Beijing 2008 ran on IPv6; if London 2012 hasn’t implemented it, that could be an international humiliation, says Axel Pawlik
From the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, questions have been asked as to whether London 2012 will be able to live up to the spectacle of the 2008 games in China. One area people may not have considered however is whether Great Britain can match China with regards to its IT infrastructure.
Everything about the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was IPv6 ready. From the website, to data networking, camera transmissions for sporting events and civil applications such as security systems, lighting and thermostats. Even the 15,000 taxis in Beijing were monitored via IPv6 sensors so that traffic congestion was measured quickly and effectively relieved.
Beijing ran on IPv6
All network operations at the Games were conducted using IPv6, meaning, at the time, the games were the biggest ever showcase of the new Internet protocol.
It is well known that there is a culture that promotes early technological adoption in China and the country has always been a leader in IPv6 adoption. However, at the time of the games, there was still considered to be a healthy amount of IPv4 addresses remaining. The region’s last remaining IPv4 addresses were allocated earlier this year; almost four years after the games took place.
London does not have the luxury of time, with the last of Europe’s IPv4 addresses expected to be allocated before London 2012 begins. Whereas China was determined to leverage IPv6 to cement its position as a technological innovator, for Great Britain it is no longer about being ahead but about not being left behind.
It’s clear that London needs to follow Beijing’s example and act as springboard for further IPv6 adoption at all levels, from content providers to ISPs to individual businesses, leaving a positive legacy that expands beyond the massive sporting venues purposely built for the games.
London2012.com is not IPv6 ready
Whereas London2012.com broadly acknowledges that technology has an “important role in both the build up to 2012 and the games themselves”, specifics are not mentioned. Showcasing IPv6 at the 2008 Olympics was an early goal for China in its presentation of the games and led to a number of stories cementing China as being at the forefront of technology, even at a time when adoption wasn’t such a pressing issue.
Development began more than five years before the Beijing event. With the London 2012 opening ceremony just under a year away, we have heard nothing about IPv6 at the games and worryingly, the London2012.com site is not IPv6 ready.
If, as expected, IPv4 has run out by the time the Olympics starts, it’s important that London leads the way for the rest of world by implementing IPv6 to help further raise awareness of this IP network issue amongst a global audience. It must highlight the benefits of the new protocol, such as the massive amount of Internet addresses that allow any ready device to connect to the Internet.
Another example of the benefits London2012 should be promoting is stateless auto-configuration, which allows new devices, particularly non-traditional devices, to be added to networks quickly and easily with little advance configuration. For example, IPv6-enabled video cameras can automatically configure IP addresses without requiring the manual configuration required for IPv4.
These IPv6-enabled video cameras can be accessed and controlled through central software programs. Implementing IPv6 enabled cameras would enhance transmission capabilities from venues and demonstrate IPv6’s advantages.
An up-to-date IT infrastructure offers great opportunity to show that Great Britain is taking its role in securing the global Internet infrastructure seriously. If global adoption of IPv6 is not achieved, we could see the creation of a two-tiered Internet, one running on IPv4 and one on IPv6. This would have a dramatic impact on the global Internet economy and business and consumers.
China set a precedent by presenting the first major event to implement IPv6 and Russia is already planning to implement IPv6, at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi. As it stands, the technical community has not been informed of IPv6 plans at the London Olympics. To be responsible for taking a step back in the IT infrastructure of the Olympics is not something Great Britain should be happy with and could set a dangerous precedent for other aspects of the games.
No one wants to be beaten.
Axel Pawlik is managing director of the RIPE NCC, the Regional Internet Registry for Europe