NEW YORK (TheStreet) - For the next 17 days, all eyes will be on the city of Sochi in southern Russia, host to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Touted, however, as the most digitally-enabled Winter Olympics ever, the technology stakes are incredibly high for Sochi 2014.
While controversy over Russia's anti-gay laws, unfinished hotel rooms, and security worries continue to swirl around Sochi 2014, some 213,000 spectators are expected to flood into the Black Sea city for the twenty-second Winter Olympics. An estimated global audience of 1.5 billion will watch the competition unfold on TV.
Aside from politics and the sheer spectacle, the technology demands of the Winter Olympics are immense, with 100,000 testing hours already devoted to Sochi's systems, according to Atos Origin, the event's worldwide IT partner. Atos has dubbed Sochi 2014 as "the most digitally-enabled Winter Games of all time."
Even the Sochi 2014 logo is the first Olympic games emblem to form a Web address.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of Sochi 2014, has said social media is central to his vision for the games, describing the event as "a digital brand". Technology will clearly play a crucial role at the twenty-second Winter Olympics, from helping broadcasters send coverage to mobile devices to tackling cybersecurity challeges.
From Adobe (ADBE) to Avaya and Microsoft (MSFT) to Samsung, here are some of the companies that are helping deliver a digital Olympics.
Adobe, NBC, Go Primetime
Adobe is working with Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC Olympics to provide digital broadcasting of the Sochi games across desktops and mobile devices via its Primetime technology.
The San Jose, Calif.-based firm is no stranger to the Olympics, having worked with NBC on its coverage of the 2012 London games. "The main takeaway from London is really about making sure that the more content that can be made available across devices, the more consumption will happen," Jeremy Helfand, vice president of Adobe's Primetime business, told TheStreet. "Sports seems to be a driving content channel for video consumption online."
Adobe has worked with Microsoft to integrate Primetime into the software giant's cloud-based Azure Media Services, which lets broadcasters deliver online video and ads to millions of viewers.
Helfand told TheStreet that Adobe and NBC will provide 1,000 hours of live streaming from Sochi, encompassing all 15 disciplines and all 98 events. For the first time, Primetime will offer both live and on-demand replay of all Olympic content, according to the executive. "Now, you can watch an entire event on replay start to finish - before, it was either clips or highlights," he said.
Cisco (CSCO) is also working with NBC Olympics, which is using its Videoscape cloud technology for transcoding and content management. The networker's cloud software supports the streaming of live and cloud-enabled on-demand content for on-site production in Sochi, according to Cisco, which announced the partnership at CES earlier this year.
The BYOD Olympics
Avaya, which is the official supplier of networking equipment to Sochi 2014, expects about 120,000 devices to access the Olympics' network, from smartphones to tablets and laptops. Clearly, Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, will be a key technology theme in the Black Sea resort.
"We are calling this the largest BYOD Olympics, ever," explained an Avaya spokeswoman, in an email to TheStreet. To cope with Wi-Fi demand, Avaya has deployed 2,500 wireless access points throughout the Olympic venues. Each device will be assigned a specific level of access based on the user's log-in credentials by using Avaya's Identity Engines technology.
By way of comparison, Cisco, the networking partner for London 2012, enabled 1,800 Wi-Fi hot spots when the summer games were held in the British capital.
Avaya will also use virtualization and Fabric network technology in Sochi. "This technology enables a relatively small team to manage the network and make changes as needed," explained the spokeswoman. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm will also run video feeds between different venues enabling spectators to catch all the action. These feeds will run over the network via IPTV, according to Avaya.
There is, however, concern that visitors to the games could easily fall prey to cybercriminals. Kaspersky Lab, the official supplier of anti-virus software to Sochi 2014, has already warned visitors to be on their guard against hackers.
"With the rising sophistication of cybercrime, events like the Winter Olympics raise legitimate concerns about its dangers," explained Kaspersky Lab, in a blog post earlier this week. "Extra caution is required while using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid using any unprotected network, as your Internet traffic can be relatively easy for criminals, who are connected to the same hotspot, to intercept it."
Microsoft Brings Cloud to Sochi
Microsoft's involvement in the games extends far beyond the broadcasting realm. The tech giant's Windows Azure technology supports the official Web sites for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, which take place in Sochi between March 7th and 16th.
The deal between Microsoft Russia and the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee was signed at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2012. During peak traffic times, the software maker will use its Azure cloud to allocate resources to the Web sites via data centers around the world.
Launched in 2009, Windows Azure forms the cornerstone of Microsoft's corporate cloud services strategy. In 2011, Microsoft and Toyota (TM) teamed up to develop in-car applications on the Azure platform. Other Windows Azure users include BMW Latin America, Harris Corporation (HRS) and Herbalife (HLF), which tapped the technology to support distributor Web sites.
Samsung and Maria Sharapova
An official partner of Sochi 2014, Samsung is providing wireless equipment to support the games - the tech giant's Galaxy Note 3 is the official phone of the games.
The Apple (AAPL) rival is seizing the marketing opportunity offered by the Winter Olympics. Samsung has opened four 'Galaxy Studios' in Sochi where visitors can sample the company's wares, compete like an Olympian in the Sport Interactive Zone and support their favorite athletes through the ChatON app in the Studio's Cheering Zone.
Earlier this week, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova launched the Galaxy Studio within the city's Olympic park, which forms the centerpiece of Samsung's Winter Olympics campaign. Sochi native Sharapova is Samsung's "brand ambassador" for the games.
--Written by James Rogers in New York.
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