BT aims for 'net' gain at London 2012

BT aims for ‘net’ gain at London 2012It’s fast, consistent and set to make a big impact at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. No, it’s not one of the thousands of athletes who will be taking part, but a BT developed technology that’s a breakthrough in automated network design.

The use of BT NetDesign at London 2012 will enable high-level designs for the communications network infrastructure of venue buildings to be generated in about 30 minutes, once the system has received and analysed the appropriate data. Each design will show the exact location of equipment, including racks switches and cable.

Using more traditional methods a network planner could take two weeks or longer to complete a similar sized project.

BT NetDesign is unique in its ability to take a computer aided design (CAD) showing the location of communication services and then, using ‘intelligent’ software, create a network communications infrastructure that will keep equipment and overall cost to a minimum.

For example about 80,000 connections will be needed for London 2012 and BT has estimated that the number of switches and support equipment can be reduced by about five per cent as a result of using BT NetDesign.

Where network communications infrastructure is already in place the technology will use it to make maximum use of cabling and conduit systems to further cut costs.

The key benefit of BT NetDesign however is its ability to redesign following a change by customers. It means a specification on a equipment or cabling change can easily be changed and a new design produced quickly.

Artificial intelligence

Anthony Conway, a member of the project team at BT’s research laboratories at Ipswich, where BT NetDesign was initially developed, says the traditional skills of design by network planners are not lost in the technology but are captured and automated before being embedded into software.

He says: “Embedding design expertise in a software application using intelligent heuristic methods to optimise a network design at the lowest possible cost also has many customer advantages.

“Heuristic methods are used a lot to search for potential answers to network problems. They can help find the best way to meet hard design rules, explore ways of keeping costs down and provide a resilient network.”

BT NetDesign will be employed in the design of the network infrastructure for more than 75 competition venues and support buildings which will house 80,000 network connections, 14,000 CATV connections and 1,000 WLAN access points. About 4500km of internal cable will also be used together with a huge amount of communications network equipment.

The BT NetDesign research and development team is working closely with design experts from BT’s London 2012 delivery programme venue design team to ensure the project is on track to meet the London 2012 infrastructure milestones.

Colin Norfolk, BT network designer, is delighted with the progress made since the project began eight months ago.

“This technology produces designs with much greater accuracy than the estimating techniques used previously. It’s easily reconfigurable to allow a ‘what if’ scenario to be produced and it delivers credible and a consistently good product from CAD layouts to detailed bills of materials.”

But as Anthony Conway points out there is much more riding on BT as the official communications services provider for London 2012.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase BT capability and brand. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games project is one of the most valuable, visible and prestigious contracts awarded to BT. Successful completion of this particular sub project is key to maintaining the company’s reputation.”