IoT used to improve race experience for Indy 500 fans

IoT used to improve race experience for Indy 500 fans

New app draws data from cars and drivers to make races more interactive

IoT devices have been deployed at the iconic Indy 500 race to make the spectator experience more interactive.

The race at Indianapolis is being run for the 100th time to a sell-out crowd and sees Microsoft team up with BlueMetal to deploy IoT sensors around the track and in cars to collect statistics during racing.

Fans will be able to download a web app to access to data streaming from the cars as they race. Fans will be able to track drivers’ performances section-by-section around the oval, along with lap statistics, course conditions and which drivers are “hot” or in the pit.

The data will also help fans make data-driven predictions about who will win the race.

“It’s a different way to look at racing,” said Bob Moore, the general manager of software company BlueMetal, which partnered with IndyCar, the IMS and Microsoft to build the app. “It will get people interested other than just the serious fan.”

The app uses Microsoft Azure to make sense of the 4.5 million rows of data that stream over the course of the three-hour race, grabbing data from the track and cars, putting it into a usable format, pulling it into the Azure cloud with streaming analytics, and then feeding it all into a website where fans can view real-time statistics.

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Microsoft Azure IoT and the need for speed

“It’s a prime example of how cutting-edge technology like the Internet of Things can bring an iconic brand and event into a new century for a new generation of fans,” said Sam George, partner director for Azure IoT.

“In the past, motor sports just showed point-in-time data, such as timing and scoring, and fans could only see what just happened. They’ve never had real-time, granular racecar telemetry like this, with a view of what’s happening lap-by-lap, leg-by-leg around the track.”

The project was conceived over dinner in February when BlueMetal realised that of more than 150 data points streaming from pit row, only 16 were accessible to the public. The teams use some of the data to help them boost performance of their cars. But nothing was being done with the data broken down by the nine sections of the 2.5-mile oval track.

Fans will be able to see whether a driver is “hot” – meaning they passed three people and moved up in the standings – as well as where each car is in real-time, what the fastest five laps were with their average speed, what the top speed of the last lap was, what every driver’s best time through each of the track’s nine sections.

The predictive abilities of the app could lead to a fantasy league that lets fans pick winning drivers and compete against each other as they rack up points at races throughout the season, similar to popular leagues for football, basketball and golf, according to the firms.

Gordon Hui, VP of strategy at design consultancy Smart Design,told Internet of Business that with access to more data and information about patterns of use, brands can provide a level of personalisation that was previously impossible to achieve. “Brands will “hug” their customers with their own data,” he said.

“Unlike one-off product experiences, IoT enables more real time understanding of needs and behaviours. Brands can take advantage of this ability to provide the right experience at the right moment (and in the right way).”

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Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers IoT, mobile technology, cloud, and infrastructure. In the past, he has also worked as an analyst for both Gartner and IDC. He has made numerous television appearances discussing the technology trends and companies that shape our lives.