The 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics represent an enormous logistical challenge, the most daunting of which, for Games technology providers, is security.
Some 14,000 athletes, 600 coaches and officials, and 20,000 media representatives will converge on London and other Olympic sites around the UK. Organisers will have to manage tens of thousands of volunteers, contractors and security personnel, and more than 10 million spectators.
A report called Technology for the Olympics, released in December 2009, recommended that the main technological challenges arising from the 2012 Olympics relate to the scale and complexity of the Games, rather than the use of cutting-edge technologies. When choosing the right systems the report suggested that the emphasis should be on tried and tested IT.
The Beijing Olympics in 2008 saw the use of smartcard technologies to help with security. Several vendors have for some time been working on tackling identity and access management (IAM) issues to make the Olympics a much safer and smoother event, creating single-card access for secured areas that integrate with IT or payment systems.
Smartcards can come in contact or contactless form, with single-, dual- or three-factor authentication. With single-factor authentication, using the card on its own will give access to a system or open a door. Dual-factor authentication adds a PIN.
Three-factor authentication goes a step further, adding another security measure such as a fingerprint scan. Contactless smartcards may be used for physical access control.
Eventually, spectators may buy their tickets online in the usual way, but take them to a kiosk at the venue where they would be identified based on at least two factors; for example, facial recognition and fingerprinting. Smartcards could also carry biometric and iris recognition information.
This added level of security could play an important role in crime prevention and detection. It would be far easier for Olympic officials and security personnel to identify the perpetrators of any crime and eject them from the Games.
This data could be incorporated into an integrated contactless payment card, which a spectator could use at kiosks to buy transport tokens and add money for purchases.
No one could use another person’s card and the absence of cash should smooth processes and cut down on queues.
A growing reliance on technology means there are more security risks that could threaten the smooth running of the Olympics. At the same time, the answer lies in technology itself.
Tony Ball is senior sales vice president of identity and access management technologies at HID Global
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