Driving innovation in Formula 1
Tata Communications is at the heart of Formula 1 with a high-tech collaboration, writes a company insider. F1 is the world's most technologically advanced sport, and one where every millisecond matters. Whether it's transmitting data from one of the hundreds of sensors on an F1 car back to the pits, or delivering the action in real-time via an online feed to millions of fans around the world, in this high-pressure, high-tech environment, superfast connectivity is critical. Tata Communications is at the very heart of F1, working with the entire F1 ecosystem: from the company that runs the sport - Formula 1 - to the team that wins the sport - the reigning world champions Mercedes AMG Petronas - to the many broadcasters who take the sport to the fans globally. As the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1, we have enabled the sport to seamlessly reach out to its tens of millions of fans across the globe. Our teams both onsite at the circuit and in remote locations around the world work as one team with Formula 1, doing whatever it takes to ensure a brilliant race experience for the fans at home. At every Grand Prix, Tata Communications sets up a small town's worth of connectivity infrastructure over the course of three days - a process that would normally take several weeks. After the race is finished, we take the network down again in a matter of hours. By linking F1 to Tata Communications' network, with connectivity to over 240 countries and territories, the sport is able to transfer gigabytes of data and video from any Grand Prix, and even operate robotic trackside cameras anywhere in the world, from its UK HQ. The speed and reliability of this network connectivity opens the door for endless possibilities, way beyond what satellites can do, including broadcasting F1 on the Internet, and harnessing technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and the Internet of Things for enhanced interactivity with fans both at home and at the circuit. Giving Mercedes the speed to lead Innovation and data analytics define F1. A fraction of a second is the difference between success and failure in this sport. A winning team needs a car that can reach a top speed of over 233mph; a driver with a reaction time of less than 0.4 seconds; and a crew that makes the race winning calls in the heat of the moment based on accurate and up to the second information. Our partnership with Formula 1 has also opened doors to the wider F1 ecosystem. In 2013, we signed a deal with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport to bring the team three times faster track connectivity from the Silver Arrow cars to the team's UK headquarters.
This superfast connectivity underpins Mercedes' data strategy. During each race, the team dissects information recorded by hundreds of sensors on each car, generating about 2,000 data points a minute. Tata Communications' network has trebled the speed of data transfer for the team, enabling critical race car telemetry and sensor data - such as tyre degradation and temperature, airflow, aerodynamics, throttle, brake and oil temperature, and movements inside the gear box - to be transferred in less than a quarter of a second from a racetrack anywhere in the world to the team's factory in the UK and vice versa. With the volume of data analysed by the team growing each season, this infrastructure delivers a real competitive advantage for the team. The Mercedes team uses our global network for remote operations too. FIA regulations limit the number of staff from each team at a Grand Prix to 60, so Mercedes needs to be very efficient in how the team works. Superfast connectivity ensures that the team complies with FIA rules, while tapping into as much brain power as possible. Mercedes runs a state-of-the-art remote operations set-up, with a 'second' pit crew based at the team's factory in the UK, playing a direct role in each race, communicating, collaborating and exchanging data and insights with the pit crew at the track in real-time, as if they were in the same place. Remote operations enables Mercedes to make more accurate decisions, contributing to the team's success. Digital transformation of F1 F1 is arguably the most technologically advanced sport in the world - but there is a huge opportunity for the sport to transform itself through the latest digital innovations. Over the last five seasons, our unique partnership with Formula 1 has evolved, as we work together to bring fans closer to the sport and pave the way for fan experiences that are more adrenaline-filled and powerful than ever imagined. With a razor-sharp focus on innovation, we have pushed technology to the limits. A great example of this is a series of trials we have undertaken together with Formula 1 in areas such as ultra-high-definition video and live broadcasting over the Internet. These are the biggest and most disruptive digital technologies in the industry at present, which have the potential to transform how millions of people are able to immerse themselves in the F1 racing action. Together with the Mercedes team and Formula 1, we also organise the annual F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, which crowdsources ideas from the tech and F1 fan communities around areas such as big data analytics, virtual reality and - this year - the Internet of Things. The most creative idea gets a top prize of USD $50,000 and an opportunity to share their idea with our panel of judges consisting some of the leading people in the sport, such as the reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, and the Managing Director of Motorsports at Formula 1, Ross Brawn. As these examples show, unlike a traditional sponsorship deal, our work in F1 is a capability showcase. It's an ideal platform for demonstrating to our customers our global reach and ability to deliver in the most challenging of circumstances. That is why we often say that “if we can do it for Formula 1, we can do it for anyone”. The same technology expertise and network services we provide to F1, enable our enterprise customers to reach global audiences faster, expand into new territories, and drive better collaboration worldwide. Just like during the last five seasons with Formula 1, we harness our technology capabilities and focus on innovation to enable our customers across industries to get that competitive edge by driving digital transformation across their business too. Mehul Kapadia is Managing Director of Tata Communications' F1 Business.