Smart card technology set to make the Olympics safe


Any Olympics Games, like the current Winter Olympics in Canada or the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games soon to take place in London undoubtedly pose a huge challenge for organisers in terms of security.

During the Games, organizers will have to safeguard the personal security of 14,000 athletes, 600 coaches and officials, and 20,000 media representatives. On top of this, they’ll need to make sure that everyone gets speedy and convenient access to the relevant events.

An organisational challenge on this scale needs robust and reliable IT security infrastructure. Smart card technology has already been successfully used at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, with many believing that it will form the basis of the first cashless and paperless large-scale Olympics. So how would this work in practice?

One option is that spectators would buy their tickets online, then take them to a kiosk at the venue where they would be identified based on at least two factors; for example, facial recognition and fingerprinting. The smart cards could carry biometric and iris recognition information.

This data would be incorporated into an integrated contactless payment card, which the spectator could use at the kiosks to purchase transport tokens and to fund the card for purchases. Essentially, this means that no one could use another person’s card and the absence of cash should cut down on time spent queuing for events.

The more we rely on technology, the greater the potential for it to be misused to disrupt the smooth running of the Olympics. Paradoxically, the answer to these challenges lies in the technology itself: smart cards have the flexibility to deal with the wide array of information security and access control risks that could arise at the Olympics. They are also presenting organizers with a valuable chance to enhance the visitor experience for spectators, manage cash flow and monitor security and identification issues.