Triumph and tribulation: a look back at 2012

By Stuart Sumner
13 Dec 2012 View Comments
olympic-collage

Mo Farah slapping his head in wide-eyed disbelief at the scale of his accomplishment. Ben Ainslie winning because his opponents had made him “angry”. Jessica Ennis winning a gold in the heptathlon with a personal best score. Teenager Ellie Simmonds winning four medals in the swimming pool, including two golds. And the marvel of the opening ceremony, with its five sparking golden rings, and of course the Queen parachuting into the Olympics stadium accompanied by none other than James Bond himself.

Further reading

The Olympics and Paralympics were hailed across the world as a fantastic achievement in terms of their presentation and organisation, and were a great advertisement for London, and the wider UK. No less impressive was the technology that underpinned the Games and made the spectacle possible.

Indeed technology was given centre stage during the opening ceremony when inventor of the world-wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, was put in the spotlight, a moment he marked by tweeting “This is for everyone” in celebration of the democratic nature of the internet.

Telecommunication provider Cisco’s network infrastructure underpinned the delivery of voice, video and data traffic for London 2012, which was relayed over BT’s communications services network to the people officiating, reporting, competing in or watching the Games.

The IT department of the London Organising Committee for the Olympics Games (LOCOG) won the coveted Outstanding Achievement prize at this year’s Computing/BCS UK IT Industry Awards.

The department’s mammoth task included managing and maintaining 5,500 kilometres of cable, 1,854 wireless access points, 30,400 laptops, desktops and mobiles, 200,000 hours of software testing, and 110,000 pieces of technology equipment overall.

Gerry Pennell, CIO of LOCOG, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

“It’s been a challenging and difficult project, and it’s because the team has worked well that we delivered. We’re all very honoured to win this award,” he said.

Away from the Games, 2012 has been a landmark year for IT in several other fields.

Telecoms

This year saw the launch of 4G services in the UK, with Everything Everywhere giving its customers access to potentially higher download speeds - nudging 50Mbit/s in ideal conditions - from the end of October. But with speed comes cost, with customers paying £56 per month for an 8GB data limit - which at optimum speeds is entirely used up in two minutes and 40 seconds.

And the service seemingly created problems shortly after its launch, with many EE customers experiencing a partial or total outage of 3G services in early November. Some users were still complaining of frequent dropped calls and poor access to internet services at the time of going to press.

The decision to allow EE to commercially offer 4G services before the competition was, not surprisingly, unpopular throughout the rest of the industry. Ofcom announced the £1.3bn 4G auction schedule in November, which could see further 4G services becoming available by next May.

Mobile operators O2 and Vodafone are expected to bid in the auction, and Ofcom said that any firms wishing to bid for spectrum must submit their application by 11 December 2012.

EE, the mobile operator formed by T-Mobile and Orange, was allowed to re-purpose its 2G spectrum to deliver 4G services, after Ofcom declared that “there was no material risk that [the benefits consumers would gain from 4G] will be outweighed by a distortion of competition”.

Public sector

The government launched its CloudStore in February, making 1,700 IT services available to public-sector organisations via the cloud.

In keeping with the government’s declared intention to use UK SMEs where possible, it used Solidsoft to build the facility, although the collection of services is hosted on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Eleanor Stewart, engagement manager for the G-Cloud programme, said that the initiative is expected to change the relationship between public-sector IT suppliers and their customers.

“We hope that this site will help us to make the big step change in the way that suppliers and buyers do business on ICT services in the public sector,” wrote Stewart on a government blog.

The government also published a list of 257 suppliers on the store, ranging from smaller SMEs through to major companies like BT, Capgemini and IBM UK.

The service was criticised for amounting to little more than a list of companies, which would appear to be of questionable value to public-sector organisations who could have gleaned the same information from a quick email bashed out by an office administrator.

Indeed an updated version released in April added the ability to make purchases through the store, so long as the buyer is registered to use the government’s eMarketplace platform.

The update also received criticism from the industry almost as soon as it was announced. Posting a comment on the site announcing the new iteration, CEO of dedicated hosting company Memset, Kate Craig-Wood, said that it appeared to be running on antiquated technology.

“The side nav doesn’t appear to work properly - it only appears after you search for something in the main search box. People should be able to drill down into a sub-set showing comparable services, not have to guess the right combination of search terms and flags to select.

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