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Intel and NTT Docomo to bring 5G smart city tech to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

As the Winter Olympics drew to a close in Pyeongchang on Sunday, Intel gathered partners and journalists at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to unveil its plans for the next instalment of the Games.

The Olympics will return to Asia in 2020, when Tokyo is due to pick up the baton for the global sporting spectacle. Intel’s chief strategy officer, Aicha Evans, outlined a new partnership with mobile phone operator NTT Docomo during Sunday’s session. The two firms want to prove the commercial-readiness of 5G by rolling out a network across the Japanese capital during the event, building on Intel’s work with KT (formerly Korea Telecom) in Pyeongchang.

Last summer, Intel struck a seven year technology partnership with the International Olympic Committee, and the firm sees 5G as a way to bring new innovations to the Games. The network, Evans said today, will have three major applications at Tokyo 2020. The first – high resolution video – could include 360-degree, 8K-video streams, enabling viewers to watch events from different perspectives through virtual reality headsets in unprecedented detail. The second major application benefits the athletes themselves; Evans said she was hopeful the 5G network could help competitors deploy artificial intelligence to assess the effectiveness of their training regime.

But perhaps the most ambitious goal of the partnership is to transform Tokyo into a smart city. “We’ve had a lot of connected cars in Pyeonchang,” said Evans, “but we hope that Tokyo 2020 will be one major controlled smart city.” She added in a blog that a smart city network, powered by 5G, could change how fans move through Tokyo during the event: “Because of heightened intelligence in devices and at the edge, the 5G network will tackle unique data-intensive workloads, such as pervasive facial recognition, useful for everything from stadium access to threat reduction.”

A partnership with Toyota is another way the 5G network might transform people’s journeys through the city. The car manufacturer’s Kenichi Murata said he wasn’t able to go into details about the project, but had previously spoken of the benefits 5G may have for assisting autonomous cars.

Intel’s partnerships with NTT Docomo and Toyota mark the start of a new era for the company. Outlining the firm’s strategy for the years ahead, Evans said: “We’re very, very, proud of our heritage as a PC-centric company, but moving forward, we’re data-centric.”