SAP has partnered with the AkzoNobel Volvo Ocean Race team to provide biometric solutions based on its Leonardo technology to monitor crew members and conditions on board the ocean-going yacht. The yacht is taking part in the round-the-world race, currently on its Cape Town leg.

SAP has equipped the nine-member crew with sensors that capture information about the crew and the boat.

Dr Adriana Marais, head of innovation at SAP Africa — and also a MarsOne candidate — explains that the sensors collet biometric data from the crew while others collect information about the boat and its environment.

Edge computing is key to the success of the solution. Rules of the race demand that competitors are not connected to the shore, so IoT gateways, onboard servers and industrial PCs are able to do analytics on the fly. Once the boat docks, more sophisticated analytics can take place, Dr Marais explains.

The biometric edge solution has access to the same data that the navigator sees, and helps to interpret data collected. The crew is able to analyse data onboard during the race, through a user interface designed specifically for the skipper.

“This is a new application of the technology in a harsh environment,” Dr Marais says. “We are excited about collecting the data, and analysing it, to hopefully increase performance.”

Dr Marais points out that this kind of technology can have relevant applications in Africa. Examples include remote healthcare services and telemedicine.

Ryan West, who looks after the technology on board, says one of the main challenges in this environment was to find a sensor able to survive the environment, but also suitable for the crew to wear. “The device has to be worn for nine months, in challenging conditions. The crew members are hot, they’re cold, they’re exhausted.

“Watches were selected to measure heart rate, pulse, calorie expenditure, exhaustion levels: these guys are four hours on-watch, four hours off-watch, and this rest is often interrupted. If you are not able to rest and recover, you will have slow attrition throughout the race.” The technology is designed to help the crew make better decisions while they are fatigued.

“To do that, we need to be aware of the onboard intelligence, but also be compliant with race rules,” West says. “The biometric wearables measure crew data, connect to a box below deck and then make it available on a Raspberry Pi. Crew can then see the data and make decisions based on it.”

Once the boat docks, the information is offloaded and added to the body of data to start drawing conclusions and making suggestions based on a wider spread of data.

Predictive and machine learning analytics are run on the SAP Cloud Platform using SAP Leonardo IoT Foundation. The predictive analytics results provided to the crew adds support to team AkzoNobel’s skipper’s preparation for the next leg of the race.

Dr Marais adds: “Biometric data is transforming the way we do things, from the world of international yacht racing to the remote delivery of healthcare.

“This project shows how data acquired by connected sensors, coupled with machine learning and predictive analytics, can enable even the largely analogue world of yacht racing to run digitally.”

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