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Changing the world one byte at a time – bringing emergent technologies to F1

August 31, 2017

Ken Bodnar   

Creative thinker

In this guest blog post, one of the winners of the first challenge of this year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, Ken Bodnar, talks about what inspired him to take part in the Internet of Things themed competition, and how he combined his passion for technology with his hereditary love of cars.

What do you do when you have a competitive fire burning within you and you have no natural outlet in which you can participate? I experienced that as a boy growing up. The way I grew up didn’t offer much in sports or indulgences in hobbies – and my short legs ensured that I wasn’t a fast runner!

Most of my time was spent working on my grandfather’s farm. But it was a special farm. It was located in terminal moraine country of Canada, where the glaciers of long ago left high, rolling hills with magnificent vistas. From the back field of the farm, one could catch a glimpse of Lake Ontario 22 miles away. And, the farm was just a few miles from Mosport, the Canadian motorsport race track that hosted F1 Grand Prix of Canada until it moved to Montreal. So, one could hear the roar of race car engines, and when the wind was blowing right, you could even smell the gasoline and rubber. Since then, my imagination was fired by the sounds and smells of the fastest cars on earth wafting in the summer breeze.

Emergent technology and cars

Cars were in my DNA. My father worked for most of his career at General Motors and a couple of my brothers worked for spells in the assembly factory. I saved my money and bought my first car at the age of 17. However my career was to take me to the exciting world of technology instead of the automotive world.

Technology has fascinated me from an early age. I am still amazed at how one can take arrays of simple transistors embedded in a silicon chip, and make a machine that has artificial intelligence. I eagerly embraced new technology wherever I found it and began incorporating new emergent technology in my work.

A pundit once said that the easiest way to predict the future is to invent it. Embracing emerging technology and incorporating lateral thinking and creativity is one way to invent the future and perhaps change the world. So when Tata Communications unveiled the Internet of Things themed challenge of this year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, I thought, this is where I could make a difference with my ideas.

Awe-inspired engineering

I got to work. I wanted to create not only an IoT connectivity solution, but a technology platform that would give the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 team a big data and analytics edge over the competition. As an engineer, I am in awe of German engineering and the engineering behind the Mercedes team in particular.  They have almost perfected the art of the machine and it would be an honour for me to help make that racing fusion of man and machine even smarter.

Future proofed connectivity, actionable insights

So what does my ideal platform consist of? As the name Internet of Things suggests, these applications rely on connectivity largely through the Internet. However, sometimes it isn’t fast enough. To overcome this issue in my idea, I have fused data collection with near-field radio communications such as Bluetooth, to carry data from any sensor. This makes it future-proofed.

The second innovative aspect of my platform is that instead of having one computer program read all of the data, it has an array of bots acting independently of each other.  This allows for faster data processing and many more connections to sensors in the race car, the humans in the pits, the mechanics, and the driver.

Furthermore, my platform speeds up the processing of sensor data, thanks to a massive population of software robots working in tandem to process the data into a form that can be analysed. And, because the masses of data have to be kept safe and be transparent, accessible and secure, my platform uses a private blockchain, accessible to everyone who needs it.

Finally, my platform uses advanced analytics to make sense of the data it collects. After all, data is just data until it undergoes a transformation into knowledge and insights. Using machine learning to minimise the need for human intervention, the platform displays all this knowledge on a smart executive dashboard, and allows the team to dig deeper into the raw data too for extra insights.

Having grown up so close to the world of F1, and in a family of petrol heads, I am so excited to present my idea to the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize audience in Abu Dhabi in November. And, it would be a dream come true to one day build this for Tata Communications and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 team.

To learn more about the opportunities for digital transformation in F1, check out Mehul Kapadia’s blog post.


Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.