What Tata Communications gained from its Formula 1 innovation contest

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 06, 2020 Published on January 06, 2020

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With ‘crowd’ as innovation partner, company gets proof of concept for various technologies

The accelerating pace of technological change is forcing corporates to make innovation their priority. In order to compete with game-changing newcomers, large established companies are increasingly looking to start-ups as a significant source of innovation.

Take Tata Communications, which teamed up with Formula 1, the premier motor sport known for the skills of its drivers and the brilliance of its technology. The duo have been engaging fans and start-ups in an open innovation competition with a single aim — to discover smart uses for new technologies.

“We launched the F1 Innovation Prize in 2014, a first global digital crowdsourcing challenge for F1, where fans were given an opportunity at solving real challenges faced by the sport,” says Mehul Kapadia, Global Head of Marketing, Tata Communications. “Through the competition, we managed to engage with more than 2 lakh fans by bringing their ideas to reality through an annual proof-of-concept showcase,” he told BusinessLine in a recent interaction.

Though the 2018 F1 Innovation Prize was the last one, the lessons learnt have helped the Indian company visualise myriad tech solutions that will enable different kinds of fans to experience and engage with the action in more customised, immersive and powerful ways, he added.

It was a simple idea — to put the sport in fans’ hands to come up with creative ideas about how they want to see the action.

Proof of concept

While the challenge has given Formula 1 access to a global pool of technical and creative talent “like never before, with multiple winners going on to engage in further work with F1”, for the Indian company it has brought a proof of concept for its tech products. This, in turn, has helped the Indian company carve itself an edge over its competitors.

“For the five proofs of concepts conducted since 2014, two have been deployed: remote operations, and live Ultra High Definition 4K for Sky (the British telecommunications conglomerate owned by Comcast), which broadcast Formula 1 in Ultra High Definition across Europe in 2017,” said Kapadia.

The challenge sought ideas that would bring fans closer to the cockpit. It asked consumers to take the sport’s unique set of human, mechanical and technical data and combine them with the broadcast capabilities of Formula 1. For Tata Communications, it brought home many disruptive digital services being developed on the move, on and off the track.

Innovation partner

While the crowd and fans helped propel F1 technology to a new high, Tata Communications, the official connectivity provider of Formula 1, has been using the crowd as an innovation partner.

The winning idea of the 2018 F1 Innovation Prize by a UK fan “was also crafted with an aim to revolutionise the viewing experience for fans worldwide and get a glimpse of being on the inside of the sport they love”, said Kapadia. “In a world-first for global sports, the 2018 winner has worked with technologists at the sport’s Media & Technology Centre to bring his idea to life and help create more powerful experiences for F1 fans.”

Formula 1 is looking to incorporate some of the features of the 2018 winning idea in its digital platforms as part of its technology roadmap. The winning idea has been analysed by a cross-functional team of experts. “True to the crowdsourcing spirit of the F1 Innovation Prize, its key features have been shared with the F1 fan community on the (online community) F1 Fan Voice,” Kapadia added.

External consultant

This feedback will help steer the technology development roadmap of Formula 1. The 2018 winner, Jamie Gough, will also continue to work with Formula 1 as an external technology consultant while the features of his idea take shape, said the executive.

Kapadia went on to add that through the F1 Innovation Prize, “we have explored how new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented and virtual reality could pave the way for more powerful, immersive viewing experiences. It is interesting to know that over a quarter of a million F1 fans worldwide have engaged with the F1 Innovation Prize in different ways over the past five years, and thousands of fans have taken the opportunity to share their technical know-how and passion for F1 racing to help shape the future of this sport.”

Tata Communications plans to continue to work with Formula 1 and seek out innovative ways to enable fans to engage with their heroes in new ways and help unleash the full potential of digital transformation in global sports.

Published on January 06, 2020
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