Conversation With Williams Racing Team CIO Graeme Hackland

Graeme Hackland, CIO at Williams F1 Team

On a quiet evening at the Williams F1 team pavilion, when all the F1 car engines have gone silent as ground crew from the various teams, have their dinner break, we had a lovely conversation with Grame K Hackland, CIO at Williams F1 Team. The conversation was made possible by the wonderful folks at Acronis.

Welcome to Williams F1 team. We’re here in Singapore for the night race, which is one of the team’s favourite races. Sometimes it gets a bit too hot, but it’s not too bad at the moment. So while we are here, We will be generating data Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we fire up the cars on a Thursday night for the first time they were fired up earlier when I was in the garage. And the data that we generate here will be equivalent of about 800 gig. Most of that is video data. The actual telemetry data from the car is quite small, but also generating other types of data, especially competitor analysis. So we’re looking at the other teams, What changes that they made to their cars, we’re looking at the GPS data when the cars are running, are they going through a corner better than we are? So we’re doing a lot of real time analytics. While we’re here at the track, We flow that data back to the UK to our base. And we could have up to 1520 engineers different at different times. On a Friday, it can be 35 people looking at the data. And then it’s less and less as the weekend goes on. On Friday, especially we generate a lot of data that helps the wind tunnel, It helps the drivers simulator. So we have a development driver who will use the data from here on a Friday. And they will use it to help develop the car for the for the rest of the season. And at this time of year, we are also preparing next year’s car. So they will be looking at next year’s car to help make it make it better. The rules don’t change significantly next year. So we will be able to reuse a lot of this year’s car next season. So It’s really important, the data that we gather here is really important. So If you miss a session or you have a problem with the car, you lose a lot of data. So we really need to be getting through all of the session completing the programme of work. So we move that data from here to the UK. But also there will be people working on that data on their laptops, at home or in other offices. So we’re not just limited to the track and to the factory. We also have all the data that we’re generating at the factory. So we’ve got a wind tunnel that’s running, It used to be 24/7, it’s not now because of regulation. So we are a bit limited. So we’re running the wind tunnel as much as we can within the regulations. And we also have what’s called computational fluid dynamics, CFD. That’s a virtual wind tunnel. So CFD is using modelling instead of a physical model. The physical model is 60% scale. And there’s a huge amount of data generated by our database. Most of the data in the Formula One team comes from aerodynamics. They generate generate so much from the title. We then have other parts of the of the factory where we’re manufacturing and making the car, We have CAD design. So all of that data is really important to the engineers that they can access it wherever they are in the world in real time.

Introduction by Graeme Hackland, CIO F1 Racing Team

What happens after an F1 Race?

We finally a really important part of the data is that we also have an advanced engineering company. So Williams advanced engineering is commercialising what we do in Formula One. So we all love the Formula One racing. But the end of every year, that car that you produced, Never races again, You have to build a new one, you have to spend another hundred million pounds to build another one. But we take that technology, And we use it for other customers. So we’re very good at lightweight materials, carbon fibre. So we are building electric vehicles, for customers in the in the UK and around the world. Using the technology that we’re using Formula One, using the same manufacturing capability, The same ovens that that that make the Formula One car, Make something called baby cart, which is a unit that’s used in hospitals to move babies around. So the same technology that protects a driver in the Formula One car is protecting babies in hospitals, it’s amazing. And We also work with a company called aerofoil. And we’ve developed It’s like the real wing of a Formula One car, we’ve developed a system that pushes the air back into the fruit. So when you go into a supermarket in the UK, A lot of the fridges are open. I noticed here in Singapore when you’re going to supermarket, The fridge is closed. But in the UK, a lot of the fridges are open, They say that we as consumers, we buy less if there’s a door on the fridge. I don’t know why. But the open fridges are very inefficient. So What aerofoil does is it pushes the air back into the fridge, It’s very efficient saves 25% of the of the energy that’s used on the refrigerator in the supermarket in the UK. So we’re taking this Formula One knowledge, we’re reading electric vehicles, We didn’t electric bicycle with Brompton, a folding bicycle. So we took the Formula E battery that we produced for the Formula racing series, we shrunk it down into into a battery, incredible technology. So all of that data is really important to us both Formula One and advanced engineering. In advanced engineering, some of that data belongs to the customer. Some of the IP belongs to us, some of it we jointly develop and re-share it. So the security challenge in advanced engineering is more complex than Formula One. Formula One, it’s very obvious. There’s CAD designs, there’s wind tunnel data, there’s design data, manufacturing data, the racing data from from this weekend.

What are the challenges faced, when manipulating data?

In advanced engineering, we’ve got road cars that we’re putting technology into, and protecting it is a very different challenge. So we partnered with Acronis last year. Because in 2014, we got hit by two ransomware attacks. One of them, we managed to recover all of our data. But we were lucky, we knew that if it had got to the backups, we would have lost that data. The second one was worse because it hit one individual laptop. And unfortunately, we never got that data back. So we lost data, which I really hate. So we decided then that we had to do something about protecting our backups. Because the data is valuable to us. We don’t know when we need to go back. For Formula One, It’s rare to go back more than five years. But in advanced engineering, if we’ve got a road car that’s on the road in 20 years time, we need to be able to go back and we need to know that the data hasn’t been tampered with. No one’s touched it, it hasn’t been changed. And we need to know that we can recover it from any point in time. And that’s what we do with the Acronis. In The Acronis Cloud, We flow all of our data that we generate clearly be generated here, Back to the UK and into the Acronis Cloud. So almost as soon as it leaves Singapore, it’s protected by a kindness in their kindness. So It’s a really important part of what we do to make sure that data can’t be tampered with. And we don’t lose it.

With over 800GB of data accumulated, where did that information come from, during the testing this weekend?

Okay, so that the types of data that we generated at the track was the question, how many sensors, so this is over 300 sensors on a Formula One car, we capture about 1000 channels of data per second. And we can change that. So on a Friday, we’re looking at a lot more aerodynamics data. On a Saturday, we’re looking at real time performance, maybe reliability. So we’re looking at our the temperatures increasing other breaks wearing. On Friday, we won’t be sampling that as frequently, We’ll be looking more at aerodynamics, that the pressure tapping on the floor, that kind of thing. The main data that we capture at the track is our own car telemetry, obviously from our two cars, where the data is very important. Someone said earlier today, it’s always hot in Singapore. But it’s not always the same temperature, right. And if you have a one degree change in the track temperature, or two degrees or five degrees, because it’s a night race, The track is getting colder, Not by much, but it’s getting colder, Most races we go to, it’s warming up, because it’s the afternoon, So you start maybe two degrees less than you finish the race. So The cars are usually designed around the track temperature that’s increasing. In Singapore, their track temperature is dropping slightly. So track temperature is really important also barometric readings, because that has an impact on the engine and on engine performance and on the chassis. So that’s really important tire data separately, data from our cars from all of the cars, we analyse that, and then GPS data. So GPS positioning of all the cars, we combine all that together. And that forms, the data that we use for analytics, When we will fix stuff, you know, should be able to take the safety car comes out, are we going to pit or not, All of those decisions are being run all the time. And we’re actually using the cloud for the last two years. While the car is on the track, We’re using cloud computing to give us even more computation. Because we have to pay almost 300 US dollars per kilogramme of all the equipment that we bring. So it’s very expensive to bring equipment here. So we reduced everything using virtualization to us as few servers and storage as we need. And the rest were using the cloud.

We thank Graeme Hackland, for sharing his thoughts on the Williams F1 Team and the partnership with Acronis. We wish the Williams F1 Team success throughout the F1 season calendar and seasons to come.

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