A glimpse of the future? South Korea to pilot next-gen ICT technology at 2018 Winter Olympics

A glimpse of the future? South Korea to pilot next-gen ICT technology at 2018 Winter Olympics

Immersive virtual reality, 5G technology and 360-degree views aim to enhance the viewership experience for winter sports fans.

VR mock-up of Alpensia ski jump pic
Virtual reality mock-up of the Alpensia ski jumping venue at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. (Photo: National Information Society Agency)

SEOUL: Picture being able to experience first-person 360-degree views from athletes at the Winter Olympics via virtual reality. Imagine as well the possibility of being guided to your seat at a sporting venue on your mobile phone, via an augmented reality-based direction app.

The catch? It is only available in South Korea at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

Enter the next-generation 5G data transmission standards, which will pilot at the Winter Games to support such applications, as part of the event’s ambition to become the most high-tech Olympics to date.

It is rare for a host country to go to great lengths to help rival nations gain a competitive advantage, but that is what South Korea plans to do for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The move is part of the country’s goal to host the most advanced Olympic competition to date.

Implemented by South Korea’s National Information Society Agency, the country hopes to make the Winter Games a testbed for a host of next-generation infocomm technology (ICT) it intends to roll out in future.

“To develop 5G-based services (in future), we are nurturing and promoting related industries,” said Mr Kim Du-hyun, director of the National Information Society Agency.

“By doing so, we can further develop our country’s infocomm technology, and we can further nurture and promote our country’s relevant industries, and thus make advancements in other countries.”


At the 2018 Winter Olympics, 5G pilot networks will be set up at Games venues, as well as at Incheon airport among others.

South Korea's National Information Society Agency said it will “establish an infrastructure for providing diverse realistic media and real-time control services.”

Seen as the basis for the development of a host of next-generation technology, ultra-high speed 5G wireless data transmission system – up to 10 times faster than current 4G networks found in everyday smartphones – is expected to support data-hungry applications such as 360-degree virtual reality videos in high-definition formats, as well as the remote piloting of drones and driverless vehicles of the future.

With the technology, visitors to the Winter Games can also expect futuristic experiences such as augmented reality-based navigation.

Augmented reality navigation pic 2
Augmented reality-based navigation apps, one of the technologies on show at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Photo: National Information Society Agency)

They can also experience what it is like to compete in downhill skiing or bobsleighing for instance, via virtual-reality cameras installed on athletes' helmets and IoT-linked sporting equipment.


The country is hoping to set a benchmark for technological implementation at the Olympics. “We are preparing various services using our advanced ICT technology,” said Mr Kim. “I hope that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics can be a leading Games to present (our technology capabilities).

“Our technology will be the world's first, never before provided by other services. We will need to start from the beginning and play a leading role in its implementation,” added Mr Kim.

He described some of the challenges in convincing the International Olympic Council to get on board the high-tech ambitions for the 2018 Winter Games. “During the process, there were challenges in making the process a reality … there was the procurement and securing of the budget, some of the participating companies had to follow IOC regulations.”

There were also challenges in getting companies to participate, as they first had to be sponsors of the IOC, Mr Kim said.

While the proposed technologies aim to provide realistic Winter Games spectator experiences via mobile devices, nothing beats being in a sporting arena first-hand, he added.

“The ultra-high definition and ultra-wide viewing will provide a realistic experience," Mr Kim said, adding that he does not expect ICT to have an impact on ticket sales. “However, it’s not the same as coming down to the competition venue and experiencing the atmosphere with other people, in addition to hearing the sounds of spectators cheering.

“It will be a different feeling, so I hope that during the Winter Olympic Games, people will come down and enjoy the atmosphere."

Source: CNA/fr