WiFi Telemetry

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The Red Bull Cheever Racing team at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, will use Cisco wireless IP gear to feed information back to engineers in their pit crew. The gear will detail everything from engine temperature to velocity to tire pressure, says C/Net.

“The Cisco Wi-Fi solution has dramatically improved the amount of information we can get out of a race car,” said Eddie Cheever, a Formula One racing veteran and owner of the Red Bull Cheever team. “And it’s also allowed us to reorganize our method of communicating, so we can get access to and analyze information much faster.”

Barron’s and Carpentier’s cars will each be outfitted with hardened, vibration- and heat-resistant Cisco Mobile Access Routers, which will transmit 180 channels of data from the car’s telemetry sensory systems over a local area Wi-Fi network set up throughout the racing arena. Voice and video signals from inside the car will also be transmitted wirelessly, so that the pit crew can communicate directly with the drivers. Using custom software running on laptops, the pit crews will analyze the data and decide what they need to do to the cars at each pit stop.

The Wi-Fi solution is a big improvement over the radio frequency systems the team used before, because the older system didn’t have enough bandwidth to transmit all the necessary data and signals weren’t able to be transmitted from all points on the track, Cheever said.

Sensors in the tires send pressure readings every eight seconds, helping the team avoid blowouts. Engineers can monitor the drag on different parts of the car and adjust spoilers when the car stops to improve its aerodynamic profile.

The system also allows for direct audio and video connections, allowing the team to watch video streams of the driver or actually see different parts of the car in motion to monitor their performance.

The speedway has Cisco Aironet 1300 series wireless access points at each turn and the start and finish lines, to maintain constant contact with the cars. The team suite, garage and engineering trailer have additional access points. Cisco 7920 wireless voice-over-Internet Protocol phones can talk to the drivers or to mechanics back in the garage.

ABC will broadcast the event this year deploying more than 70 broadcast cameras around the 2.5-mile track, including a camera on the same type of 87-foot crane used to film 1997’s “Titanic,” 15 robotic cameras on the track and in the pits and up to 36 wireless cameras on board 12 different cars. A new 180-degree pan camera on the cars and an ultralight wireless “balloon cam” will ascend with the thousands of helium balloons that will be released during the opening ceremonies.

Broadcast Sports, a division of Wescam, has made a name for itself by mounting cameras in places where cable can’t go, in Indy 500 racers or on sailboat masts.

Their wireless video systems providing RF services for CBS coverage of the CART race at Portland International Raceway in June.

WiFi Planet has an interesting feature on SiriCOMM, which provides Wi-Fi hotspots at truck stops nationwide.

Through a deal with Pilot Travel Centers, the company has implemented some 260 hotspots nationwide, allowing truck drivers to tap the Internet and communicate scheduling and other data back to home base without interrupting their routes. Now, SiriCOMM has set its sights on diversifying its offerings, all of which are aimed at making the vast trucking industry more efficient and cost-effective for drivers and fleet operators.

“We started toying with Wi-Fi in 2000, when an access point ran about $2,000,” says CEO Hank Hoffman. “Since then, with the lower cost and the advances in bandwidth, it has become clear to us that Wi-Fi would be a great way to move data from a vehicle. We have always believed that, and it has certainly worked out that way.”

Most recently, SiriCOMM has begun to roll out Wi-Fi at highway weigh stations, as a way to speed transmission of information to a range of interested parties.

Say an inspector finds a violation on a vehicle. Using a 56K connection (still the norm at most weigh stations), or passing on that violation information through the regular mail, it can be hard for fleet operators to fix the problem in a timely manner.

With Hoffman’s truck stop deployments, the driver can transmit the freight bill information via Wi-Fi to satellite to the home office, thus cutting down the billing process from days to hours.

Analysts say there’s a certain logic at work here. After all, wireless capability naturally lends itself to use by people on the go. “Automotive and transportation are inherently good places for Wi-Fi because of access modality that is, people and products in motion,” says JupiterResearch Senior Analyst Jay Horwitz.

SiriCOMM has one other lesson to teach would-be Wi-Fi applications developers. It has to do with creativity.

This gets a tad wonky, but follow along. Basically, truckers get federal and environmental credits for running their vehicles at optimum efficiency. SiriCOMM uses wireless applications to gather engine data, in order to demonstrate that the motor is purring along smoothly. When the truck encounters a Wi-Fi connection, that information is pushed automatically and passively back to a data-collection system where it is compiled in the service of earning those credits.

Wi-Fi for truckers? Wireless transmission of engine data for federal environmental credits? We are a long way from coffee-shop hotspots here, and that is just the point. SiriCOMM’s success thus far suggests that we have only just scratched the surface of potential wireless networking ideas. There remain any number of uncharted business applications yet to be explored.

Iowa motorists, like those in Texas and Maryland can also check their e-mail and surf the Internet at wireless hot rest stops, while they stretch their legs.

Iowa’s Highway Free Spots are supplied by I Spot. They are putting Wi-Fi hotspots in 40 rest areas along Interstate highways in Iowa. The hotspot network is free, both to the Iowa DOT and to users. Advertising pays the bills.

The Texas Department of Transportation began experimenting with free wireless Internet access at the state’s 84 rest areas and 12 travel information centers while Maryland is launching “hot spots” at two of its welcome centers on Interstate 95.

A large 75MHz of bandwidth has been allocated for mobile communications with safety applications to get priority at 5.9GHz, or precisely from 5.850 to 5.925GHz. Tolls are presently taken at about 915MHz in north America (within 902 to 928 MHz, a shared band). The new north American 5.9GHz standard is designed around the 802.11a so that it will be able to use mass produced componentry and software.

There’s a working group: 802.11p. It will operate at ranges of up to 1km (3280ft) and move data at up to 27Mbps though it will normally be powered for a range of 300m (1,000ft) and a 6Mbps datarate.

Next up: WiFi in Cars.

Related stories on Daily Wireless include:

Related DailyWireless transportation articles include; WiFi on Trains, Intelligent Transportation Gets 802.11p, Mobilized 802.16, RF-ID Car Tracking, Wireless TrafficGauge, iFlorida’s Bus Cams, DOT’s Fiber Networks and Mobile Access Points.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, May 26th, 2005 at 1:35 am .

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