As the Olympic Games 2020 approaches, Tokyo wants to demonstrate its cyber mettle to the world. But what about cybersecurity?

When Tokyo hosts the 32nd Olympic Games next year, Japan’s technology leaders will find an ideal showcase for their smart technologies in wireless connectivity, video streaming, real-time data and automated services.

NTT Group, which owns the largest telecom operator in the country, is a key technology provider for Tokyo 2020. The 120-year-old company intends to make 5G fully available in Tokyo in time for the Games.

5G services will be provided by NTT Docomo, while network management, Wi-Fi and other services for the organizers and 43 sports stadiums will be provided by NTT Communications. These technologies will help break the most obvious barrier for international sports people and spectators – the Japanese language.

Smart communications

NTT’s virtual assistants and chatbots, called “COTOHA” (not an acronym but a trademarked name), are able to understand questions asked in English to help non-Japanese-speaking visitors navigate around the Games Village and the rest of the city.

The COTOHA Translator adopts neural machine translation to provide more accurate translations from Japanese to English and vice versa. Offering full-file translation for Microsoft Office, PDF and text formats, its Japanese-English translation takes only two minutes to translate a file that would take humans about 7 hours – without changing the layout format. The Japanese-Chinese version was released last year in October.

Combining the virtual assistants, chatbots and translators that make up NTT’s COTOHA technology, we can picture the improvements and enhancement to communications at the Tokyo 2020 Games. In fact, NTT recently demonstrated a smart unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) platform that translates speech-to-text-to-translated-speech during video conferences, with the translated text saved as meeting notes.

Smart sports venues

Leading sports venues around the world are already embracing IoT, AI and advanced analytics for fan engagement, infrastructure and facilities management, traffic control and transport management, as well as public safety.

Japan’s sports industry is expected to grow from US$50 billion in 2015 to about US$136 billion by 2025, thanks in part to major events such as the Olympics 2020 and the World Masters Games in 2021.

Leveraging and catalyzing this growth, technology providers in Japan are looking to transform sports stadiums with facial recognition for better fan engagement and public safety, high-density Wi-Fi for seamless user experience — be it for live video or replaying video via VOD, food delivery via mobile apps, cashless payments and ticketless admissions to events, seat navigation and loyalty programs.

Sixteen Human Support Robots (HSR) and Delivery Support Robots (DRS) will be deployed to help in ushering guests, providing concierge services and serving food and drink at certain functions. Staff can be equipped with mechatronic exoskeletons called Power Assist Suits to ease the handling heavy loads for the games at airports and related facilities.

Smart stadium solutions extend beyond the stadium. The seamless user experience for fans and visitors include digital signages, real-time match and player information and statistics, and a digital marketing platform for game sponsors and advertisers.

For fans who are unable to watch a game live due to sold-out venues, weather and traffic conditions, or distance (especially for away matches), virtual sports venues can be created at a home stadium or a sports bar with real-time streaming augmented with virtual reality, live commentary and instant playbacks for an immersive ‘as-if-you-were-there’ experience.

Smart cybersecurity

In the push to promote artificial intelligence and seamless digital connectivity in the smart city for 2020, security has to be ultra tight, and cybersecurity is a major concern.

Major global sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup face a growing threat from cyber-attackers. At the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, for example, internal Internet and Wi-Fi systems went down just as the opening ceremonies began – admitted by officials to be the result of hackings.

This explains the heavily publicized sweep of some 200 million network-connected devices by Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology for lapses. The survey will notify ISPs about vulnerable users and devices while observing personal data protection guidelines.

The institute’s spokesman Tsutomu Yoshida has noted publicly: “Too often, we see webcams… that are already being hacked because security settings are too simple and their images are being seen by outsiders. Sometimes they are put on public websites without the owners being aware.”

Following the Olympic-Calibre Cybersecurity playbook by RAND Corporation, we can expect extreme vigilance in:

  1. Early planning to assess threats, shape a community of stakeholders, build trust, and establish mechanisms and processes for information sharing, incident reporting, and problem resolution
  2. Deep cooperation for sharing information with all cybersecurity stakeholders, including the private sector, to effectively mitigate cybersecurity risks
  3. Ensuring that all stakeholders understand the mission and work toward a common goal, bolstering trust and commitment
  4. Defining stakeholder roles and responsibilities, and revisiting them throughout the planning process, to help stakeholders understand how best to contribute and whom to contact when changes or incidents arise
  5. Allocating generous resources appropriately to reduce cybersecurity risks, prioritizing threat types and threat actors
  6. Detering the riskiest adversaries with a targeted cyber defence campaign, or convincing casual attackers

All eyes on Tokyo

How successfully managed the events turn out to be will set the stage for Japan to win back some mindshare when it comes to changing the world’s mindset about its insular markets and quaint juxtapositioning of all things ancient versus all things groundbreakingly new.