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Photos: The Millennium Dome goes high-tech

A sneak preview of the wireless and RFID tech at the new O2 arena

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

A sneak preview of the wireless and RFID tech at the new O2 arena

London's Millennium Dome has been transformed over the last two-and-a-half years into a music and entertainment venue now called simply 'the O2'. This week silicon.com got a sneak preview of the new-look Dome.

The 23,000-seat arena has been built by AEG and is sponsored by mobile operator O2. The technology infrastructure for the venue was installed by NEC.

The arena will be opened this weekend by US rock band Bon Jovi, and 1.2 million tickets have already been sold for upcoming acts including Barbara Streisand, Prince and the Rolling Stones.

The venue will also host sporting events such as basketball and hockey and will have an undercover ice rink in winter and an artificial beach in summer.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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2 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

Mobile and wireless technology will be in widespread use across the venue with 320 wireless access points - including 100 in the concert arena itself - and GSM boosters to ensure there are no problems getting a mobile signal.

O2 customers will receive a variety of special offers including pre-sale ticket priority for concerts and text-based services in the venue which give them access to special 'VIP' bars.

Prices for food and drink, however, are familiarly expensive - £3.50 for a beer and £7 for a sandwich.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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3 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

This is a view inside one of NEC's four comms rooms at the O2 venue. The facility houses 72 Intel Xeon-based servers, 90 terabytes of storage, a fully converged VoIP network and 15,000km of cabling. NEC said the back-up system ensures there will never be more than one minute of failure time.

The infrastructure supports the 2,500 people who work at the venue plus all the retail and food outlets in the entertainment 'district'. It took two-and-a-half years to put in place and one of the big challenges was ensuring the kit didn't get damaged or degraded by all the dust during construction.

Michelle Wahlgren, VP of technology at AEG, told silicon.com: "It was a very fun job. We were able to use the latest technologies and the most up-to-date modules. We have built a very complex infrastructure to cover the O2."

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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4 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

NEC has implemented a venue-wide RFID-based smartcard system to control staff access that is linked to the venue's time and attendance system. These are two of the terminals on which staff will place their cards.

The first customer extension of this will be an RFID-based loyalty card for corporate box holders. NEC said the technology is also available to create a full customer identity management system that would cover car parking, purchasing and collecting tickets - and allow Minority Report-style interaction with digital signs and adverts at the venue.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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5 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

The O2 venue houses an 11-screen Vue cinema featuring the country's largest digital screen, measuring 22m.

O2 is looking into screening live sports events on the screen as well as live concerts from the arena when events are sold out. O2 said it is also in talks with AOL about screening live concerts to mobile phones.

AEG's Michelle Wahlgren said the venue has the most sophisticated broadcast network in the UK with a direct link to BT Tower.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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6 of 6 Andy McCue/ZDNet

This is the O2 'Create' feature in the venue's entertainment district. It allows visitors to be superimposed onto a choice of music videos and have the film sent directly to their phone or email address.

Photo credit: O2

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