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5G, VR and self-driving cars will power Games

2018 Winter Olympics will showcase Korea’s technological prowess
Nov 24,2017
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COUNTDOWN TO PYEONGCHANG



In recent years, countries have used the Olympics as an opportunity to show off their latest technology. The PyeongChang Winter Games, set in one of the most connected countries in the world, will be no different.

The site of the Games will be a testing ground for five different technologies that Korean companies have developed: 5G cell service, virtual reality, Internet of Things networks, ultra high definition displays and artificial intelligence.

Of the five, 5G is expected to be the centerpiece because it is the first time the service will be tested in real-world conditions. It is considered a successor to LTE and boasts speeds of 20 times higher than existing cellular networks, according to KT, the operator of the service and an official sponsor of the Winter Games.

The higher speed means more data can be transferred on the network, making it possible to run data-heavy services like live broadcasts of sporting events in ultra high definition and 360-degree virtual reality perspective. KT, Korea’s second-largest telecom company, says the 5G network will have the data capacity to handle more than a million devices per square kilometer.

Seven self-driving cars developed by Hyundai Motor Group will transport athletes from Incheon International Airport to Pyeongchang County, the host city, on opening day. That’s a distance of 200 kilometers (124 miles). Hyundai MnSoft will provide detailed mapping information from Incheon to Pyeongchang that the company says is accurate down to less than 10 centimeters.

During the Olympics, five self-driving buses will shuttle visitors to and from event sites.

Hyundai said the vehicles can run up to 50 to 60 kilometers an hour and will receive information on road obstacles and conditions from control towers via 5G. The vehicles will still travel with a driver in case of emergencies, though they will largely operate on their own.

Safety will be enhanced by CCTV cameras, which can send notifications to visitors when they inadvertently approach restricted areas. The cameras will also track the number of people waiting in line and notify spectators about approximate wait times for events.

Before the Games, athletes will each receive a smart band that they can use as a room key, to record data about their performance during training and receive general information like the weather. In curling, for example, the band will be able to analyze the speed and movement of the stone.

Bobsledders and luge racers will be able to test their sleds with a device that can analyze the sharpness and curves on a blade and its friction on the track.

An automatic translation service called GenieTalk Virtual Assistant, developed by the government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, will be the official translation app of the Games, which are expected to be attended by 40,000 people around the world.

The Ministry of Science and ICT plans to set up an ICT Pavilion at the Olympics to let spectators experience the technology at the Games. Upon entering the pavilion, visitors will be greeted by an ultra high definition screen that explains the services that are powering the Games. An “Exciting Zone” will allow spectators to enjoy virtual reality sports experiences on a bobsled and skis.

A “Technology Zone” will feature an aquarium with robot fish, and next to it, a translation robot will be at hand to help tourists. Visitors will be able to view images and video transmitted through 5G and demonstrations of artificial intelligence technology.

“Since we built the pavilion under the theme of high-tech and joyful, they will experience the thrill of being at an amusement park,” said Oh Sang-jin, general director of ICT and future planning at the PyeongChang Organizing Committee.

BY KIM DO-NYUN, LEE CHANG-KYUN and PARK TAE-HEE [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]