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Now that NASCAR season is underway, fans are turning their heads to the track–and their smartphones.

In October 2019, I covered NASCAR’s use of augmented reality and big data to bring the reality of the track to racing fans through new technology. I’ve continued to follow the digital journey of NASCAR because in so many ways it is breaking new ground in its productive uses of big data. The latest chapter in the NASCAR tech journey focuses on how to capture real-time data streams and customize those streams on users’ mobile devices.

SEE: Securing IoT in your organization: 10 best practices (free PDF) (TechRepublic download)

Two things are fascinating about NASCAR’s approach to real-time data streams:

  • It is capturing an abundance of big data in the form of IoT directly from race cars
  • It is managing bandwidth and data overload by enabling users to choose only the data streams they want—meaning users get a subset of the total data being collected, and bandwidth stays healthy.

I like this approach because it meets the diverse streaming needs of different users, while controlling bandwidth.

“As we learned more about our fan base, we found that fans connected with us through a plurality of media channels—from television to radio and online,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR’s chief digital officer. “If our digital strategy was to be successful, we had to find ways to engage with fans on all of these channels.”

SEE: Digital transformation: How NASCAR is moving into the future (TechRepublic)

This meant enabling real-time video and leaderboard streams to present themselves on any type of mobile device, as well as on digital voice platforms, such as Amazon Alexa.

“This year’s Daytona 500 race this month (Feb. 17) is a good example of what we’re doing,” Clark said. “We have in-car cameras for those watching, and for those listening, there is the option of hearing live communications between spotters and crew chiefs.”

More fun for NASCAR fans

The bottom line is that fans are able to experience the reality of the race as it happens, no matter where they are or how they choose to tune in.

“What we want to expand is fan engagement,” Clark said. “Any NASCAR race produces a wealth of data, such as lap times, speeds, differentials between one car and another, trends over 10 or 20 laps. … We are continuing to look for ways to present this data visually on mobile devices so that a fan, if he or she wants, can compare the performances of different drivers—or if they’re tuning in after the race has started, they can obtain a quick history of the race to see what has already transpired. This enables them to catch up.”

SEE: Verizon bringing 5G and Wi-Fi to NASCAR (TechRepublic)

Clark said that one of the biggest challenges was determining which data to present to users, since there was so much IoT data to choose from.

“What we ended up with was 20 to 25 different data points that a user can choose from on his or her device,” he said. “A fan can surface up to six different choices at once on a smartphone. We recognize that we can’t be all things to all people, so being able to present many different choices enables us to meet the needs of more fans.”

NASCAR also maintains a data warehouse where it applies analytics to uncover customer needs and interests.

“The analytics contribute to a continuously evolving roadmap for our digital strategy,” Clark said, “all with the goal of meeting the needs of our fans.”

What IoT and big data lessons can your business learn from NASCAR?

Companies that are still struggling to gain meaning from the IoT and big data can learn lessons from NASCAR’s strategies:

  • Collect as much contextual data coming in as you can because tomorrow’s needs might be different from today.
  • Plan to manage your bandwidth by tailoring your content to fit the needs of different users.

NASCAR’s big data streaming approach can serve as a model in many other industries, so try to find ways to apply these methods to your own organization, increasing engagement with your customers, clients, or staff.