Tata F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, 2015 – Telemetry Dash

I’ve run out of time trying to put together an entry for this year’s first round of the Tata F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize (brief [PDF]), which this year sets the challenge of designing a data dashboard that displays the following information:


Just taking at the data as presented turns it into somethign of an infographic design exercise (I wonder if anyone will submit entries using infogr.am?!) but the reality is much more that it needs to be a real-time telemetry dashboard.

My original sketch is a just a riff on the data as given:


(From the steering angle range, I guess straight ahead must be 90 degrees?! Which would put 12 degrees as a stupidly left turn? Whatever… you get the idea!)

Had I had time, I think I’d have extended this to include historical traces of some of the data, eg using something like the highcharts dynamic demo that could stream a recent history of particular values, perhaps taking inspiration too from Making Sense of Squiggly Lines. One thing I did think might be handy in this context were “sample and hold” colour digit or background alerts which would retain a transient change for a second or two – for example, recording that the steering wheel had been given a quick left-right – that could direct attention to the historical trace if the original incident was missed or needed clarification.

The positioning RPM then throttle is based on the idea that the throttle is a request for revs. Putting throttle (racing green for go) and brake (red for stop) next to each other allows control commands to be compared, and putting brake and speed (Mercedes silver/grey – these machines are built for speed) next to each other is based on the idea you brake to retard the vehicle (i.e. slow it down). (I also considered the idea of the speed indicator as a vertical bar close to the gear indicator, but felt that if the bars are rapidly changing, which they are likely to do, it could be quite jarring if vertical bars are going up and down t right angles to each other? What I hope the current view would do is show more of a ratchet effect across all the bars?) The gear indicator helps group these four indicators together. (I think that white background should actually be yellow?) In the event of a gear being lost, the colour of that gear number could fade further in grey towards black. A dot to the right of the scale could also indicate the ideal gear to be in at any particular point.

The tyre display groups the tyres and indicates steering angle as well as tyre temperature colour coded according to a spectrum colour scale. (The rev counter is also colour coded.) The temperature values are also displayed in an grid to allow for easy comparison, and again are match-colour coded. The steering angle is also displayed as a numerical indicator value, and further emphasised by the Mercedes logo (Mercedes are co-sponsoring the competition, I think? That said, I suspect their brand police, if they are anything like the OU’s, may have something to say about tilting the logo though?!) The battery indicator (CC: “Battery icon” by Aldendino) is grouped with the tyres on the grounds that battery and tyres are both resources that need to be managed.

In additional material, I’d possibly also have tried to demo some alerts, such as an overcooked tyre (note the additional annotation that that should have been in the original showing the degrees C unit):


and perhaps also included a note about possible additional channels – hinting at tyre pressure based on the size of each tyre, perhaps, or showing where another grid showing individual tyre pressure might go, or (more likely) assuming a user-interactive display, a push to toggle view, or even a toggling display, that shows tyre pressure or pressure in the same location at different times. There probably also needs to be some sort of indication of brake balance in there too – perhaps a dot that moves around the central grid cross, perhaps connected by a line to the origin of the cross?

The brief also asks for some info about refresh rates – Tata are in the comms business after all… I guess things to take into account are the bandwidth of the telemetry from the car (2 megabits per second looks reasonable?), the width of the data from each sensor, along with their sampling rates (info from ECU specs) and perhaps a bit of psychology (what sorts of refresh rate can folk cope with when numerical digit displays update, for example (e.g. when watching a time code on a movie?). Maybe also check out some bits and pieces on realtime dashboard design) and example race dashboard designs to see what sorts of metaphor or common design styles are likely to be familiar to team staff (and hence not need as much decoding). Looking back at last year’s challenge might also be useful. E.g. the timing screen whose data feed was a focus there used a black background and a palette of white, yellow, green, purple, cyan and red. There are conventions associated with those colours that could perhaps be drawn on here. (Also, using those colours perhaps make sense in that race teams are likely to be familiar with distinguishing those colours and associating meaning with them.)

I’ve never really tried to put a dashboard together… There’s lots to consider, isn’t there?!

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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