Racing Cars and Racehorses boosted by good science & BT technologyBy Kevin Ferguson,
A fascinating spectrum of technology was explored in just over an hour at the BTYSTE Mindshare event, from the Williams F1 team speeding up its cars thanks to better network technology, to teenage entrepreneurs improving the diet of racehorses.
IDC analyst John Delaney took a high-level enterprise view, talking about the importance of digital transformation for every busy sector. Amazon’s plan for warehouses in the sky is a reminder, he said, of the level of innovation that retailers are competing against, but he made it clear that financial services and technology businesses face just as many challenges.
The way forward is what IDC calls the third platform where cloud, mobility social business and big data are parts of a new paradigm in enterprise IT. The cloud is a major step forward from the second platform, the client/server era. “You always have access to what you need and you always have access to the latest versions,” he said.
Delaney talked about the power of transformation, the use of digital technologies to run a business and operate in a fundamentally different way to reduce costs, be more productive and provide a better customer experience. For Williams CIO Graeme Hackland the reason for leveraging a new wave of technology was more fundamental – to help win more races.
Williams approached BT to devise a network that could help compete better at 21 circuits around the globe, some of them in very remote locations. The network was needed to enable data from the cars to be shared in near real time with engineers in different places. BT delivered on the plan. “It happened very quickly,” said Hackland. “People don’t have to be in the factory any more. They can be anywhere.”
A 20-strong IT team has had to change its skillsets over the last three years as Williams migrated from servers and lengthy deployment times to the agility of the cloud. BT also worked with Symantec to provide a trackside network that was fast and secure. Penetration testing after last year’s British Grand Prix revealed vulnerabilities that have since been locked down. “I’m pretty confident we’ve built the layers we need to but you can never rest,” he said.
Williams has also been spinning out its advanced engineering and selling the technology to other markets. Technology in the left wing aerofoil of the car, for example, has been adapted for supermarkets to make cold aisles more efficient by funnelling cold air back into the fridges.
But the main focus is always the cars. “From an IT perspective we are driving the digital technologies that are being used by the team to make sure that we get from concept to product as quickly as possible,” explained Hackland, “that we can get an idea that comes out of our wind tunnel onto the car as quickly as possible because that’s the only way we’re going to beat our competitors.”
Horses for courses
There were clearly lessons here for big business who could also take something from Fenu Health, a start-up run by two sisters, Kate and Annie Madden. After much experimentation with 150 flavours and sample tests on 100 horses they discovered that an Indian herb, Fenugreek, helps prevent or manage mild gastric ulcers in horses.
The idea took the sisters to the BTYSTE finals in 2014. After that they discovered that 90 per cent of racehorses suffer from gastric ulcers, a high value market for their products opened up to them that they’ve been exploring ever since.
A true digital business, the girls have built a customer base by tapping into social media and using the technology at their disposal. “Our phone is our little online office,” said Annie Madden. “Pretty much we do everything on our phones; we do emails on the bus going to school and sell everything online through our web site. ”
The very idea that the sisters have employees who take care of the business while they’re in school raised a laugh from the RDS audience. Not for the first time, BTYSTE was showcasing why we should never be surprised at what young talent can achieve.