Mobilizing Data

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2004-11-01 Print this article Print

"The information line for us is crucial," Job said. "By taking advantage of the Xybernaut unit, were able to take information that isnt normally mobile and really tap into it on the move. Its light-years distant from using pen and paper, like we used to."

Each time a car makes a pit stop, team members plug an Atigo device directly into a computer in the car to download a wide variety of data, including how fast the car took a particular turn, how worn the tread on the tires is, how hot the car is running, and how the driver accelerated and braked differently during each lap.

Crew members can strap the Atigo unit onto their fire suits for use in the pits. Because the device has a display that can be used in a variety of lighting environments, crew members can use the units even during races run after sunset. During previous seasons, the crew used laptop computers, which broke easily and were difficult to view in direct sunlight.

The data from each vehicle is uploaded directly over a WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)-secured 802.11g wireless network set up for each race by Alex Job Racing team members; the network lets the team view the results on multiple Atigo devices.

"The computer is so integrated with what we do that it is very much a part of the technology of the car," said Phil Pierce, a crew chief for Alex Job Racing. "When we used laptops, a lot of guys didnt want to use the units because they broke easily and were too big. The Atigo is lightweight and flexible, which makes it easier to use."

The collected data allows drivers to compare different approaches to each race and conduct a detailed analysis on various portions of each track. With every instance of accelerating and braking captured in data form, drivers can overlay their lap data with the same information from a teammate to determine which approach to the track and the race works best.

The data also enables crew chiefs and team managers to determine what, if any, modifications need to be made to the cars the next time they make a pit stop.

During each race, the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) runs a dedicated network that reports the lap time of each driver along with other statistics to which every race team has access. Alex Job Racing sets up its own private wireless network that lets team members analyze the IMSA statistics using their own software.

Without the wireless units, team members would be forced to sit in front of monitors during the entire race—some lasting as long as 10 hours—to keep an eye on the competition.

When the team reassembles later this month for the off-season at Sebring International Raceway, it will look into other ways it can use the wearable PCs during racing season, said Job.

The team is looking at using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology in conjunction with tracking software on the wearable units to track parts for inventory purposes, Job said. Currently, mechanics use pen and paper to manually inventory parts as they arrive, a method that is time-intensive and potentially error-prone.

"The information line is crucial when it comes to racing because time truly is of the essence in this sport," Job said. "The units link a team that would otherwise have to rely on pen and paper."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

Case file
  • Company Alex Job Racing
  • Location Tavares, Fla.
  • Issue Alex Job Racing needed a way to collect data from vehicles while they were on the track during races
  • Solution The racing team chose to deploy wireless and mobile PCs from Xybernaut bundled with race data tracking software that would enable its members to collect and process vast amounts of data during race
  • Tools Xybernauts Atigo T H/B; Microsofts Embedded Windows XP; Kinetic Racing Technologies LapTimer, Pitstop and RPM
  • Whats next Alex Job Racing plans to use Atigo mobile PCs with RFID to track parts and other inventory in the racing teams warehouse Source: eWEEK Labs reporting

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    As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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