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Beijing prepares for 'High-tech Olympics'

Steven Schwankert | June 8, 2008
One of the three themes of the Beijing Olympics is to make it a "High-tech Olympics."

During the Games Hore will remain in the DHQ's inner sanctum, the Technology Operations Center (TOC). Staffed 24 hours per day beginning in July, 150 staff, including network and Unix specialists, will provide support in rotating shifts to operations at the venues. The Games' Incident Management System resides at the TOC, detecting any problems at the venues, prioritizing them and assigning support personnel.

One technology that will get a run-out, albeit a limited one, during the Olympics is IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). It does a better job of supporting applications like videoconferencing and high-definition television than its predecessor, IPv4, and offers opportunities for lower-cost construction of security networks and monitoring devices.

While time is running out on the number of IP addresses available to the world's Internet users, the problem is localized, so the clock won't strike midnight everywhere simultaneously. For China, which now has the world's largest Internet population, the witching hour for IP addresses could be as soon as 2010 or 2011, according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

"The deployments of IPv6 around the world are led by what is happening in Asia," said Matt Kolon, vice president of technical operations for Juniper Networks APAC. "Traditionally, IPv6 in Japan has been seen as the leader in deployment and research and development, but China has come on in the last few years."

By using IP networks, combined with Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies, Beijing can expand its video surveillance network at the Olympics beyond wired areas, so the extent of the network becomes a function only of bandwidth. The network is enlarged simply by adding more cameras and, if necessary, wireless network repeaters.

Security monitoring for the Olympics includes not only the Olympic Park, but the entire city of Beijing. Using China's existing IPv6 infrastructure, central monitoring of the Olympic Park, traffic throughout the city, and any number of other locations becomes cost-effective. Central control could be established with an analog network, but expansion and remote monitoring are far more difficult, and may require the construction of smaller, local monitoring stations.

The Chinese Education and Research Network (CERNET) is supporting IPv6 wireless applications designed for the Games, including receivers placed in 15,000 taxis which transmit their location and local traffic conditions to a central control room. IPv6 will also support the lighting controls in Olympic venues and security systems around Beijing.

Beyond the Games and its ultimate importance to Chinese network capacity, the near-term for IPv6 in China is less than rosy. "[IPv6] development and service offerings are promoted by the government, rather than the carriers," said Fang Meiqin, senior consultant at Beijing-based technology consultancy and research firm BDA. "Carriers find that IPv6 cannot bring in new objective applications, not significantly different than the IPv4 apps, so they don't want to invest. IPv6 can bring in better security and higher quality of service; however, this is not apparent to users."


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