Revolutionising the Formula E racetrack through data

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When you tune into platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music, you are unknowingly telling the streaming company, artists, and labels a lot about your music taste. That is how the next big hit or your “Daily Mix” playlists on Spotify are created – it all revolves around your preferences. The more you listen, the better the results get.

Every day, hoards of such data are tracked across music platforms, video games, and even racetracks, providing users with new, unrivalled experiences; and companies the ability to deliver such experiences.

Data is disrupting a multitude of environments. In Asia-Pacific, the big-data market is estimated to progress at more than 20% CAGR, from 2019 to 2027. Yet, much of the discussion in recent years has been centred around the enterprise. It’s time to look at how one of the world’s most valuable resources is transforming the most unexpected of industries, beyond the enterprise world.

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Racing with data, the second engine

If you’re familiar with motor sport, then you’ll know the intrinsic link between data and success.

From car improvements to race strategy, motor sport teams that embrace data have a massive advantage on the racetrack. Take, for example, the Jaguar TCS Racing team which competes in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, a single-seater motor sport tournament for electric cars. The team uses 50 applications and over 250,000 lines of code per race car to analyse data from previous races and test drives. The insights produced power-strategic decisions – that need to be made in real-time – in response to track conditions, energy levels, and competitors’ positions.

In the context of motor sports, data can be seen as the second engine. It is a foundational element of the sport, powering the driver through the race.

Boosting vehicle performance 

One example of how data is making an impact in motor sports is in improving the performance of the vehicle itself.

In Formula E, all teams are required to use the same car chassis and battery. Hence, when it comes to the vehicle, the focus is on developing the most efficient power train, which is an assembly of every component that thrusts a car into motion.

This process demands more than simply specifying and manufacturing hardware, such as the motor, transmission, inverter, and rear suspension. It entails managing multiple systems and software, along with algorithms that optimise the energy usage throughout each race weekend. These solutions generate voluminous amounts of data, which teams must analyse to effectively understand and improve vehicle performance.

Embracing advanced analytics and machine learning tools can ensure that valuable insights can be in the hands of engineers and strategists to make impactful adjustments to the cars before the next race. From looking at tyre wear to driver inputs, having access to this data – and powerful solutions to analyse it – teams can fine-tune vehicle settings for better performance on race day. This capability enabled Jaguar TCS Racing to clinch the runner-up title in Season 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, their most successful season yet.

Cutting through the noise to drive competitiveness

If you’ve watched any motor sport race on television, you’ll see cameras from all angles, commentators sharing race updates in real time, not to mention all the fan talk on social media. This is all part of the viewer experience: to create an engaging and exciting way to enjoy the sport.

However, this level of coverage is also valuable to the racing teams. For instance, broadcast media provides an eagle-eye view of the cars’ positions on track, while social media channels give insights into “behind-the-scenes” work of the teams. In a sport where performance is measured in milliseconds, any and all public information is potentially valuable in determining a team’s race strategy.

Consequently, filtering meaningful information from this constant stream of data can be an uphill task. Imagine the challenge of going through radio conversations or social media posts in a variety of languages and determining the most appropriate race behaviour to follow. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can be a winning companion. AI-driven platforms that provide text, audio, video, and image data analytics can cut through the noise and extract actionable insights to inform tyre changes, energy levels, and the next best move in a race.

Similar to the example of tuning into music-streaming platforms, fans are unknowingly providing usable data for racing teams the more they talk about the race on social media or other channels. This is the beauty of data – regardless of where it comes from, it can be made useful and have a massive impact.

Having the right data partner

While it is clear that data plays a monumental role in industries such as motor sports, race car drivers and teams may not necessarily be data experts. Whether in motor sports, music, or video games, it is necessary to find the right technical partner with specialist software knowledge, strong data capabilities, and most importantly, the right synergy to achieve the best performance possible – as seen in the case of Jaguar TCS Racing.

After all, data is only valuable when it is timely, accurate, and relevant. Hence, regardless of the industry, having the right partner to create value from data will be the ultimate differentiator for any organisation – be it on the racetrack, recording room, or boardroom.

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