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Massive network being laid for Toronto PanAm Games

A vast, high-capacity communications infrastructure is being set up to connect the 40 or so venues for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games.



A vast, high-capacity communications infrastructure is being set up to connect the 40 or so venues for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games.

Jeff Seifert, chief technology officer with Cisco, which in combination with other sponsors, is providing the communications technology for the Toronto 2015 Games, says that the area the communications must cover here is much larger than for the Commonwealth Games just held in Glasgow. Whereas there events were clustered in a radius of about 20-kilometre, in Toronto the venues are spread over a 200-kilometre radius around the Golden Horseshoe and north to cottage country.

Besides connecting to the competition venues, the network is set up to link with critical nodes such as the main operations and logistics centre, a technology operations centre, and Pearson International Airport.

The infrastructure must carry a stream of data for a host of services. Among the most critical are the Games’ timing and scoring systems. The information must be relayed immediately to the Cisco International Broadcast Centre where the CBC and all the Americas broadcasters will be located.

The network must also carry two-way “immersive” teleconferencing, as well as other data such as that related to security and the accreditation of 20,000 volunteers.

But, says Seifert, “Where the bandwidth really becomes hungry is in the combination of spectators and the media — not just the broadcasting, but the photographers with their digital cameras. They’re firing off thousands of pictures.” Meanwhile, in a stadium of 15,000 to 20,000 people, about half will be on their mobile devices surfing the Internet at any one time.

Dedicated fibre optic cabling, or “dark fibre,” is being used, with a capacity of 10 Gigabytes per second. Cisco’s co-sponsor beanfield Metroconnect is pulling the cable through downtown Toronto and the suburbs. In the remote rural equestrian venues, communications will depend on satellites.

The data will be processed partly in the Cloud, but also in two physical data centres that are geographically separated. Today the technology is so miniaturized says Seifert, “what 10 years ago used to take up 1,500 square feet of space in a data centre, can now fit in one cabinet. Because things are becoming so ultra condensed, you can fit 48 computers in [something] the size of a pizza box.”

Seifert explains: “The building systems, whether it be lighting, security, a badge reader, the CCTV video surveillance — all these are going on the internet protocol and on the same network. So [the challenge is] how you keep all these things on the one network very reliable and also very secure.”

There are myriad other design issues, such as “all the fire safety issues in terms of putting cabling inside conduit.”

The technology providers have also been working with building engineers. “We engaged a number of firms to help us with things like the radio [transmission] within a venue,” says Seifert. “Think about how much concrete there is in venues like the new Hamilton Tiger Cats stadium. It requires very specialized designs in terms of how do you get wireless to work in these venues with such a high density of people. People are mostly made of water, which, like concrete can absorb a lot of radio wave.

“We look at creative ways, like how do you mount antennas into handrails so that they don’t stand out and don’t block accessibility? So large sporting events and venues necessitate a specialized kind of skill set that is a crossover of technology engineering and understanding structural engineering. It is a great example of how you merge together engineering, architecture and technology.”


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