World Cup 2014 to be most hi-tech football event ever

Frank Lampard What do you mean it didn't cross the line? Frank Lampard's disbelief in 2010

Football is full of "what ifs".

What if the linesman had said that Geoff Hurst's second goal for England in the 1966 World Cup final hadn't actually crossed the line? Would West Germany have won instead, depriving England of its only trophy?

Technology of Business

What if Frank Lampard's ludicrously disallowed goal against Germany in 2010 had stood? Would England have gone on to win the match?

Goal-line incidents like these have left exasperated fans - and officials - crying out for technology to come to the rescue.

And although solutions have been used for years in several other sports, this will be the first World Cup to feature goal-line technology (GLT).

It is just one example of how this World Cup promises to be the most hi-tech and interactive yet.

Cameras galore

German company GoalControl has fitted 14 high-speed cameras - seven per goalmouth - to the roof of each of the 12 stadiums.

These are connected to an image-processing computer that filters out non-ball-shaped objects and tracks the ball's position to within a few millimetres, the company says.

When the ball crosses the goal line, the system - which has been thoroughly tested by governing body Fifa - sends a vibration to the referee's watch and the word "GOAL" appears on his screen, all in less than a second.

GoalControl GoalControl's technology features 14 roof-mounted cameras trained on the goals
Watch When the ball crosses the line the referee's watch will buzz and a "GOAL" message will flash up

Meanwhile, technology company Sony, which is supporting official Fifa broadcaster HBS, has installed more than 224 high-definition (HD) cameras which will capture more than 2,500 hours of sport during the tournament - more than ever before.

And this will also be the first time some World Cup matches are captured in the ultra-high-definition (UHD) 4K format, which is roughly four times the resolution of current HD TV.

This requires a satellite network capable of handling 100 megabits per second.

While most fans won't yet be capable of receiving a 4K signal, Sony's World Cup programme manager, Mark Grinyer, told the BBC: "We've proved UHD streaming can work and we're building a 4K archive for Fifa for the first time."

Connected Cup
Maracana Stadium The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will play host to the first "digital World Cup"

Fans - about three million attending the games and possibly four billion watching on TV - will be viewing, chatting, voting and betting simultaneously on a variety of digital devices, making it a truly multi-screen World Cup.

Start Quote

As the digital audience doubles, there's a tripling in complexity”

End Quote Alex Gibbons Akamai

"The ways people can watch content has exploded," says Alex Gibbons, UK and Ireland vice president for Akamai, the global content delivery network.

"There are more, better connected devices than ever before, and more people watching them."

Ian Foddering, UK and Ireland chief technology officer for infrastructure specialist Cisco Systems, agrees: "Two years on from the 2012 London Olympics, user expectations have increased in terms of their experience at such events.

"They now typically have an expectation of ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity enabling them to share exciting moments with the world via social media."

This presents practical challenges for content providers and IT companies alike.

Record breaker

For example, football app developer, Onefootball, has launched a dedicated free app for the tournament.

Chief executive Lucas von Cranach told the BBC: "This World Cup is going to break every record in terms of digital traffic and engagement - we're expecting seven digit downloads of our Onefootball Brasil app."

So how does the company prepare for such high traffic volumes?

"We've built a huge content management system that can cope with major increases in traffic - the load balancing is taken care of by our cloud provider, Amazon Web Services," he says. "We couldn't do what we do without cloud computing.

"But apps crash all the time," he admits . "A lot depends on the connection quality offered by the phone network provider, and that's out of our control."

Onefootball Brasil app Sports publisher Onefootball expects millions of fans to access its World Cup app

To get some sense of the scale of this digital World Cup, Akamai says it is expecting to handle up to 2.5 million live content streams at any one time across its network.

This compares to 1.6 million during the 2010 World Cup.

And daily peak data traffic could reach 25 terabits per second (Tbps), says Mr Gibbons, up from its usual peak of 15Tbps.

"As the digital audience doubles, there's a tripling in complexity," he says.

Odds-on favourite

Start Quote

The implementation and expansion of our wi-fi network has been rapidly accelerated in the last few months”

End Quote Telecoms firm Oi

One activity that is likely to generate big traffic during the World Cup is betting via mobile and online.

According to online payments company Skrill, nearly a third of UK adults intend to place a bet on the 2014 World Cup - nearly half of those will do it online and a quarter via mobile app.

The global value of bets placed using mobile devices is forecast to reach $62bn (£37bn; 46bn euros) by 2018 - a six-fold increase on the 2013 figure, according to Juniper Research.

"Mobile betting is likely to take more money than traditional bookies for the first time [at this tournament]," says Tom Levey, from app performance management company, AppDynamics.

"It's the first truly digital World Cup."

The company's online bookie clients will be processing hundreds of bets a second, he says. "As soon as we see peaks in traffic we advise on when and how to increase capacity. The companies can't afford to crash - minutes matter."

Paddy Power webpage Online betting will play a huge part in the World Cup

But increasing capacity isn't simply a case of plugging in to more cloud-based computer servers, says John Bates, chief marketing and strategy officer at Software AG, an IT services company.

"The biggest problem for service providers is the computational explosion associated with managing billions of transactions every second," he says. "This requires things like streaming analytics and in-memory architecture, and all this has to be done in real time."

Brazilian backbone

Brazilian telecoms company Oi, an official Fifa partner, has been furiously gearing up for the tournament.

"The implementation and expansion of our wi-fi network has been rapidly accelerated in the last few months," a spokesperson told the BBC. "We've grown from 78,000 hotspots in April to more than 700,000 now - the largest network in Brazil."

It has also increased the coverage and capacity of its 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks at key points throughout the tournament cities.

That will be welcome news for visiting fans wanting uninterrupted, high-speed access to their content.

But they should be wary about the cost of all this streaming content and interactivity.

With every 1MB of data costing about £5 in Brazil, unwary England fans who opt out of data limits set by their network providers, could face unexpected bills running into hundreds of pounds over the tournament, price comparison service Uswitch warns.

But if high phone bills, rather than goal-line incidents, are the only controversies of this hi-tech World Cup, fans will probably settle for that.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    Via Twitter Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent
    apple

    tweets: Amazing Apple quarter: record $18bn profit, 74m iPhones - most profitable product in history? But iPads disappoint

     
  2.  
    06:57: Greek euro exit? BBC Radio 4

    Lord Desai says most of the debt Greece owes is to public bodies such as the European Union and IMF. Greece cannot continue to pay off its debts for the next 20 years, he adds, and Greece and Germany have to decide whether they can afford for Greece to leave the eurozone. Anne Richardson of Aberdeen Asset Management points out £8bn of bank deposits have left Greek banks since November because investors see a so-called Grexit as having come "one step closer".

     
  3.  
    Via Twitter Stephanie McGovern Breakfast business reporter
    port

    tweets: Morning from the Port of Tyne - where today I'm talking about exports. #economy

     
  4.  
    06:44: Greek euro exit? BBC Radio 4
    Greece"s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is accompanied by associates

    Now that the Greek election has been won by Syriza, thoughts have begun to turn to negotiations over the country's debts. Greece could request to pay no interest on those debts for about five years, Lord Desai, economist and chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, tells Today. "That would save them about 4% of GDP," he says. But, he adds, there "really is no human way that Greece can pay the debt without ruining at least one generation's future."

     
  5.  
    06:31: GDP growth Radio 5 live

    Anne Richards, chief investment officer of Aberdeen Asset Management is the markets guest on Wake Up to Money. "You have to be a wee bit careful with quarterly numbers as they are subject to a lot of revision," she says. "The overall picture for the year was reasonably positive." Low construction growth was "a bit worrying." Strong sterling is a drag on GDP growth. Reliance on services rather than making things is also a challenge, she says. More engineers are needed.

     
  6.  
    06:20: Apple profit Radio 5 live
    The Apple logo

    The biggest quarterly profit ever for a company: $18bn, has been posted by phone pedlars Apple. Daniel Eran Dilger who writes for AppleInsider tells Wake Up to Money. Apple makes a load of margin from its high-end phones. They also make a lot when you break your power cable and have to splurge £65 on a new one, as presenter Adam Parsons learned earlier this week.

     
  7.  
    06:12: Services growth Radio 5 live

    More from Greg Madigan, the boss Subway UK and Ireland on Wake Up to Money. Hospitals, service stations and forecourts, or "non-traditional locations" are a big area of growth for the firm, he says. He used to be an air traffic controller, he adds.

     
  8.  
    06:01: Services growth Radio 5 live

    Services is what's propping up GDP growth, we learned yesterday. Greg Madigan, the boss Subway UK and Ireland is on Wake Up to Money. "The price of oil has come down putting more money in peoples pocket... one of the things that benefit from more discretionary spending is food retail," he says. They have 2,000 stores in the UK and Ireland now.

     
  9.  
    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning. Keep your thoughts on today's news rolling in via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and on twitter @BBCBusiness

     
  10.  
    06:00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. In case you missed it EDF became the last of the "Big Six" energy suppliers to cut its gas prices last night. And US tech giant Apple reported the largest quarterly profit in corporate history. Today sees trading updates come from Brewin Dolphin, Johnson Matthey, Sage and Anglo American. We'll bring you those numbers and more as we get them.

     

Features

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.