Alibaba Cloud said Wednesday it’s partnering with the China-based karting business of race-car driver Fernando Alonso to digitize its operations and further popularize the sport.
The agreement is with China’s Yi Qian Communications, the official global karting partner of the two-time Formula One racing champion, and was signed at a ceremony in Spain attended by Alonso and representatives of both Alibaba Cloud and Yi Qian. Under its terms, Alibaba Cloud has committed to using technology to transform existing karting training programs and venues operated by Yi Qian.
“Alibaba Cloud strongly believes in the potential of technology to empower sports, which is why we are excited to work with Mr. Alonso, who has inspired a lot of people in China to participate in karting,” said Yeming Wang, general manager of Alibaba Cloud in Europe. “By leveraging our strong cloud, AI and IoT capabilities, karting lovers and operators in China will benefit from more-effective training programs and smarter facilities, which will also play a part in helping to grow the sport in China.”
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Specifically, Alibaba Cloud will offer smart-manufacturing capabilities, including cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technology to Yi Qian’s kart assembly plants in China. The aim is to improve manufacturing efficiency and support establishment of unmanned intelligent assembly plants.
For drivers, all data generated while they’re on the course will be turned into real-time insights to help team managers, coaches and players better understand their performance. That could help them design training programs unique to each individual driver. The hope is that the improved efficiency and quality of training will foster the next generation of kart racers in and outside of China.
Alibaba Cloud and Yi Qian will also organize a competition that brings together global data experts to collaborate and compete in developing solutions for real-world racing problems. Contestants will get cloud-computing resources and track records from Alonso’s karting schools with an eye toward developing better training programs to discover the next Alonso, who has notched 32 F1 Grand Prix wins–ranking him sixth of all-time–in his storied career.
Since 2011, Alonson has been a supporter of karting development, opening a museum and circuit in Spain. He opened a racing school in 2015, looking to offer young talent in Europe with facilities and training. Earlier this year, he signed with Yi Qian to build 40 race tracks in China over the next five years, hoping to find or develop future F1 champions.
“As a professional and a passionate lover of the sport, I wanted to promote karting to more people in China and around the world. I am fascinated by how technology can transform the sports industry and eager to bring the best technology to karting,” Alonso said. “By working together with Alibaba Cloud and Yi Qian Communications, we will be able to provide better training programs, manage our facilities more efficiently so as to attract more participants to the exciting sport.”
The deal is the latest foray into the world of sports for Alibaba Cloud, which is the official cloud services partner of the International Olympic Committee. Established in 2009, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, was China’s largest provider of public cloud services in 2016 by revenue, according to IDC. Alibaba Cloud provides a comprehensive suite of cloud computing services to businesses worldwide, including merchants doing business on Alibaba Group marketplaces, start-ups, corporations and government organizations.