Earlier this week a vendor flew a few folks involved with IT for the Taylor Family Digital Library out to Vancouver to see some cutting edge stuff. One of the stops was the Headquarters of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) where we spent about a half hour with the VP for IT, about 40 minutes with the Manager of Photographic Services, and had lunch with the webmaster for the 2010 Olympic website. While much of what we saw may not be directly applicable to our new library building, it was truly humbling to have the time of these people, and I'm really looking forward to the Olympics now so I can watch all this stuff succeed.
Much of the technology happening behind the scenes is in partnership with Atos Origin, a France-based global IT company I'd never heard of, but which is apparently huge. Their colourful logo was everywhere throughout the HQ building.
Fascinating photography stuff. Nick has built custom sleds that can be hooked up wirelessly to the fibre-optic cable that's been installed on the ski hills which will allow photographers to send their shots down the hill to their editors even before the skier has reached the bottom of the hill. Folks aren't going to appreciate this because we're all so used to live video, but to get pro still shots from remote venues that quickly is really a huge technical achievement.
IT is really in tune with social media and user-generated content, and rather than fight a losing battle, will be collecting user-generated content (muchly from YouTube) in a "best of the web" portion of the site. And of course you can become a fan on Facebook, or follow the Olympic Torch Relay on Twitter. I learned a new word as they described how the licensing around video rights work: Coopetition. I like it :-) The website is built on the CoreMedia CMS and should prove to be mobile friendly. They mentioned that by far the majority of their mobile traffic so far has come from iPhone or iPods, followed by various BlackBerry devices. They said something about the Samsung Omnia as well, but I didn't note what.
One of the neatest things we saw all day was a sneak peek at a data-visualization tool they've built called the Medal Wheel. In addition to the traditional tabular format displaying medalists, they'll be using an application built in JavaFX to allow users to dynamically drill through both historical and current medal results, slicing and dicing by country, gender, and sport as you go.
We learned about their simulation runs to ensure everything works well when the games begin. They know things will go wrong, but think they're ready to handle anything that comes up. Simulations include unplugging random machines, thowing a #2 person into a leadership position (your boss just went to the hospital), and similar, etc. All servers are set up on site, then shrink-wrapped and sent out to the venues, where they're set up and should prove good to go. There's a LOT of redundancy too.
Lots of neat multimedia stuff in the downtown Commerce and Media Centres at UBC Robson Square.
Final stop of the day was unrelated to the Olympics, but to talk about an installation of SunRay2 virtual client displays (aka thin clients). I'm intrigued; they seem pretty good, but I would love to hear from any of you who have practical experience with these things - what are your thoughts please?
So that's how I spent my Tuesday. The rest of the week has been quite a bit more low-key ;-)