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Gearing up for S'pore F1 night race

Behind the scenes look at preparations for Formula 1 race in Singapore this weekend. Also, find out how machine-to-machine technology in car racing can be adapted to other industries.
By Liau Yun Qing, Journalist on
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SINGAPORE--The island is gearing up once again for the 2011 Formula 1 night race. ZDNet Asia visited the garage of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes's F1 Racing Team before the race roars away this weekend.
Photos and captions by Liau Yun Qing
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Security going into the paddock is tight. Reporters were issued an electronic badge which functioned as an access key to enter the paddock area.
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Visitors need to tap their badge against the security system which then pulls out their information. Those whose names are recorded in the system will see their photo pop up on the screen, after which the turnstile is unlocked and visitors can enter.
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The entrance to the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes garage. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the garage. Aside from the engine-tuning machinery, inside, you will find laptops and servers which are used to gather information of the cars as they race.
Peter van Manen, managing director of McLaren Electronic Systems, noted that during a 100-minute race, up to 1GB of data is sent back to the garage in real-time. By the end of the race, about 30GB of data is gathered.
Currently, data from the cars to the garage is transmitted using microwaves, but van Manen noted that the company is working with Vodafone to explore the use of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networking technology for future races.
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The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team runs through the necessary steps at its pitstop. The crew goes through the process repeatedly to ensure everything flows smoothly during racing day.
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There are over 100 sensors on the car which send information about the performance and health of the vehicle back to the garage, said McLaren's van Manen.
The company provides the control and data systems to all the teams in Formula One. As the same engine control unit, hardware and software are used by all racing teams, van Manen shared that each team tries to gain a competitive advantage by fine-tuning the systems of their engine and gearbox.
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van Manen noted that as regulations only allow data transfer from the car to the garage, robust data uplink is critical. This is also important to support many new machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, he added.
In the United Kingdom, McLaren and Vodafone are trialing M2M technology at Birmingham Children's Hospital, where data from instruments in an ambulance is transferred to the intensive care unit to ensure speedy care of patients once they arrive at the hospital.

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