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SilverHook Powerboats Uses Data To Speed Ahead of Competition

Internet of Things
Nigel Hook co-founder, Silverhook Powerboats-Photo by Stephen Simpson


Customer: SilverHook Powerboats
Headquarters: Lake Monroe, Florida
Business: The design, building and racing of offshore powerboats
Challenge: Analyzing 2,000 bits of data generated from more than 100 onboard sensors every second
Solution: Using IBM Bluemix, the IBM Watson Internet of Things Foundation and SoftLayer (an IBM company) to create a real-time data analytics environment
Hardware: An IBM PowerLinux 7R2 server and a SoftLayer server
Software: The IBM Watson Internet of Things Foundation, IBM SPSS and IBM Bluemix

Offshore racing boats can hit 200 miles per hour, outrun helicopters stocked with people covering a race and endure acceleration forces reaching 6.9 Gs—more than what an astronaut experiences during a launch.

They’re also becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated. Not only are their engines, drive trains and instruments being beefed up, but their diagnostic systems are improving too. SilverHook Powerboats’ Lucas Oil 77 is a prime example. Featured in a recent CeBIT expo in Germany, the powerboat showcases several advanced IBM analytical tools that help keep it ahead of the competition.

“It just makes sense to have sensor data go into the cloud so our team on shore can analyze it and let us know how well, for example, the alternators are operating.”
—Nigel Hook, co-founder, SilverHook

The boat’s team uses the IBM Watson* Internet of Things (IoT) platform service within Bluemix* to stream real-time data from the boat’s array of sensors and GPS trackers to a private analytics cloud driven by IBM SoftLayer* and SPSS*. This allows the crew chief and co-pilots to better track speed and stability, spot and rectify potential issues, improve crew safety, and more effectively engage racing fans.

At the helm is co-pilot Nigel Hook, co-founder of SilverHook, based in Lake Monroe, Florida, and founder and CEO of business intelligence and predictive analytics software firm DataSkill in San Diego.

As Hook explains, “When you’re going that fast over rough water, it’s difficult to read the gauges. If there were an issue somewhere, we’d have a tough time seeing it during a race. It just makes sense to have sensor data go into the cloud so our team on shore can analyze it and let us know how well, for example, the alternators are operating. They can then let us know if we need to make any corrections to the boat, but even that can result in delays. As a result, we’re also using onboard diagnosis tools that can immediately notify us of potential problems as we’re racing.”

Considering how sophisticated and expensive these powerboats are, onboard tools are no small matter. The two engines used in the SilverHook boat cost around $2.5 million total.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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