IoT and 5G at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

By Hubert Yoshida posted 04-30-2018 00:00


Recently I had the pleasure to meet with a group from KT, South Korea’s largest telephone company. It was very exciting to hear about their experiences at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics where they partnered with major companies like Intel and Samsung with their 5G wireless network technology to deliver the most high-tech Olympic games in history! With the world’s telecom giants racing to unveil the world’s first 5G, KT was the first to provide a large-scale pilot service and show case it at one of the world’s most public venues, the Winter Olympics.


The Pyeongchang games opened with dazzling display of a record setting 1,218 Intel drones with onboard LEDs, joined and orchestrated through 5G connectivity to a central computer. Intel provided live or on-demand VR coverage of 30 events, a project powered by the 5G network. Between 3 and 6 camera ‘pods’, each containing 12 x 4K video cameras were used for events such as speed skating, alpine skiing and bobsleigh. These cameras generated as much as 1TB of data per hour. While Gigabit Wi-Fi could have provided this speed and capacity, 5G provided ubiquitous coverage across the venue and real time control because of its low latency. In KT’s 5G pilot, a video demonstrated the speed and capability of 5G, using real-time, 360-degree video of athletes competing, displayed on a Samsung 5G display. It’s a feat that would be impossible on current 4G technology without buffering. Although the peak speeds for 5G could be 20 times faster than 4G. The 5G speeds reached in these trials were 4 time faster than 4G which still allowed for crisp streaming of the Game’s action from all angles.

In addition to video streaming and VR, other 5G enabled communications use cases included: Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled robots to help inform and entertain fans and athletes in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English. Self-driving busses served thousands of fans with safe, efficient transport between venues. The speed of the 5G network enabled them to receive information in real time from a central control center, helping them to avoid obstacles or crashing into other vehicles. The busses were also able to download and display 3D video files on transparent screens giving fans a front row seat even before they arrived at their chosen event.

Samsung equipped two Dutch speed skaters with smart suits with sensors positioned over the material to feed live body position data to the skaters’ coaches. Coaches were able to analyze their racers’ posture and make improvements using coded signals to a communications device on the skater’s wrist. While these were used only in training and not in competition, the Dutch team won Gold medals in seven of the ten individual speed skating events and four medals in short track speed skating. Over the years the Netherlands has built a dedicated culture and athletic infrastructure for producing speed skating superstars. What improvements could be possible with 5G technology in their training regimen?

This successful showcase of 5G technology will help to accelerate the development of standards and the delivery of commercial 5G networks in 2020 or sooner. While 4G wireless mobile technology revolutionized the consumer market and boosted the use of cloud, 5G is set to transform the edge for IoT and Industry 4.0. 5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technology that will enable new kinds of users on the edge that require very low latency, low power consumption, low cost, high reliability, and exponentially higher data loads.  The sharing of information among systems like smartphones and robots will be enabled by 5G as well as bi-directional M2M communications which will provide data services that will differ from those that offer voices services for mobile phone users. Vertical industries like e-commerce, manufacturing, medicine, automotive, oil and gas, and logistics, are developing transformational business propositions on top of 5G.

Congratulations to South Korea for their success in delivering an amazing, high tech, Winter Olympics and to KT for providing the first large scale pilot of a 5G network which will help to advance the commercialization of this technology and unleash the full potential of IoT and Industry 4.0 applications.

Here is a short video of the amazing opening drone display at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics