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Racing powerboats at high speed is exhilarating, but it’s also hazardous and mechanically complex. To get to the finish line safely, drivers and their teams rely on their intuition and expertise, but even the most experienced racers still make mistakes.
For boats travelling at more than 150 miles per hour in rough seas, even the smallest change in speed, direction or engine pressure can have dramatic consequences. For instance, if one of the two engines on a powerboat suddenly cuts out, or if the boat hits an unexpected change in current, it could be hurled into the air, spin out or capsize.
Not only does traveling fast generate problems for drivers, it also makes accurately judging races difficult. At big events such as the Trinidad & Tobago Great Race, the stakes are high — and for the good of the sport, it’s vital that officials always make the right call.
At SilverHook Powerboats, we consider it our mission to make boat racing safer for competitors, easier for officials to adjudicate and even more of a thrill for fans to watch.
The first hurdle
Because boats and hydroplanes travel so quickly, collecting and relaying data on the position, speed, revolutions per minute (RPM) and engine pressure of any given boat has been a huge hurdle, until now.
We spotted an opportunity with the Internet of Things (IoT). We wanted to see whether it would be possible to analyze data in real time from smart sensors attached to a boat. If we could do this, we could help drivers spot hazards and empower officials to make evidence-based decisions during a race.
First, we needed to find the right technology to develop a solution. We knew we needed a robust, scalable infrastructure, but we didn’t have the resources or expertise required to build and maintain a data center ourselves.
Enter IBM Cloud. We were an early adopter of the IBM Cloud because we saw from the beginning that it would give us the flexibility, scalability and compute power that we needed to start building our solution. Without IBM Cloud, we doubt whether we would have been able to launch this project in the first place.
Record-breaking precision racing
After establishing the cloud architecture for our application, the next step was for us to source the rapid analytics tools that would sit at the heart of our solution.
Combining the machine learning and analytics capabilities of IBM Watson IoT and the reliable performance of the IBM Cloud, we developed a solution that we call t3lemetry. The solution collects data from sensors placed on a powerboat and automatically relays this information to the IBM Watson IoT platform hosted in the IBM Cloud.
Watson learns more about our 77 Lucas Oil SilverHook powerboat with each journey and makes even more accurate predictions about the potential dangers ahead.
Already, insights from IBM Watson IoT have helped us avoid disaster when we set the world record for the fastest journey between Key West Florida and Havana, Cuba.
Oceans of possibility
So far, we have focused on testing t3lemetry on our award-winning 77 Lucas Oil SilverHook powerboat, though we have plans to extend it to other teams and boats in forthcoming hydroplane racing events.
With a larger pool of data on the performance of different types of boats, we can refine the precision of t3lemetry and see how the solution performs in different arenas. We anticipate that the solution will help race officials take a more empirical approach to scoring events, as they will no longer need to rely on traditional, inaccurate measures of speed, such as radar guns.
What’s more, we’ve seen a great improvement in the engine life of our 77 Lucas Oil SilverHook because Watson now alerts us before we push the engines beyond their absolute limit. The manufacturer of our engines, Mercury Racing, was surprised to see that they were still in great condition even after a series of grueling races.
We also expect to see improvements in engine life on hydroplanes that use t3lemetry. This will have a huge impact on boat racers, helping them make significant savings on engine repairs and maintenance.
Looking ahead, we plan to enhance data taken from t3lemetry with a visualization engine to create engaging, informative graphics that will give spectators the chance jump onboard virtually and follow each boat every step of the way, no matter how fast or how far out in the ocean the boats are traveling through our satellite system from Satcom Direct.
With IBM supplying excellent technical support and expertise, we feel confident that we can take the next step in our journey to share the excitement of powerboat and hydroplane racing with even larger audiences.
Read the case study for more details.