How McLaren is taking high-tech connectivity to another level

In a world where technology is turning even the most improbable science fiction into reality, F1’s top team is working with its partner to explore every area of ​​technology that could give them an edge, on and off the track.

As chief technology officer for Cisco UK and Ireland, Chintan Patel is working with the company’s sports and entertainment partners to “push technology to the cutting edge” and he believes big breakthroughs lie ahead. horizon for F1.

“Milliseconds matter in motorsport and the underlying technology that powers what McLaren does as a racing team is really important,” he says. “Our job is to make them faster, but also to push the boundaries of the fan experience.

“There’s a huge range of technology that we can use to do this and it all started during the pandemic when races weren’t happening and it was necessary for teams to collaborate in new ways.”

We’ll talk more about Lando in your living room later. For now, technology and innovation at McLaren is about big data, high speeds and finding ways to bring people together even when they are miles apart.

“As the car continually evolves and new capabilities are added to it, our technology also evolves,” says Patel. “What we are exploring with McLaren is how to get faster and more reliable communications across the team’s network.

“It’s about everything that can be connected, be connected. We see this whole concept of the Internet of Things – and more and more things are connected from a lane perspective.

“More and more assets are connected so they can be tracked. Sensors are installed on all sorts of things and there is an enormous amount of telemetry coming from all of these components.

There is increasing pressure on data transmission in F1 and Patel and his team are constantly pushing to explore networking technologies to extend McLaren’s capabilities. They are currently focusing on a new form of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6E.

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Not only will this allow more things to be connected securely, but it comes with additional intelligence, allowing important data – such as live telemetry in the car – to be prioritized over, say, someone. one in the garage checking his Facebook feed.

In F1, the little things matter and this is a good example of a behind-the-scenes innovation that McLaren and its partner are exploring at the moment and which could start paying off very soon.

“It’s in the testbed stage right now, so the coming months that we’ll use to test, and then what often happens is the offseason is where you start putting the things in place so that they are ready for the next season.”

In the wake

McLaren has already pioneered the use of Webex, Cisco’s leading video collaboration solution, to bring its team members together wherever they are in the world, both at its base offices and also on the track.

In a fast-paced world where multinational teams need to work against the clock and combine expertise to improve performance, it’s essential to ensure everyone’s voice is heard – sometimes literally.

This is where attention to detail can make all the difference and Patel explains: “In the environment where McLaren operates, there is usually a lot of noise, so we used AI technology to filter out everything. this background noise.

“It was a game-changer for many organizations and for McLaren it meant team members could get along, wherever they were. It’s now a feature built into the platform.

“Things like gesture recognition too. If you don’t want to talk because everyone is focused on running, the system’s AI can actually recognize if someone is physically doing an action, raising their hand, or giving a thumbs up.

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“There are some interesting uses that have come out of it and the real-time translation feature has also become very important as it has removed any language barriers that could potentially exist.

“We’re also doing a lot of camera technology to automatically frame the person speaking, zoom in and then crop. This actually improves the experience for the remote participant.

For fans, McLaren used the same technology to create ‘Slipstream’, which launched during the pandemic to bring fans closer to the action and has evolved to offer interactive competitions, driver chats and exclusive VIP access. .

“F1 fans are probably some of the most passionate in the sports industry and there is a constant desire to stay engaged,” adds Patel. “Slipstream has really given the opportunity to expand into new types of experiences.

“Having a highly secure, robust and reliable digital platform for mission critical operations then becomes extremely important – because ultimately it is only live once.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

A science fiction future

It brings us back to that wacky sci-fi vision. “That’s what excites me the most,” Patel says. “It’s something we’ve already started with McLaren, working around what we call Webex Hologram.”

This amazing revolutionary new technology was announced earlier this year and if you haven’t seen it, prepare to be surprised. It may sound like a gimmick, but holograms could be the next step for engineers and F1 fans alike.

“A few years ago we thought ‘what if we could create a Jedi Council-inspired experience’ – if you’re a Star Wars fan,” says Patel. “It was from that little idea that we came up with this.

“Where a lot of the augmented reality or virtual reality space is looking at avatars, we fundamentally believe it shouldn’t be avatars, it should be as realistic and as human-like as possible.”

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“The engineering team came up with an amazing view where you can interact with physical objects in a 3D representation in different locations – and we worked with McLaren using this holographic photorealistic technology.”

For McLaren’s design team, this could be useful in helping different departments in different locations interact better with each other, checking from the racetrack for new parts being made or prototyping.

It could also allow the racetrack team to really interact with remote engineers, production staff and agree new changes. But for fans, it could open the door to even more exciting opportunities.

“We haven’t even tapped the surface,” adds Patel. “It’s really state-of-the-art and we think there’s a whole host of new things you could potentially do in the future.

“Imagine, if you’re a fan, you could have one of the pilots projected into your house. It would be possible, and it would look and feel like one of the pilots is there.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, sparkles

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, sparkles

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“Beyond that, there are so many other developments in this type of technology and I think the next-gen fan experience could be phenomenal in terms of real-time haptic feedback, you feel what the driver.

“When you take all of these things, the one constant that brings it all together is the network. It touches everything – the car; the drivers; the staff; the garage; the HQ. It’s the one underlying platform that brings it all to life.

“I don’t want to prejudge what McLaren might want to do with it. We’re just trying to make sure we’re sharing the art of the possible. We’re only touching the surface of this, but the capability is absolutely there now.

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