Across the world, the need for innovation and digital transformation has accelerated for businesses. From smart factories to connected cars, technologies like 5G, IoT and more play a huge role in pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Vodafone Business’ latest report shows that ‘fit for the future’ businesses are adaptable and keep up-to-date with emerging trends, with 63% of such businesses open to being the first to try out new technology.

The report also uncovered a strong correlation between future readiness, business performance and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scores.

At the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, innovation is one of the core values of the all-electric racing series. As such, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team is constantly looking at better, newer ways to be at the forefront of tomorrow’s racing by harnessing new technologies to optimise their cars – both on the track and the roads.

In a fireside chat that took place in December 2021, I caught up with Friedemann Kurz, Head of IT-Solutions at Porsche Motorsport, to find out how the team is harnessing digital innovation to break new grounds for e-mobility.

Q. Why did Porsche decide to join Formula E and what was the strategic opportunity that Porsche saw in the race?

Friedemann: We are seeing a big change happening in the whole automotive industry, which is innovating towards e-mobility and electric cars. Formula E was the perfect platform for Porsche Motorsport to push the boundaries of what technology is capable of and move our cars in this direction, as well as bringing the races to people regardless of where they are.

Q. The performance of e-mobility cars are improving year after year – do you see any trade-offs between sustainability and performance?

Friedemann: It is actually quite the opposite - the performance of electric cars are amazing. There are even more possibilities that you can create by applying modern technology like software, connectivity and IoT in electric cars to push e-mobility to a whole other level.

Q. How do you leverage the different elements of technology and sustainability in your own innovation strategy?

Friedemann: In Formula E racing, we have to innovate, otherwise we will not be competitive. What makes a big difference in staying ahead of our competitors is making the car more intelligent with software.

There is a limitation in terms of the power that can be consumed by the car during the race, so we need to find the perfect strategy to use the power at the right time to overtake the competition, and conserve energy at other occasions to preserve our position.

With intelligent software, the car is able to measure how much energy is left and determine the right strategy on how to apply the energy across the race. From season to season, as well as race to race, we are always trying to optimise the system to make the car more intelligent, so we can stay ahead of the competition.

This continuous improvement and mindset of finding new ways to make things easier and more efficient on an everyday basis pushes innovative thinking across every member of the team, from the race engineers, to the drivers, to logistics.

Q. How did you apply IoT and mobility sensors to optimise the cars and measure all the different parameters?

Friedemann: Knowledge is key to being successful, so we try to understand everything that happens in and around the car, from energy consumption to optimising the software so that the car can regulate itself to recoup and boost at the right time. What we do is to simulate the race in the virtual world, and do real runs on the track to compare data constantly.

We also use the same sensors and applied IoT to understand and measure how external environmental factors like weather, pressure, and surface of the track impacts the performance of the car. The car acts like a rolling sensor, delivering us the data to improve our knowledge of how it behaves.

Q. Our engineers worked with your team to create one of the fastest environments for testing. What was it like working together and what was the aim?

Friedemann: We rely on the expertise of Vodafone Business as an enabler for us to push the limits of innovation, such as with our R&D center in Weissach which is now connected with 5G.

This opens new opportunities for us to stream live video and audio and gives us more data from the car to gain more knowledge, allowing us to make decisions more precisely.

Edge computing has enabled the delivery of data within milliseconds, and Vodafone Business has also allowed us to push data on the cloud for us to perform more advanced analysis, as well as make faster decisions with real-time data onsite to increase our chances of success.

Q. How does Porsche Motorsport approach innovation?

Friedemann: There are three levels where innovation is required – the first is for Porsche’s street cars. Innovation takes a longer time to happen at this stage and planning has to take place three to five years ahead due to regulations.

The second level takes place in motorsport, giving us much more flexibility and freedom to think outside the box and innovate at a faster pace.

The third level is at the pre-development stage where we have to create the materials and batteries for the cars. We also worked with Vodafone Business to experiment with new technologies on prototypes before they enter the market.

Thinking outside the box on these three levels allows Porsche to be way ahead in terms of innovation.

Q. Which innovations in Porsche Motorsport have inspired the production of Porsche’s road cars?

Friedemann: In the e-mobility space, the 919 hybrid was one of my highlight projects when we started with hybrid cars in motorsport. We developed super-efficient batteries that are now also applied in the Porsche Taycan.

When it comes to intelligent software, there’s a lot we can learn in Formula E, and a few years on, we are applying that technology to the street cars. This is one of the main reasons why we do Motorsport.

Giorgio Migliarina - Products and Services Director, Vodafone Business