Anyone who watched the America’s Cup over the past month was treated to the state of the art in real time augmented reality during each race. The technology known as LiveLine converts a range of real-time information into visual cues which show details like the current boat position and speeds, the route taken, the gap between boats, and the direction and strength of the current. The on screen graphics certainly help viewers better enjoy the race, but what about those data feeds? In addition to the GPS location and speed data being displayed, the Oracle boat is reported to have over 300 sensors sampling 3, 000 variables being recalculated 10 times a second. Then there’s the ocean sensors tracking current, wind sensors showing course wind, and derivative real-time feeds, like the relationships between boat positions.
Of course, if you’re going to spend $100M to compete in the world’s most prestigious boat race, you want every piece of data you can get your hands on. But how does any of this relate to the world outside of rich guys racing?
Consider that NOAA is already collecting 80 terabytes of data a day, the majority of it from ocean sensors. They are studying currents, temperature fluctuation, water purity and hundreds more variables across vast geographic territories. That data contributes to weather projections and real-time current information used by sea-going vessels around the world to safely and efficiently travel from port to port. Most of those ships are also equipped with sensors that are sending their own data back to shore. On a very large scale, it’s a very similar system to data being captured for LiveLine, aiming to improve life on and in the oceans.
You can see the same parallels between Formula 1 racing and modern auto telemetry. For years, the pit crews on the world’s fastest racing teams have been monitoring sensor driven feeds to see how cars and drivers are performing relative to race conditions and their competitors on the track. Each car has over 100 sensors feeding data to the pit and their race headquarters for immediate analysis by 50-100 engineers, depending on the team. Lots of data, but relatively few vehicles.
Now consider the data collected in cars and sent back for analysis by modern auto manufacturers, insurance companies offering discounts if you prove to be a safe driver, and before we know it, driverless car audit trails — all at the scale of millions of vehicles.
High-end racing on the water and roads may be leading the way, but we are all racing inexorably toward real-time big data and the impact it will have on all of our lives.