When Jacques Villeneuve raced in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal last Sunday, his BMW Sauber F1 team had Intel inside.
Last December, Intel joined up with BMW Sauber as an official corporate sponsor in a relationship both companies are hoping will pay dividends. In addition to the usual branding arrangements, Intel is also providing the team with technology, from Xeon servers to Centrino-based laptops, that could help BMW Sauber gain a competitive advantage in the increasingly technology-intensive world of Formula One racing.
Will Swope, Intel's vice-president and director of digital enterprise brand management, said Intel was looking for a worldwide sponsorship arrangement where its technology could actually make a difference to the outcome.
"The World Cup is a huge draw around the world, but there's not really a lot of technology in soccer," said Swope. "In Formula One, on the other hand, we make a material difference to the speed of the resulting car and the ability to be competitive."
Swope said there are a number of ways BMW Sauber is using Intel technology. One is simulating wind and wind resistance and airflow dynamics on proposed vehicle designs, with virtual wind tunnels rapidly becoming a reality.
"This takes thousands of processors and thousands and thousands of hours of simulation," said Swope. "It is highly computer-intensive." Another area of intensive technology use is telemetry. The average F1 car has about 200 sensors on it during a race, and many more during the testing phase when each individual component of the car is being tested and analysed.
During the race, Swope said all those sensors are being monitored in real time and analysed to make instant decisions that can make the difference between first place and the back of the pack. Also, data is collected for trend analysis over time.
"This is what we do for a living," said Swope. "Will these cars go faster as a result of our technology? Absolutely. Will they go faster than the other cars? Well, that's why it's a race."
Swope said the technology that Intel is providing for BMW Sauber is the same technology available to its enterprise customers today. There is also some potential for new development that will benefit the enterprise, said Swope, pointing to simulation technology that Intel has developed for F1 that has applications in industries such as oil and gas.
"There is an association that's kind of exciting," said Swope. "We like Intel's name being associated with exciting uses of technology, and it's fun to do as well."
Intel made heavy promotional use of Villeneuve during Grand Prix week in Montreal, and Doug Cooper, country manager at Intel of Canada, said one of the messages the company is trying to get out is that Intel is no longer just a processor company. Today, he said Intel's focus isn't on products, but on platforms.
"The word isn't completely out," said Cooper. "There's a lot more we need to do to explain how vPro is delivering on a business benefit and Intel is much more than just a microprocessor company."
Intel's vPro is a remote management, security and energy-efficiency suite designed to address what Cooper said are two of today's biggest IT concerns: energy consumption and IT support costs. He noted that just 13 per cent of incident reports in an IT shop actually require someone to go to the desk, but those 13 per cent represent almost half the cost. As well, he said energy efficiency now rivals performance as a user priority.
"Technologies such as Active Management and the access security using virtualisation – these things in vPro are designed to deliver a platform benefit directly to what IT shops say they need," said Cooper.