Meet our customer hero
The shift in competitive edge: from expensive car to connected vehicle
Most people that think motorsports think noise, gas-guzzling—and even danger. But the Electric Racing Academy (ERA) is changing that. In fact, the organization behind the world’s first fully electric entry class single seater racing series is radically transforming motorsports forever.
The cars themselves are technical wonders: The Mitsu-Bachi F110e is an all-electric powered race car with a 130 KW motor allowing acceleration to 210 km/h—equivilent to a F4 spec. But the vision is even bigger. ERA wants to turn an electric car into a vehicle for connected intelligence. One that can generate real-time racing data for drivers, coaches, teams—and even fans. One that’s, in turn, powered by a fluid flow of IoT and other data sources. One capable of disrupting an entire industry—shifting competition from who can afford the most expensive car, to who can better master the technology. And, fundamentally, one open to everyone—creating a democratized environment that fuels data-sharing, crowdsourcing and serves as a magnet for innovators.
But an ambitious plan requires an ambitious partner. After combing the market, ERA chose a suite of products from Software AG comprising their Cumulocity IoT platform and Thin Edge. And it’s already started to leave its traditional competition behind in the dust.
Electric racing is a different beast. In contrast to traditional motorsports, car speed, acceleration, torque—they all depend on the car’s battery and engine performance. And here’s the key: braking—probably the last thing you’d think a racing driver would want to do—generates power, recharging the battery. A Cumulocity IoT Thin Edge device —installed in a box behind the carbon-fiber driver’s seat—communicates with the cloud using 4G, connecting to the Cumulocity IoT platform. It continuously streams valuable data about speed, acceleration, torque, RPM, temperature—and especially important, regenerated power from braking.
“Think of the vehicle control unit (VCU) as the brain. The battery is the body, and the motor is the legs. And they’re all connected through a kind of digital backbone—that’s our IoT connection and 4G capability. This forms the electric power train that can all communicate with each other.” says Dieter Vanswijgenhoven, Business & Technical Director.
…always-on, connected intelligence. ERA is humble about everything it does. But the results are quite incredible. For example, all that data on the car’s CAN bus—a Controller Area Network that allows all the car’s electronic units and devices to communicate—is collected by the edge controller running Cumulocity IoT Thin Edge. A subset of that data is then sent to Cumulocity IoT in real-time which is interpreted for the driver who can make better in-car racing decisions. While the coaches can supply them with real-time feedback on weather conditions, and tactical decisions like braking and car handling, for noticeable enhanced performance. “This is monumental” says Dieter “previously, in most motorsport classes, data could only be accessed after the race was over. Only Formula 1-class racing has been up to transmitting data in real time—and this comes at a phenomenal expense.” In an exciting new development, drivers are now able to send messages to the system about tactical decisions, technical issues or challenges in the race. This enriches the telemetry data and makes comparisons between races more interesting.
…agility and customization. ERA’s cars are innovation ready. The 4G connection allows everything to be captured in the cloud which makes data easy to integrate into new technology. Take the academy’s newest feature: live video feeds. These are all transmitted by GoPro® cameras, which the ERA hacked together in less than a day. “We can innovate overnight if we want to. We have all the parameters in place.” says Rudi Penders.
…customer experience. In an unprecedented move—at least in this category of motorsports—a new fan app is in the pipeline. It could one day boost the viewer experience powered by telemetry data and provide access to vehicle performance information, driver video feeds, and live stats. Fans might soon be able to choose who to follow and what in-car data to access.
“Imagine if enthusiasts everywhere could follow a race on their phone and see technical data and predictions in real time. No one would miss out on the fun of a race just because they couldn’t be there in person” says Beth Georgiou, Sporting Director.
The fact that the ERA is changing motorsports forever is undisputable. It’s IoT platform is the digital backbone upon which a variety of stakeholders want to build. It attracts startups, who are transforming not just racing cars, but the services they offer. It’s a testing site for sustainable initiatives like recycled part testing. And it’s attracting new sponsorship from partners eager to be part of this thriving ecosystem. But for the ERA—its works is not yet done. Its pillars of sustainability, equality, and accessibility drive initiatives like its plastic-free paddock, scholarships to include more women, minority and LGBTQ+ drivers, and building adapted EVs to suit numerous physical needs. Here in Zolder, data democratization powers the democratization of an entire industry.
“Our IoT platform is open and scalable. Just like the environment we’re creating here. If people don’t see that they are welcome and that there’s a place for them, they won’t come to the paddock at all.” says Beth.