By Mike Walsh, Department of Defense Lead at EMC
Formula 1 Racing teams are facing a serious challenge as 2014 approaches. The most disruptive rule changes in the sport’s history are forcing manufacturers to rethink nearly every aspect of engineering and design. Cars will have smaller engines, they’ll be more fuel efficient, and they’ll be safer. For the past few years, F1 teams have been innovating to meet these new standards without sacrificing on power, acceleration, or handling – and the smart ones are leaning on data to get the job done.
When I say data, I’m not just talking about lap times or gas mileage. Today’s F1 cars are equipped with more than 200 sensors that deliver real-time performance information across specific components like brakes and tires. In fact, these sensors produce more than 25 megabytes of data per lap, which adds up quickly during a full season of racing. To maximize the value of this data, the Lotus F1 team partnered with EMC to leverage the power of cloud computing and sophisticated analytics to better understand what’s working, what’s isn’t, and how design strategies need to evolve. And it’s the same approach our nation is employing to transform military engineering.
The challenges facing the Lotus F1 team aren’t unlike those facing our military. U.S. defense organizations are adapting to new budget restrictions and more nimble fighting forces, and can’t afford to invest in technologies that aren’t getting the job done. Data holds the key to measuring effectiveness, and our nation’s ships, fighter planes, and ground vehicles aren’t just strategic warfighting assets – they are data-collecting machines. Sensors are capturing real-time feedback on technology performance during every operation, mission, and test flight, and although the sheer volume can be overwhelming, this machine-generated data has the power to dramatically improve our military’s efficiency and effectiveness.
The difficult part is collecting this valuable information in a way that can be analyzed and used to create better battlefield technology. EMC is currently working with the Joint Strike Fighter Program on that very challenge, and if you thought a racecar generating 25 megabytes of data per lap was a lot, try working with the petabyte of data collected by sensors during each F-35 aircraft flight. As the test and evaluation partner for the program, our team pulls massive amounts of sensor data off of the aircraft and analyzes it to assess performance. The results help the military tweak design strategies and preemptively troubleshoot issues related to component parts.
Sensors are enabling the collection of massive amounts of battlefield data in real-time, but in order to turn this information into intelligence, IT infrastructures must keep pace. The good news is that emerging storage and big data analytics technologies are rising to the occasion to help military leaders determine what’s working and what’s not, while ensuring that the DoD is only investing in the best solutions.