(News Focus) Cutting-edge ICT services ready for PyeongChang Winter Olympics
By Kim Han-joo
PYEONGCHANG/GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- With the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea's eastern alpine city of PyeongChang just one year away, game organizers and local tech companies are putting the final touches on their information and communications technology (ICT) and science technology before their debut.
A wide range of advanced technologies and products in the ICT sector such as the fifth-generation (5G) network and artificial intelligence (AI) will be showcased at Olympic venues in PyeongChang, about 180 kilometers east of Seoul, organizers said. Also, nearly 6,000 laptops, 2,700 desktops, 6,700 wifi connectors, and more than 18,500 smartphones will be utilized for the successful hosting of the global sport festival.
"ICT is a must-have service for the successful hosting and operation of the Olympics," the organizers said in a press release. "Without the support of ICT, the Olympics are virtually impossible."
One of the showcase events was held on the sidelines of the ongoing International Skating Union (ISU) Four Continents Figure Skating Championships at Gangneung Ice Arena, the venue for figure skating and short track speed skating at the PyeongChang Games, on Feb. 16. Gangneung is a sub-host for the upcoming Winter Games that will stage ice sports.
KT Corp. -- a South Korean broadband Internet and mobile carrier which released a plan to launch a trial service of the advanced mobile 5G during the games for the first time in the world -- set up a booth inside the arena for a test band.
Although visitors were unable to experience the super-fast mobile network during the ISU games due to technical difficulties, KT said the network will undergo a stabilization process for four to five months before next year's game.
Visitors will be able to enjoy high-speed communication services that are 1,000 times faster than the current fourth-generation wireless networks through KT's electronic devices inside and around the stadiums.
KT Corp. showcases its broadcasting technology using the fifth-generation (5G) network at Gangneung Ice Arena, the venue for figure skating and short track speed skating at the PyeongChang Games, on Feb. 16, 2017. (Yonhap)
Also, the 5G service will be provided on public transportation, including shuttle buses running between venues, trains bound for PyeongChang, as well as autonomous buses.
Autonomous buses manufactured by South Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will be operated during the Games. The buses will be run on a trial basis on the opening day from Seoul and will serve as a shuttle throughout the games.
Organizers said they hope to build the so-called "5G Triangle" so that the super-fast network can be adopted for Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and also for the 2022 Winter Games in which Beijing is one of the candidate cities.
KT said it plans to release the full-fledged commercial service of the 5G network about one year earlier than initially planned in 2020.
The 5G network allows users to download an 800-megabyte movie in a second, compared with 40 seconds on the LTE-Advanced network, currently billed as the world's fastest.
Game organizers also unveiled an augmented reality (AR)-based map to the public for first time on the sidelines of the ISU games. The AR map, which can be activated on smartphone and tech gadgets, will enable visitors to quickly find their seats within stadiums.
South Korean earlier announced that it will invest more than 400 billion won (US$358 million) over the next four years in developing new and indigenous virtual reality (VR) and AR technologies.
"Visitors will be able to reach their seats much faster with this AR map, which is currently in the stage of development, rather than with an ordinary map," said a KT official not to be named.
A KT Corp. official shows an augmented reality (AR)-assisted map at Gangneung Ice Arena, the venue for figure skating and short track speed skating at the PyeongChang Games, on Feb. 16, 2017. (Yonhap)
Major sports, such as ski jumping and snowboarding, will also be filmed by 360-degree VR cameras, and will be broadcast on the 5G mobile communication that will provide realistic experiences to viewers enjoying sports games at home.
Samsung Electronics Co.'s Gear VR was displayed on the sidelines of the arena, allowing visitors to watch the ISU games.
"The quality of the broadcasting is not as good as I expected," said one of the visitors. "However, it really feels like the athletes are just right in front of me."
Also, organizers said they plan to operate an AI-assisted call center that will provide various information regarding game, tourism and other information vital to both visitors and athletes.
Also, major local broadcasters will carry the games on ultra wide vision (UVW) screens and ultra high-definition (UHD) broadcasts.
A group of local cable TV operators has already started a pilot programming of UHD, but major television broadcasters are set to officially launch the service in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province in February.
Game organizers said they will also provide Internet of Things (IoT) services in and around Olympic stadiums and venues so that visitors will be able to get information ranging from game schedules, accommodations, tours and shipping through their smartphones.
The basic idea of IoT is to connect all objects to the Internet and give them the ability to identify themselves to other devices and people in order to exchange data for improved efficiency and convenience.
A visitor tries out a virtual reality (VR) gadget at a promotion center of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games located in PyeongChang, about 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 16, 2017. (Yonhap)