Engadget special correspondent Patrick Karle is at the Indianapolis 500 this week, where he filed this report on how one team there is using Tablet PCs and Microsoft's OneNote app:
Race cars aren't the only fast machines at this year's Indy 500. Target Chip Ganassi Racing engineers are using new
Fujitsu Stylistic Model
ST501D Tablet PCs running Microsoft OneNote to help them design, build, tune, and run three Toyota-powered IndyCars
in the world's largest motorsports event.
Michael Carbone, IT director for Chip Ganassi Racing, said they looked at other brands of ruggedized PCs, but decided to outfit fifteen members of the engineering staff with Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PCs, because of the 12.1-inch XGA TFT indoor/outdoor display. "The display actually gets brighter as the sun gets brighter," Carbone said.
Julian Robertson, Chief Engineer for the #33 Target Toyota IndyCar, said racing the Target Racing team members
prefer Tablet PCs to laptops when working in the pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where harsh conditions
can severely task both engineers and their tools.
Our tablets are fully functional PCs, but they are lighter and easier to use, he said. We save a lot of time writing on the screen with a stylus rather than keyboarding.
To make life at trackside easier, Ganassi Racing recently deployed Microsoft OneNote, a Tablet PC application that helps a highly mobile staff to pull together engineering data, meeting notes and data from other sources, according to Robertson.
He said OneNotes file structure has allowed them to replace paper notebooks, and lends itself well to the particular challenge that all race teams face when setting up a race car.
The way we used to do it, the engine and chassis data and track maps were on a sheet of paper, and we had to use pens to make notes on it and pass the sheets around the pit so everyone could see it, he said.
Robertson said they are now recording a drivers spoken comments about how the car is handling as a Windows Media Audio file and can do a voice overlay within a OneNote document along with a track diagram to show where the car went fast or slow. Such OneNote documents can be instant messaged to engineers back at the garages and stored for future use.
OneNote allows him and the other engineers to create a set-up sheet for each car that incorporates raw data from the on-board data acquisition systems with various track maps with an actual audio file of the driver explaining practice laps, Robertson said.
He said OneNote is useful in creating reports and presentations that combine computer-aided design (CAD) drawings, data from the on-board data logging systems, and engineering notes with information gathered from various sources, such as photos of necessary parts from catalogues, on the Internet.
That used to take several programs and quite a number of steps, he said. Now we can do it all with OneNote.