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McLaren applies F1 tech to health care, air-traffic control, Wi-Fi, and athletics

Racing in Formula One demands the most cutting-edge technology working under some of the most adverse conditions thinkable. For years amazing tech has come from the minds of men and women squeezing every ounce of performance out of everything from a computer sensor to a suspension part to a tire. Racing is racing, it is competitive and glamorous and exciting, but when you boil it down it is just a business, and businesses must change and grow or perish.

A Formula One race car is equipped with 120 sensors. These produce a million pieces of information every second. That flow of data from car to pit is the essential part to forming the race strategy and winning. In the case of McLaren its sensor technology and data processing became such a cutting-edge part of the company that the firm spun it off into McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT). Today, every Formula One car on the circuit has had a McLaren computer processor on board since 1993.

Business minds decided to take this amazing tech and see where else it could be applied, and the answer was in an endless amount of places. MAT is big in the health care field, implanting sensors into patients who have had strokes, are recovering from surgery, or are at risk of developing diabetes. But it does not stop there, MAT is also involved in optimizing Air Traffic Control systems, Wi-Fi on trains, and even in helping in athletic training.

In Italy, the other stronghold of Formula teams, there is Dallara, known to motorsport fans as the pre-eminent chassis supplier to many Formula One and IndyCar teams. Dallara took to digital transformation to speed up the time it takes from developing a racing chassis on paper to getting it on the track from three years down to about nine months. This is due to a super computer it developed to simulate testing conditions digitally instead of on tracks and in wind tunnels. This tech was then applied to the production lighter carbon fiber components that see use on the track, and in building lighter-weight robots for industrial use.

In today’s digital world there is likely no end to the uses this technology may have. Humans are just starting to scratch the surface of what is possible in this digital world.

John Elkin
Worked for many off road and rally and sports car publications throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Decided to go look for a…
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