THE BLOG

Vancouver and Sochi: 6,000 Miles Apart and Worlds Apart in Technology Terms

12/03/2014 14:22 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 10:59 BST

With the Winter Olympic Games done and dusted for 2014 and all the many athletes, organisers and journalists back home, the Avaya team has been looking back on our previous Olympics experience and marvelling at the great distance the world and technology have come in only four years.

There may be nearly 6,000 miles between Sochi and Vancouver (the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games) but in many ways the distance between the technologies we had at our disposal then, and what we had to work with in Sochi, is even further.

One of the easiest ways to catalogue the difference between the two events is in terms of the devices available. In 2010, the official phone of the Games was the Samsung Omnia II - a perfectly functional mobile with a 3.7" screen, 800Mhz processor, 256 MB of RAM and a 5 megapixel camera. The official phone of the 2014 Sochi games was Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 - one of the new breed of 'phablets' with a 13 megapixel camera, 5.7" screen, 12 times the amount of RAM and a Quad core, 2300 MHz processor capable of the kind of heavy lifting that would probably have made the Omnia II melt.

In only four years our devices and our demand for connectivity have sky-rocketed, our embrace of the multiple digital and social channels now available has become unbreakable and, as a result, our expectations of technology and communications at home, work and at play are completely different.

At the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics the demands for bandwidth and connectivity, though far from inconsiderable at the time, with today's eyes seem relatively minor. The tablet market was in its infancy at the time of the games, and smartphones accounted for only around 13% of mobile devices. Fast forward to 2014 and the picture is very different. Smart wireless devices would make up the lion's share of connections and the Sochi network was designed to manage up to 54Tbps, meaning it had at least 10 times the capacity of the Vancouver Games network.

Back in 2010 we only had to provision for the one bandwidth-hungry device per user - last month, we had to provision for no fewer than three - and the presence of tablets, phablets and smartphones at Sochi had a significant impact on video consumption over the network.

The change in wired versus wireless connected devices is also staggering. In Vancouver, wired traffic outnumbered wireless by a factor of 4-to-1. In Sochi this ratio was entirely reversed. According to a December study by Business Insider Inc., less than 5% of the world owned smartphones back in 2009 - today, only just over four years down the line, more than 22% of the global population (approximately 1.4 billion people) own a smartphone.

Smartphone-wielding spectators aside, throughout the Russian Games, there were 40,000 Olympic athletes, volunteers, IOC members, members of the media and ground crew watching the events unfold and they were all sharing, uploading and streaming footage, photos and opinions with the rest of the world. Each of those many members of the Olympic family were reliant on the Avaya network, and while we knew that there would be vast amounts of data travelling back and forth, it was only at the moment the Olympic cauldron was lit that we could really know the kind of data and the device numbers we would be dealing with. The thousands of Olympic Family members joining the network created a peak demand - once all the athletes found their seats and started posting messages and emails - within that single stadium of 250 Mbps with similar levels at the closing ceremony. Around 58% of connections were from smartphones, 37% from laptops and a surprisingly low 4% from tablets.

Crossing the finish line to our three years of work in creating a network at Sochi that would be able to tackle the demands of the hyper-connected generation, we are looking forward to seeing what technology will facilitate at future events. When we consider how quickly things have progressed in such a short space of time, we can only imagine how different the world, its technology and its demands for connectivity will be by the time the next Olympic Winter Games rolls round.

On top of 120,000 smartphones and tablets, will we be welcoming tens of thousands of wearable devices to South Korea in 2018 for example? I wouldn't bet against it...