel cell into the body of the taxi. Pressurised hydrogen produces electricity and feeds it to the taxi’s battery pack under the floor.

Impressively these hydro-taxis are capable of a top speed of 81mph, and can, according to Intelligent Energy, achieve a range of up to 250 miles on a full tank of hydrogen and reach 60mph in less than 14 seconds.

The taxis only take a few minutes to fill up from empty at one of six planned hydrogen filling stations in the capital. At these stations wind and solar power would be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

London’s deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, said that the city would aim for a fleet of around 20 to 50 taxis in operation. The first few hydrogen taxis, which were funded in part by the government’s Technology Strategy Board, have already been built at the Lotus headquarters in Norfolk.

Transport for London (TfL) also aims to add 300 new diesel-electric hybrid buses by March 2011, after which time all new additions will have to be hybrids. Currently there are 56 hydrogen hybrid buses in circulation.

The TfL office also hopes to cut its carbon emissions by 40 per cent and save £90,000 per annum on utility bills with a newly unveiled green power plant.

The combined heat and power plant, which cost £2.4m was unveiled late last week, and is located at TfL’s Palestra building in Southwark.