AWS Public Sector Blog

Wings for Life World Run uses AWS to scale when it matters most

The Wings for Life World Run is a global charity run that has raised funds to help find a cure for spinal cord injury since 2014. Every year, the event gives 100% of its entry fees and donations to research supported by Wings for Life, a not-for-profit foundation that supports spinal cord research. Participants can join the event worldwide at the same time, using the Wings for Life World Run App. To scale to meet the spike in demand to the Wings for Life World Run App and give real-time leaderboard updates for the global virtual race, Wings for Life World Run uses Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Wings for Life World Run App’s global availability supports runners worldwide

The event is open to all, and participants can join the run in person in seven countries, or from anywhere in the world via the Wings for Life World Run App. Thousands of participating runners and wheelchair users start their runs simultaneously, from anywhere—day or night, rain or shine—using the app. Participating runners and wheelchair users race as far as they can as they are “chased” by a moving finish line called the “Catcher Car.” While the “Catcher Car” is a physical vehicle for the seven in-person runs, it is displayed virtually on the app for the run’s worldwide virtual participants. The “Catcher Car” allows participants to go at their own pace, with their own goals.

For 364 days a year, there is virtually no traffic on the Wings for Life World Run App. On race day, the traffic increases from zero to hundreds of thousands of users. This year, the event welcomed over 160,000 participants running in 165 countries covering an average of 11.9 kilometers each. This year’s event raised over €4.7 million for spinal cord research.

How AWS helps Wings for Life World Run scale to meet race-day demand

With thousands of participants signing up and using the app just hours before the start of the race, the Wings for Life World Run App experiences its yearly sudden spike in users. This means the Wings for Life World Run App must manage traffic that jumps from zero to half a million data transactions per second within the 30 minutes before the race. These data transactions provide near real-time data on the location of each runner. In total, on race day, this can result in up to 8.1 billion transactions (on average 2.5 transactions per runner per second for up to five hours) across the whole race. To meet this demand, Wings for Life uses AWS.

The Wings for Life World Run App collects the GPS locations of the runners and sends this information as an MQTT message to AWS IoT Core and on to the global leaderboard. During the race, about half a million messages per second need to be consumed, processed, and aggregated in near real-time. Wings for Life uses AWS IoT Core in multiple regions to receive the location and distance messages using the Basic Ingest method. These messages are then validated and put onto a regional Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) queue for further processing. AWS Lambda is used to dequeue the messages from the globally distributed regions and consolidates them into the race control region using Amazon DynamoDB for long term storage. In parallel, AWS Lambda also processes and verifies the location and distance information and puts this data into the global leader board based on Amazon ElastiCache for Redis as a sorted set. Amazon ElastiCache allows for retrieval of the top runners’ location, as well as the rank of each runner within milliseconds.

By using AWS, Wings for Life can meet their global needs, providing MQTT endpoints on all continents, scale to meet a spike in demand, and scale capacity while avoiding the infrastructure operation costs and hardware investments that would be necessary to maintain a capacity that is only used for a few hours per year.

Visit Wings for Life World Run to learn more about the race.

Learn more about AWS IoT Core. Watch What is AWS IoT? to learn more about to learn how you can leverage a network of internet of things devices for your organization. Do you have questions about how you can use AWS IoT for your organization? Reach out to the AWS Public Sector Team for help.

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Andreas Juffinger

Andreas Juffinger

Andreas Juffinger is a senior solutions architect with Amazon Web Services (AWS). He supports enterprise customers in building data intelligence platforms, lake house architectures, and cloud native solutions solving technical and business challenges in strategic transformation programs. He has more than 20 years of experience in data analytics, business intelligence, and machine learning, and a long history as lead application and enterprise architect.