From university concept to the Olympics of the future

Posted on: September 13, 2016 by Mike Smith

For the past few years I have been fortunate to run projects with students from universities across the UK on a variety of interesting topics. The main purpose of these projects is to provide them with real-world IT challenges that they can work on during their courses. However it also brings something a little different for our clients; a new approach to address something they haven’t had chance to look at themselves, or some radical new thinking. It also helps us attract talent to Atos and builds our relationship with the universities which can assist in other ways ... such as performing research and doing business together.

As we follow the events in Rio, I have been thinking how the results of these projects might apply to the Olympics and other major sporting events in future, and outline a couple of examples here.


Have you seen all of those passes that athletes, staff and volunteers wear? It is just the visible part of a thorough and complex security process. Anyone who requires access to Olympic and Paralympic venues has to be accredited. As part of this process they undergo immigration, criminal record and security checks to help ensure the safety and the security of the games. Even the badge printers are secure! In the case of the Athletes their pass also acts as their VISA for entering the country that is hosting the Olympics. It’s a service that Atos provides to the Olympic Organising Committees.

One project I recently ran with university students was to develop an electronic identity badge. In a business context this was to consider employee interaction; bridging the electronic and physical realms.

Replacing traditional staff passes, it would indicate visibly not only who you are and your eligibility to be in the building – it would enhance this with other information:

  • Whether you are happy to be disturbed, or whether you’re too busy right now.
  • Increasing security by providing a mechanism for two-factor authentication.
  • Providing you with information about people around you with similar badges … for instance those with whom you’ve had recent electronic interactions. How many times have you emailed people across the office without realising?!

They came up with a really cool design; the Apple of identity badges:


...and focused on creating a proof of concept device using Arduino, fingerprint reader and miniature display.









With an ever increasing focus on security I can see us applying this electronic badge concept to major sporting events like the Olympics. With 11,000 Athletes and 300,000 accreditations overall, it’s an interesting application of the Internet of Things. With agreement of the individual, their physical location could be tracked to enhance personal security. Physical access permissions could be validated automatically and updated dynamically.

Outside the area of security Athletes could show off their achievements in the games - virtual medals to complement their Golds, and other more social activities such as how full their Pokedex is.




Turning our attention to spectators across the world, we are about to launch a university project that will explore the creation of an immersive experience for sports. A student team won the 2012 Atos IT Challenge competition (year of the London Olympics!) with their Multi-Lens application, which enabled a spectator to view an event from different vantage points.

atos-ascent-mike-smith-image-threeTaking this further, imagine that you could have a virtual luxury private box in stadiums in which you could experience your favourite games with friends.

New technologies such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Microsoft’s Hololens will enable us to experience a 3D live stream of the game, as if we are right there in the stadium, but with even more flexibility; not only looking in any direction but changing position by choosing camera points around the venue or perhaps even seeing the view of event officials.

Within the Virtual Private Box, the user can interact with other people and they can transform the space by, for example, adding virtual decorations. Creating a tailored environment that you and your friends can enjoy together – wherever you are in the world.

We’ll be launching several more projects for the next academic year and I look forward to seeing how they develop and what concepts like those above we will be able to take for major sporting events.

Go Team GB!

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About Mike Smith
Chief Technology Officer, Atos Distinguished Expert, Founding member of the Atos Scientific Community
Mike has been in the IT industry for over 20 years, designing and implementing complex infrastructures that underpin key Government and private sector solutions. Setting Atos technical strategy, researching new technologies and supporting the consulting and architect communities. Previously Mike has held technical and management positions in British Rail, Sema Group and Schlumberger. He has a daughter and a son, both keen on anything but technology. Mike's sporting passion rests with Test Match Special, and is jealous/proud of his son's Ice Hockey skills.

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