Another Year Over!

Zircon’s year end is the end of September and it’s a good time to review what we have done (and what we haven’t done) over the last twelve months.

In general it has been an up and down year. As a result of the current economic climate, and the resulting clamp down on spending, the level of business was down on our previous record setting year, but was enough to keep us going!

The year started on a high note with our 3D Train Graph reaching the finals of the IET Innovation Awards. This was not only a great technical achievement but also a very enjoyable night out with our guests.

Early in the year we undertook a marketing exercise to try and understand the industries perception of us. The results of this were incorporated into a re-launch of our identity and our website. Our tag line – Agile Reliable was born out of people’s perception of Zircon the company. Agile because we are able to respond and develop software quickly and efficiently. Reliable because the service we provide and the software that we develop can be relied upon. ‘Engineering software excellence’ is, of course, what we exist to do!

Project wise, we have continued with a number of projects requiring a wide range of skills. These have included

  • Helping to test the Victoria Line control centre equipment. This has involved one of our engineers spending a lot of time working unsocial hours on site in London.
  • Completing a suite of programs to automatically test all interfaces on the Highways Agency’s Video Information Highway.
  • Completing development of a complex software suite to integrate metro Automatic Train Operation products with mainline European Train Control System train protection products. This is the first step towards ‘driverless’ trains on the mainline in the UK.
  • We continue with our work to develop aspects of a road traffic light controller.

In the meantime we have been doing some in house R&D work.

  • We have continued to refine our 3D Train Graph and it has been included in a number of our customer’s tenders. Hopefully these will turn into projects in the second half of the year.
  • ARTIST, our test tool, has also been improved and has been used for in house testing. A number of applications for automatic, repeatable tests have emerged and are being included into the functionality.

As a software house, you will not be surprised to hear that we tender for a lot of diverse work. It will also not surprise you to hear that we don’t win them all! However getting ourselves into a position where we can confidently quote to develop something requires us to investigate and prototype a lot of software applications. These have included

  • Train carried video recording, saving court room quality images or analysing position of wire on a pantograph.
  • Investigating and simulating aircraft instrumentation.
  • Investigation of automatic weather monitoring systems
  • Investigation of navigation systems
  • Investigating the robustness of Linux file systems under power oscillation

One very new area for us is taking on an apprentice. The first year is over and all seems to be going well with exams passed and practical experience building it seems to be a good way to build the company.

So, that’s the end of a busy year. Another new, and hopefully successful one is already here.

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