Commonwealth Games 2014: Cisco Sees Value In Sporting Partnerships

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Cisco UK CEO Phil Smith says the Commonwealth Games partnership will benefit both Glasgow and the company for years to come

The “most-connected Commonwealth Games ever” will benefit Glasgow long after the closing ceremony has finished, according to Cisco UK and Ireland CEO Phil Smith, who says working on such events is a huge opportunity.

Cisco was the official networking partner of the 20th Commonwealth Games, deploying eight firewalls, 441 switches, six intrusion prevention systems, 378 wireless access points, 40 routers and 2,300 IP phones across 40 venues in the Scottish capital.

Smith says the technology used was robust rather than “super cutting-edge” as there was no margin for error. In total, Cisco’s infrastructure provided 520Gbps of total bandwidth, with more than 10,000 different devices connected to the network during the games.

Networking changes

Phil Smith Cisco“The venues and athletes themselves have grown in their expectations of being connected,” says Smith, explaining it’s not just smartphones and tablets being used, but also wearable technology like heart rate monitors and Fitbits.

The Wi-Fi network at the athletes’ village has been described as the biggest piece of infrastructure at the Games and was constructed using knowledge from previous events, with Cisco performing a similar role at the 2012 Olympics in London. Smith says that the technical demands of major sporting events are “uniform” but the context and environment are different.

He admits that Cisco sometimes questions the value of working on such projects but says ultimately “we’ve learned it’s a good thing to do”, as the prestige can attract the best new graduates and the company can learn things that benefit its business.

Why bother?

“For us at Cisco it’s been an interesting time, because we’ve seen a tremendous change in the way the world has evolved with networking technology,” he says.

Much of what has been learnt by Cisco will be shared with organisers of the next Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018, and indeed the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Given that there was virtually no Wi-Fi at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and that the London 2012 network was 30 times bigger than the one at the previous Olympics in Beijing, Smith makes the modest prediction that the record for the most connected Commonwealth Games will be set every four years for the “foreseeable future.”

‘Rolling’ legacy for ScotlandDell Computers

However it won’t just be a networking legacy left behind. Smith, a Scot, attended the University of Glasgow, and says the Games have done a lot of good to the city: “It looks different, it feels different. This has definitely given Glasgow a lift.”

Cisco has used its involvement with Games to share its vision of the Internet of Everything (IoE) and held a joint event with the BBC’s Research and Development department at the Glasgow Science Centre to showcase future technologies in television, such as Ultra HD and IP products.

The company is also expanding its British Innovation Gateway (BIG) – a nationwide series of initiatives which aims to provide entrepreneurs and startups with access to support and funding. As part of the BIG, two new nodes of the National Virtual Incubator (NVI) will be set up at the University of Strathclyde and University of Abertay.

Smith calls these schemes a “rolling legacy” for Scotland and believes that sometimes major events like the Commonwealth Games need to happen to stimulate investment.

“Technology … can be tremendously positive in the way it changes lives,” he declares.

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Glasgow 2014

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Glasgow 2014 © Steve McCaskill