AT&T Williams connects engineers to race with telepresence and real time network

For the past six years Chris Taylor has been IT manager for the AT&T Williams Formula One team.

For the past six years Chris Taylor has been IT manager for the AT&T Williams Formula One team.

The Formula One environment is extremely hectic, but telepresence, provided by AT&T, is becoming an increasingly important communications and collaboration tool for the team.

"We are an engineering company. We are a manufacturing company and we design, build and use our own product.

"Traditionally we had basic video conferencing, lots of collaboration tools but we started using telepresence for the Monaco Grand Prix," says Taylor.

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Telepresence allows the team to keep travel costs down, he says. Driven by the resource restriction agreement between all the F1 teams there is now a limit on how many people from the team can fly out to the race.

"As you can imagine travel is a huge part of the business, travelling to 19 countries every year. We are able to take less people to the track."

Not only are costs high, but often, he says, "People need to be in two places at the same time. The CEO often has to visit race events to see sponsors but he also has his job here to communicate with people back in the factory."

Telepresence makes it possible for race engineers to communicate with colleagues about how the race weekend went.

Formula One is a data-intensive sport. Data is collected from the car as telemetry information using a data logger, which takes in safety critical or reliability information like loads on the car, speeds, temperature etc,

Data is transmitted via a microwave link while the car is on the track. Other information can be collected from the car when it reruns to the garage, when the car is connected to an IP network.

"Data is downloaded to our file store in the garage where the engineers can access it," says Taylor.

Traditionally, data from the file stores would be transferred to the AT&T Williams factory.

"Before AT&T we used either ISDN or broadband to transmit a typical data set of 100Mbytes. It would take over an hour to transfer [the data set]. Now that 100 Mbyte data set can be transferred in less than a minute."

Thanks to the reliability and speed of the network, engineers in the Oxfordshire factory can now have a remote view of the workstations that the race engineers use at the track.

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