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Here's what every business can learn from the America's Cup.

Data making America’s Cup yachts faster than the wind

| Information Management

The oldest international sporting trophy, the America's Cup, is built on old ideas. The quickest team to sail around the route wins the coveted Auld Mug, and it has been that way since 1851. And yet the event has never been stuck in the past; with such intense competition, it's been up to the winning team to roll with the times and use the best technology available.

Once they found out how to go at the speed of wind, it was time to go faster.

The engineers and design teams of the AC45F catamarans are pioneers in every sense of the word. Once they found out how to go at the speed of wind, it was time to go faster. While that sounds impossible for a sail boat, the reality is quite different, with yachts reaching 2.79 times the speed of the wind that pushes them.

To do that, the teams needed state-of-the-art hydrofoil structures and sails as big as a Boeing 747. The next logical step for improvement was to utilise vast amounts of data, come up with an information management plan and take sailing to the next level.

Seven-tonne catamarans will use around 300 onboard sensors to transmit 3,000 readings 10 times a second

Data the game changer in the America's Cup

When the America's Cup series launches this month, these seven-tonne catamarans will use around 300 onboard sensors to transmit 3,000 readings 10 times a second. That data will then be analysed by onboard computers to make minute decisions and ultimately decide the winner.

While, to our eyes, the event will take place at speeds of around 80 kilometres per hour, the real race will be inside these yachts, with invisible data collection, sharing and analysis happening at the speed of light.

The aerodynamic physical designs are now becoming less of a focus; they're already about as good as they can be, performing what seems like the impossible. Instead, the biggest way these sports yachts are developing is through big data.

Just look how the US Oracle team signed a partnership in 2014 with Airbus to use the aircraft company's expertise about data analytics, instrumentation and simulation – all things that rely on efficient information management. It's widely understood that information can be used in countless, priceless ways in the Cup.

What data is used?

The readings taken by these sensors are incredibly varied, from geography to the team's health, from weather patterns to stresses on the catamarans' particular components. When we look at just a few examples of how data has transformed the America's Cup, it's easy to see why information management has become a centrepiece of the race.

  • More than 300 gigabytes of data are collected from each race, making up a historical database that teams can use to predict the environment.
  • Real-time weather analysis takes place that predicts what will happen in any given hour, minute or even 10 seconds into the future.
  • Wrist-mounted personal data devices send hyper specific information (the load balance on a particular sheet or halyard, for instance) to crew members.

All of this was technology and data management at its finest, used in Team Oracle USA's AC72 catamaran. Ultimately, it helped the team to a never-before-seen comeback from 8-1 down to retain the Auld Mug 8-9.

What businesses can learn

All organisations are constantly in a race. It could be a race to solve a customer's problem, to innovate or to beat their competitors to market position. In exactly the same way, data management is helping them to get there.

Let's look at the three examples bullet pointed above. There are incredibly similar ways businesses can use data to reach similar outcomes:

  • They can use data analytics to create a historic database of information – a resource for insight on everything from market trends to strategy successes.
  • The business environment can be monitored in the short, medium and long term, helping executives to make smarter, more insightful decisions.
  • Mobility can deliver the right information to the right employees or shareholders quickly and efficiently to improve productivity and profitability.

They're just a few examples. However, it's not enough to just buy new technologies and expect them to work. Executives, board members and investors – these are the only people who can and do care about the business as a whole, so they are the only ones who can enact change.

Information management doesn't begin with buying new technologies – no matter what your vendors tell you. It starts by treating Information Assets like you would any other key business resource. To find out more, check out our free white paper by clicking the image below.

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