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Siemens and the hand of God

During the 64 matches to be played in the 2006 World Cup, an estimated 3.2 million spectators will pass through the 12 stadiums to witness the action first-hand. From arrival to departure, the entire experience will be monitored, streamlined and enhanced by multiple systems from Siemens.
Written by James Bannan, Contributor

An estimated 3.2 million spectators will pass through the 12 stadiums in Germany to witness the action first-hand during the 64 matches to be played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. From arrival to departure, the entire experience will be monitored, streamlined and enhanced by multiple systems from Siemens.

For the last four years, Siemens has been working with the German Football Association (DFB -- Deutsche Fussball-Bund), stadium operators, local authorities and suppliers, to overhaul each of the stadiums and implement state-of-the-art systems covering ticketing, audio visual, security, fire and even car parking and traffic management.

"Our aim was to make the experience for fans as smooth and enjoyable as possible," he explained. "Fans who have had to wait for an hour to get a car park then another two hours waiting in a queue to get in aren't likely to be that impressed," says Juergen Schneider, Siemens' regional manager in Victoria, who has been heavily involved in the stadium projects.

Juergen Schneider, Siemens

Siemens was able to draw on its experience with venue system management -- over 130 stadiums, arenas and racing tracks globally -- and bring together a completely integrated system for each of the World Cup venues. Schneider claims that all the systems have been tried and tested at different events before -- for example, at the recent Bahrain Formula One and Melbourne Commonwealth Games -- but never on such a scale.

All systems are integrated in one way or another. The building management systems -- including security, fire control and video monitoring -- are all linked to the main control area, giving operators all the information required to control the running of the venue.

The ticketing system incorporates wireless technology -- RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips in each ticket are proximity scanned and checked against a central database. The technology allows certain ticket holders access to restricted areas or allows potentially troublesome groups to be pre-booked into a controlled section of the arena. Eventually, this technology will be used for e-payment of food, beverages and merchandise and can hook back into a loyalty rewards program.

To improve traffic flow around each venue, Siemens worked with local authorities in each city to minimise the huge peak hour-like conditions caused by mass inflow and outflow of fans to and from the venues. Infrared traffic eye sensors monitor flow and congestion, allowing local authorities to use radio or online updates to inform people of the best routes to take.

Most of the stadiums also feature Siemens' HiPath solutions -- a scalable network of data, VoIP and telecommunications technologies, passed through voice distribution and call centre networks, combining IP and data convergence, application support, client support, and security and management solutions. All the data systems are interlinked between stadiums, using the infrastructure of local carrier Deutsche Telekom.

All systems implemented were customised to suit individual stadiums, and this certainly presented challenges. For example, the Allianz Arena in Munich is brand new, whereas the Olympiastadion in Berlin is the original arena built for the 1936 Olympics, and is a protected historic monument. And yet, each stadium has its own particular character and style. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Allianz Arena. Its outer skin of 2,800 foil cushions are lit by 4,250 Siteco lamps and 25,550 Osram tubes -- both companies are Siemens subsidiaries. The lights can change colour to red, blue or white (the colours of the two local Munich clubs -- Bayern Munich and TSV 1860), and this "mood lighting" is changed regularly -- and particularly when a goal is scored.

Unique too is the push for the environmental impact of the World Cup to be minimised. The FIFA Organising Committee has set specific goals targeting various environmental aspects of the finals, called the FIFA Green Goal, such as requiring a 20 percent reduction in refuse in and around the arenas, 50 percent of all fans to travel to and from the venues by public transport, and a 20 percent reduction in both stadium energy consumption and water consumption.

The Allianz Arena and the Frankenstadium in Nuremberg both won green prizes from FIFA, with 80 percent of the technology provided by Siemens. The Frankenstadium has a photovoltaic solar power plant installed in the roof, planned and installed by Siemens. It generates 140kWp and has a supporting grid power system to ensure efficient running between games.

Bringing IT home
One of the problems any carrier faces when providing content to its local customers is when it originates from overseas, or even from outside one's own network. Guaranteeing the quality of the content from end-to-end is no mean feat. So when Telstra faced a roadblock, it turned to Siemens for help.

"Siemens were presented with the challenge of finding a solution to this problem in December 2004 by Telstra," says Marco De Luca, who works in Siemens' Telstra Solutions Group, and has worked closely with Telstra Global Business over the last few years.

Official FIFA World Cup free-to-air broadcaster SBS will rely on Telstra for all match telecasts. Siemens' solution to ensuring end-to-end service across disparate networks was the placement of devices called SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) multiplexers at either end of the signal path.

SDH multiplexing (SONET in America) is a flexible, high-speed communication technology that has been adopted as a global standard for digital signals carried across optical and electrical networks.

Traffic passing through the multiplexers is then monitored at both ends by a network management system, and via data collation the multiplexers' placement allows the receiving carrier to view the signal travelling across the various networks as a single unbroken stream. To enhance this model, with the co-operation of each network, multiple multiplexers can be placed within each network along the line. This provides the end carrier with the ability to narrow down communication problems by segmenting the view of the network stream.

A good analogy of the system is to think of two users wishing to communicate between networks, where the connecting networks are serviced by different carriers. Administrators at either end have to rely on the routing capabilities of those carriers, and have little control or information as to what's actually happening. Implementing a point-to-point VPN allows each end to view the data path as a single unbroken stream, even though it follows the same route as before. It also gives the administrators access to monitoring tools and the ability to proactively detect and troubleshoot problems.

FIFA World Cup full coverage

Multiplexer units have been installed at the International Broadcast Centre in Munich and the Telstra exchange in Sydney -- the stream is then carried by Telstra to SBS' studios. The live stream is tranported from Munich to Telstra's site in London by Deutsche Telekom -- this site is manned by over 200 Telstra staff. It's then run via various networks, including the Reach network, on to Sydney. Both Munich and Sydney have one active plus one redundant multiplexer, ready to spring into action should the primary device fail. In Siemens' head office in Bayswater, Melbourne, there's a remote connection straight into the multiplexer in Sydney, allowing Siemens experts to be on-hand to provide technical backup and troubleshooting.

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