SilverHook Powerboat Racing powered by jStart

Back in September we posted a blog entry on how IBM jStart Emerging Technologies  made an IBM Bluemix Platform as a Service believer out of DataSkill CEO Nigel Hook. He talked about how speed of developing solutions and customer prototypes were critical to his Analytics Solutions business. Speed is not only important for Nigel’s analytics solutions delivery but also for his life’s passion, Powerboat Racing.

2. NigelNigel Hook is the co-founder and President of SilverHook Powerboats. His company produces one of the world’s fastest mono hull watercrafts and he is the throttle man on the SilverHook Powerboats racing team. The Lucas Oil 77 competes against opponents at 140+ miles per hour on the open sea with 6+ ft. swells. Some might think Nigel has speed in his DNA.

Along with the speed come many challenges.  This blog will discuss how Bluemix was instrumental in the enhancement of the Race Fan experience of Powerboat Racing along with providing Nigel with greater comfort in protecting his boat investment and more importantly the safety of the individuals in the cockpit.

The High Tech 44 ft. Lucas Oil 77 is equipped with two 1075 HP engines features an all carbon fiber design to produce the speed machine that has won the 2014 National Championship and is shooting for the world title in Key West in early November.

3. jump boatRacing on the world’s largest racetrack has many challenges. The brutal nature of speed and ocean conditions along with salt water wreaks havoc on electronic and mechanical equipment as well as humans inside the cockpit. This combination can result in damage to the boat and its engines, and safety of the occupants if not monitored closely. To enable this monitoring, the powerboat is equipped with telemetry equipment that gathers over 70+ boat/engine related measurements at 100 times per second. The data is transmitted to onboard computers at 5 times per second for monitoring by the onshore team. This is a lot of data for the team to process and sometimes important anomalies are missed.

4. boat aud 5. shore audAnother major challenge is the race fan experience of this sport.  As mentioned, this is a race on the world’s largest racetrack.  Fans are only able to see the boats as they fly by while standing onshore or on a boat in the spectator area.  The race has multiple classes racing simultaneously so trying to figure out who is the leader is nearly impossible from the shore.   The racing experience needs to be enhanced to allow more visibility of the boats on the course right from shore or in a spectator boat.

6. flag

A third challenge facing this sport is the lag time to award the final winning placement of a race.  The race organization establishes specific requirements around max RPM and Speed for each racing class.  Each boat is equipped with a monitoring device that records RPM and Speed during the race and is stored on a flash card to be reviewed by the officials at the end of the race.  It can take a significant amount of time to pull all the data from each boat to validate if any of the specifications were violated.  This can be anti-climactic and effects both the organization and race fans with delays.

The Solution with Speed

jStart and DataSkill engineers architected a design that would get the data to the cloud, so that it could be developed into instant visualization for the support teams who need it most. Developing a design was one thing but implementing a functional prototype in a couple of months and debuting it at the IBM Insight Conference and Key West World Powerboat Championship in front of thousands of people appeared a little daunting.

IBM Bluemix provided the instant platform-as-a-service with a: 1) messaging service (IBM Internet of Things Foundation) to get the telemetry data to the cloud, 2) SPSS Lab version of the Bluemix Scoring Service to address the analytics needs 3) and leveraged the Bluemix Analytics Warehouse for data storage.  All this was provisioned/deployed within minutes as the foundation to the prototype.

7. solution

The Telemetry Analysis Application fetches the data from IBM IoT and invokes the scoring service and stores the data.  This code also raises an alert and publishes it to IBM IoT Foundation.  The developer of the application selected among a plethora of programming language choices within Bluemix to provision quickly and optimize development time.

A full scale simulation application was developed in python on Bluemix. This simulator utilizes actual Lucas Oil 77 telemetry data from previous races, pushing and visualizing the data at a rate which matches the event as it happened in real time.

Virtual Eye America CupThe two-time Emmy Award winning 3D High Definition Visualization technology used in the television broadcasting of The America’s Cup was used to create the spectacular visuals based on the gathered data.   The Virtual Eye engineers coding the visualization layouts were located in New Zealand working with jStart engineers in Raleigh, Orlando USA, and Belarus.


Three week before the IBM Insight Conference, The Simulator was completed and the Telemetry Analysis Application was complete but the visualization had not started.  Virtual Eye had no problem delivering due to their expertise and the ease of integrating to the IBM IoT Foundation through Bluemix. Even though final touches were happening the day the event started, the team made it happen and it was a success.  Paring up the Award Winning visualization of Virtual Eye with IBM Bluemix and Lucas Oil 77 data with IBM jStart Emerging Technologies was a complete success.

All this work for a demonstration at the IBM Insight Conference?   Not hardly.  As I mentioned earlier in the blog, we are debuting this at the World Powerboat Championship in early Nov.  This was the real focus of our work!  The purpose for this was to get the organization, teams, and team sponsors to think of new ways of protecting their investments in equipment and the lives in the cockpit.

The way we are doing this is to show how practical it is for them to do the same as the SilverHook Powerboat Racing team with telemetry data. At this event we will also plan to wire up the driver and throttle man with new physiological capturing devices to further demonstrate safety capabilities.

If this blog post has sparked interest in working with jStart Emerging Technologies please contact us and we will be glad to talk with you about how IBM Technologies can address your business challenges.

Oh by the way you too can watch Nigel live on 11/5, 11/7, and 11/9.  Go to the SuperBoat International Key West Schedule and you too can watch with live streaming.   Wish us luck!!!!


2 thoughts on “SilverHook Powerboat Racing powered by jStart

  1. Pingback: Watson Internet of Things - Just Another Tech DIY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s