Yokogawa: Racing, Automation Unite

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 @ 02:09 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Other than the idea of keeping operators safe, Formula One racing has quite a bit in common with the manufacturing automation industry.

As an automaker first focused on Formula One and now on other industries like energy, health and wellness, transportation, and consumer brands, “in all these industries, data is getting more important,” said Mike Phillips, head of simulations systems at McLaren Applied Technologies during his keynote address Wednesday at the 2014 Yokogawa Users Conference and Exhibition in Houston.

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When it comes to Formula One cars, they essentially are fast sensors, Phillips said. “There are over 120 sensors on each car sending back real time data.”

While it may seem difficult to understand, but Formula One race cars are a part of the Big Data revolution. They garner as much information as possible to get as much out of the car as they can.

“Gathering data is easy, we all do it, but gathering it and doing something about it, is the tricky part,” Phillips said.

When it comes to that data, Phillips said simulation is vital.

“Simulation is important to us. We don’t have time to test all the products in a car, so simulation is important,” he said.

So after simulating a car and any possible scenarios, Phillips said they look at data management and visualization. “In a model we have a car all set up to run laps. But with other cars on a track, we look at how our car relates to other cars.”

While racing cars is not all about manufacturing automation, but if you listen to Phillips real time monitoring is very similar to a safety program where the user has to think ahead and understand any possible outcome.

“During a race anywhere in the world, we do live monitoring and strategy via a satellite link from a control room in the UK,” he said. “They make decisions in real time. All the time we are thinking of outcomes of the race. At all times we are thinking forward, not behind. You have to pre model and pre think what could happen in the race. Get it right and you are successful, get it wrong and it can be pretty bad.”

He talked about one of the applications of their remote technology at Heathrow Airport in London. Airlines, he said, know they have to add extra fuel to a plane because they know Heathrow has a very limited window for planes to land. So, oftentimes they end up circling the airport waiting for a landing slot.

“We are building a system for Heathrow to help controllers learn and help land planes in a much better fashion so they don’t have to continue circling the airport waiting to land,” he said.

The fuel saving alone would be huge, he said.

He also talked about how using data analytics can help in the offshore oil and gas industry by looking at drilling wells and using probabilistic modeling to make a better decision.

Whether it is racing cars or digging for oil below the seas, using data and understanding it so you maximize the final results is what technology enables.

When it comes to racing, he said, “cars with the best technology usually win.”

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