You can now find IBM Watson in Formula One racing pits

Will Watson's supercomputing boost team and driver performance?

IBM and Honda have inked a deal for IBM Watson technology and analytics to be used in the automaker's Formula One (F1) cars and pits to improve performance and racing decisions in real-time.

Announced on Thursday, the partnership permits Honda to implement over 160 sensors in F1 cars powered by IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The sensors will pull data ranging from driver timing to fuel flow rates and engine performance to give racing crews the chance to improve their strategies for following races -- but more importantly, drivers will have access to this data as they are on the track. IBM says they will be able to make "real-time racing decisions based on this data," such as pit stops and adjusting their speed.

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A power unit in Honda's F1 hybrid engine.

Honda

Formula One racing has changed over the years. Gone are the days of no-holds-barred racing and fuel-based pit stop fires -- now, F1 is based on fuel conservation, strategy, and car mechanics including power units and tyre changes.

Whether or not fans find the F1 sport as exciting as before is arguable -- but some of the regulations, such as restrictions on fuel use, were designed to make the sport appear more eco-friendly (but let's not get into the different tyre use rules).

However, now F1 is less about racing for your life and more about car design and aerodynamics, companies such as IBM can slot in and provide solutions to harness the data and analytics these teams now crucially need -- when a tenth of a second can make all the different in racing points and season sponsorship.

McLaren Honda, based in the UK and running with drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, is implementing IBM's Watson IoT technology though its cars' hybrid engines (required by regulators since 2014). These engines use "power units" which check fuel levels, fuel conservation and monitor cars for signs of mechanical issues.

Honda's R&D team want extra data, and will use the technology to give its team and drivers temperature, pressure and power level readings, which can be used not only by the driver on the circuit but for analysis after the race.

"For example, anytime the driver uses the brakes, the heat given off from friction can be captured and saved to the battery, similar to the hybrid vehicles Honda sells to consumers," the automaker says. "Or, the system will capture heat from the exhaust and save it as more energy in the battery as well. Then, the system can give the driver more power when he needs it, such as when passing another racer."

As the race goes on, this data is streamed to the cloud and shared with pit crews equipped with tablets. The information is also shared with researchers at Honda R&D for adjustments in temperature, pressure and power -- which could make all the different in the race itself.

Harriet Green, general manager of Watson IoT, Commerce & Education at IBM commented:

"We are excited to team with Honda to provide sophisticated cognitive IoT capabilities and analytics to combine data directly from the F1 racing vehicles with other sources, allowing Honda to not only enhance its vehicles that are built for speed, but to also be more friendly to our environment."

In February, IBM secured two new European clients based in Finland for fresh IoT projects.

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