In this guest blog post, one of the winners of the first challenge of this year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, Hari Ramachandran, talks about what inspired him and his team mate Rahul Khatri to take part in the Internet of Things themed competition, and their love for the most technically advanced sport in the world.
“There is no silver bullet, no simple answer to come up with the concept of life. There is much more than black and white. Every situation is different. Every environment is different. You need to have a constant reflection of what’s happening around you.” These powerful words were said a few years ago by Toto Wolff, Executive Director of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. The beauty of F1 (and life) lies in preparing your best, performing your best, and analysing the rest. As a designer, it’s had a lasting impact on the way I approach my work and life every day.
My team mate and friend Rahul and I, we love F1 – the thrill, the intricacies, the engineering, the design, emotion… really all of it! I got heavily into F1 after meeting Rahul, who grew up in a racing family back home in India. Rahul’s dad used to rally and passed the passion of motorsport over to Rahul and his brother – so much so that they’ve even built their own rally car! F1 for both Rahul and myself represented incredible engineering complexity manifested in a beautifully intricate way. This inspiration has passed over to the way we approach designing products and experiences for people.
Balancing the power of computing and human intuition
For the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize in 2017, Rahul and I worked on a solution we call Apex. It’s an end-to-end application designed for capturing data from IoT devices and sensors across team personnel, race operations and logistics. We spent the first couple of weeks of this project doing a lot of research and understanding the use and experience cases that an F1 team faces leading up to race weekend, during race weekend, and after the checkered flag. By further understanding the challenges team members face, we were able to discern key performance triggers that would have a significant impact.
Unlike many systems that solely rely on an artificial intelligence enabled system to make decisions, Apex strikes a balance between the power of the computer and human intuition – and the experience of a team member. One of our key aims was creating actionable insights. This allows team-members to make real-time, data-informed decisions leading to significantly improved efficiency throughout a race week.
As it gathers data on team members (and equipment) through smart devices like wearables, sleep monitors, smart utensils, smart lighting, and even motion and ambient sensors, Apex is able to create a comprehensive understanding of the way a team operates through race week. By capturing data across many streams like health, fitness, diet, sleep, schedule, temperature, positing, lighting, etc. – it is able to gather valuable data not only at the user level, but also at the team level, discerning performance patterns.
Through the Apex Neural Network, a team could then find the optimum setup (or pattern) that makes sure everyone and everything is performing at the peak through the entire Grand Prix weekend. We think that Apex allows for an unprecedented level of operational efficiency through a centralised hub that manages the people/team, race operations, logistics, and data driven experiences through a seamless application that gives data-driven actionable insights.
Taking part in the competition was a no brainer for Rahul and me. We were so keen to succeed that I even insisted that we work on it all through my 22nd birthday – so, being one of the winners was a pretty good present!
While the prize is incredibly enticing, we’re both much more excited about having the opportunity to innovate on the future of F1. It’s refreshing to see Formula 1’s approach to the future of the sport, while balancing its integrity alongside innovation. As fans, we’re so excited about this new chapter of the sport!
Taking part in this competition was loads of fun, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season, and the finale in Abu Dhabi. Until then, you’ll find us designing out of Los Angeles!
To learn more about the opportunities for digital transformation in F1, check out Mehul Kapadia’s blog post.