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AI takes pole position in Formula 1 racing tech



By MARCO VATTA, Associate and DANIE PIENAAR, Partner, Spoor & Fisher

Formula 1 is known as the “pinnacle of motorsport” and with good reason. If you look beyond the glamour, the large crowds, the fast speeds at which the cars kiss the apex and stick like glue to the asphalt, then you will see the countless hours of research, development, design, engineering and testing that takes place before the first fall of the chequered flag of a new Formula 1 racing season. It is the Holy Grail where car and driver are in unison in an attempt to be faster than the rival by shedding mere milliseconds off a lap time.   

Formula 1 is considered to be the most technologically advanced sport that has been invented by humans where everything is scrutinised and optimised to levels not typically seen in other sports. Each Formula 1 car has around two hundred sensors that channel data back to the pit lane where the team engineers remain transfixed on the data they receive in order to predict the next optimal move.

Teams will go as far as measuring each suspension deflection, each microliter of fuel used, each acceleration of the car and even the temperature of the track and car components. In essence, every possible variable that is capable of being quantified is captured. It is not just a race to the poles but a race for technology. It is therefore only befitting for artificial intelligence (AI) to take pole position in this technological race.

AI is a broad term that covers a variety of smart technologies but at the crux of each is the ability of AI to learn. AI can utilise mass amounts of data, analyse it and respond to it without the intervention of humans and far quicker than any human could. AI can therefore perform automated tasks and assist with decision-making in a manner that mimics humans’ abilities to sense, think and act. In order to reap the benefits of AI, sufficient quantity and quality of input data is required to be fed into a new set of machine learning systems.

The vast amounts of data and knowledge yielded by Formula 1 teams are vital in advancing the development of Formula 1 technology, in particular for input data use in AI. In order for a team to be a step ahead of their competitors it is important for the big data and knowledge to be recognised as valuable intellectual property (which is proprietary) and for it to be safeguarded as such, especially if there is a step forward in automating decision-making without human intervention.

AI in Formula 1 has, for example, the potential to be used in pit-stop timing to get better predictions as to when the car needs to return to the pit for a fresh set of tyres. It may even assist in better tyre choices by taking into account current and medium-term weather changes. Such systems can be trained to avoid collisions and may predict a failure of some part of the car, beforehand. Team gains may also be furthered by reducing or even eliminating human error, making better strategy decisions and assuring drivers that AI is unbiased and will work towards the benefit of the team.

If we move beyond the complexities of the team dynamics and bring AI home, to the spectator, then it is worthwhile noting that the Formula One Group has partnered with Amazon Web Services to add value to the experience of the fan by using real-time analysis and machine learning techniques to enhance race metrics, which will be fed to the spectators in real-time.

The use of Amazon’s machine learning tool, SageMaker, will extract statistics, make race predictions, and provide fans with insight into the split second decisions and strategies adopted by teams and drivers, which will be shared through television and digital platforms to fans all over the world – it is as if the spectator will be seated in the driver’s or engineer’s seat.

The enhancements in technology do not only boost performance in Formula 1 but it adds to the entertainment value of fans. With that being said, Formula 1 teams have never been shy in spending money and being at the forefront of technological advancements in cars. We will soon see further innovation with the use of AI that will be reliant on closely guarded intellectual property in order to make predictions and decisions during races with its ability to identify hidden correlations, patterns and trends in data sets. The race in codifying human ingenuity is on and in the famous words of Formula 1 commentator, Murray Walker, it is “Go! Go! Go!”


Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds



Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at

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Nokia to be first with Android 10



Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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