S'pore revs up again for F1 night race

Singapore's F1 track features several alterations this year, but race teams have suited up with new tools to support backend IT systems and communications.

SINGAPORE--Formula One's first night race is back for its second run as racing teams prepare to run this year's slightly altered track equipped with new technology deployments, which they hope will prove the main crux of victory.

With AT&T's sponsorship, the Williams F1 team's network will be supported by a temporary point of presence (TPOP)--integrated into the team's network infrastructure--at the race this weekend, said Martin Silman, executive director of AT&T's global concept marketing division. This allows connection to the local AT&T global multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network nodes, he said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia.

It is an important element that offers a more reliable and consistent network architecture for all F1 race events around the world, Silman explained.

The telco provides a global VPN (virtual private network) for all Williams events, where AT&T supports a secure private network connection to the Williams' headquarters in the United Kingdom. This allows data to be relayed back to the racing team's U.K. factory five times faster than its previous network, said WilliamsF1 COO Alex Burns.

AT&T also provides the team with cloud services such as Web security tools, secure e-mail gateway and secure sockets layer (SSL) VPN. These allow Williams to reduce resources for internal IT support and infrastructure, such as servers, contracts, support, application upgrades and storage, said Burns.

The team's Web site is also hosted by AT&T, further relieving Williams from having to dedicate resources to maintain the site and drive viewership.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) was also deployed for this year's race, Burns revealed, as the race team has had to deal with expensive phone bills throughout the F1 tour. IP telephony allows Williams to cut down on voice communication costs, while still providing simple and fast communications between the team on tour and its U.K. factory.

Inside the garage
Another race team, Toyota, runs its F1 races with 28 PCs in tow. Some 10 PCs sit at the telemetry rack, six are deployed on the pitwalls and 12 in the engineer truck, Dieter Gass, chief engineer of Toyota Motor Sports, said in an e-mail interview. These PCs are equipped to receive real-time telemetry data from the two cars during races.

The data sent by the two cars will be stored in Toyota's EMC CLARiiON data system, which has a storage capacity of 1.2 terabyte. The system recognizes "aged" data from previous races, and archives them in a separate storage space from more current race data, explained Par Botes, EMC's CTO for Asia-Pacific and Japan. This minimizes the need for Toyota to purchase additional high-end storage disks, he added.

Gass said the telemetry system pushes race data in real-time to the garage, where the information is displayed on different computers controlled by engineers who help ensure everything is running smoothly.

Data is also collected after each lap, just as the car races past the pit stops. In addition, a system on board the cars records critical data--usually at a higher frequency than real-time data--that can be downloaded later from the car when it is back in the garage. This provides a more accurate analysis to help drivers and engineers improve car performance, Gass added.

The Williams team also brought along some 40 laptops, and built-in rack systems where their server and data storage systems are laid, Rod Nelson, chief operations engineer for Williams F1, said during a briefing Thursday.

Burns added that supercomputers are deployed to aid in the simulation for the racers, as well as accommodate the data transmitted from the 100-plus sensors on the cars.

Communications on circuit grounds
Title sponsor, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) will be supporting the race with telephony, Internet and data connectivity, as well as mobile services. This includes dedicated hotlines, high-speed Internet connection, mobile broadband as well as 2G and 3G mobile coverage, and SingTel's hosted telephony services Phonenet.

The local carrier also set up an IPLC (international private leased circuit), a point-to-point private line for the teams to communicate between their headquarters overseas and the race circuit.

Motorola was also engaged to provide a TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) system to support the communications needs, where over 400 TETRA and 20 digital MOTOTRBO radios have been deployed for the race this year.

The radio devices offer several features that the handset maker said will prove useful for the race. These include noise rejection to allow clear communications on the circuit, enhanced audio reception and longer battery life, according to a Motorola spokesperson.

Social media as tools
With the success of SingTel's F1 Web site last year, the telco this year also uses Facebook as a platform to provide an interactive component, where the site will offer "hints" to inform visitors when the SingTel booth at the race is open.

Visitors will be able to redeem race tickets and premiums from the store with the points they earned from participating in various activities on the Web site. With these new features in place, SingTel said the site is registering more pageviews this year at 120,000 hits per day.

Based in Singapore, Konrad Foo is an intern with ZDNet Asia.