Zircon Brings Together Services to Provide Continuous Support of Police Force Telematics System

Zircon Brings Together Services to Provide Continuous Support of Police Force Telematics System

Zircon Brings Together Services to Provide Continuous Support of Police Force Telematics System

Operating Systems: Widows Server (2012)
Languages: C#, HTML, XML, Python, F#, CSS, SQL, Borland Delphi
Methodologies: Object Oriented Design, UML, SCRUM, Test Driven Development, Model-view-view-model, Structured Analysis, Structured Design
Frameworks: Angular.JS, .Net Framework, ASP.NET, AKKA
Technologies: RabbitMQ, Hibernate, Redis
Comms/Networking: TCP/IP, TETRA, HTTPS
Configuration Management: Git, Azure DevOps (previously TFS)
Software Development Tools: Microsoft Visual Studio (2010, 2012, 2015), Visio, Resharper, Moq, xUnit
Databases: Microsoft SQL (2014, 2016), Relational Databases
Our client has developed several software products for use by the Defence and Emergency Service sectors. One of these products is a telematics and fleet management system that was developed to support the police force.

Facing the loss of a key resource in the support of this telematics system, our client began the process of finding a new third line support solution. After a series of discussions, Zircon was asked to fulfil this role and with agreement from our client, Zircon provided a mix of services, to include support, feature development and consultancy.

Mindful of our client’s relatively low experience with an outsourcing partner like Zircon, the Zircon team were careful to ensure that regular communication was maintained at all points throughout the project. Key stakeholders were involved in all sprint planning, review and retrospective meetings, as well as regular updates to ensure that they were aware of progress and the state of any features or fixes being worked on.

From our experiences of working on projects of this nature, we know how important the onboarding period is for our clients. The product is a complex system, based around a C# ASP.Net front end coupled to a Microsoft SQL Server database and a collection of back end services that utilise a wide variety of technologies such as RabbitMQ, NHibernate, Angular.JS and Redis. To make the transition as smooth as possible and gain valuable insight into the system, Zircon team members invested several days to work alongside our client’s existing product teams and to attend meetings with key stakeholders.

As an additional part of this onboarding process, we ensure that time is given to familiarise ourselves with our client’s configuration management and build process. This involves doing a build of the system before making any alterations, or with a very slight change and carrying out system and integration testing, reassuring both ourselves and our clients that their process documentation is as accurate as possible and that our team understands them.

With this insight, we were able to provide our client with reliable ongoing support, as well as provide them with assistance in developing their life-cycle and deployment processes.

One of the components of this system is an ETL toolset that allows for the transfer of large quantities of data from fleet vehicles. Over time the stored ETL processes had become interwoven, where various architectures had been built up on top of each other. This complex structure made maintaining the system challenging and lead to the appearance of bugs.

To clarify the actual structure of the interwoven architecture, Zircon engineers created a user manual of all the stored procedures in both picture and flow diagram form, accompanied by descriptions and code examples. Having this clarity upfront not only aided our ability to debug the system but also gave the client a helpful manual that would allow them to work on the system without our assistance.

Alongside our development work, we also offered our consultancy service to help our client find a solution to a few additional issues. For example, there is an expectation for police data records to be retained for several years, but the database where it was being stored had reached capacity and historical data was periodically extracted and placed elsewhere. In this instance we provided our client with advice on how to achieve continuous integration of the service while backups could continue to be taken.

We fulfilled this role for 18 months before our involvement was brought to an end when our client made the decision to end-of-life the product. In light of this decision, our client wanted to bring the support back in house for the final few months. To ease this transition, Zircon assisted in the handover process, offering training for our client’s team from our offices in Trowbridge.

For this project we were able to come in quickly, rapidly gain knowledge of the system and successfully provide the support service that they required. We worked closely with our client right from day one, building our relationship to a point where they could trust us to make suggestions to improve both their processes and their product.

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Capturing the Requirements of a Complex System Supports the Introduction of New Signalling Product

Capturing the Requirements of a Complex System Supports the Introduction of New Signalling Product

Capturing the Requirements of a Complex System Supports the Introduction of New Signalling Product

Methodologies: UML
Software Development Tools: Visio
Our client is a well-known name in the railway signalling sector, developing and maintaining a portfolio of signalling software products. Hoping to introduce a new product into this portfolio, our client discovered that they required additional support in the definition of their requirements.

Knowing that we had previous experience of working with their existing systems, and the capability to collate information regarding various interfaces and data sources, Zircon were initially brought into the project to complete a requirements capture for the new product. Working with each of the stakeholders involved in the development, we organised a series of workshops to gain a clear picture of what the system would be expected to do and how it would be used from which we could outline the requirements.

As this was a complex system, bringing together a variety of different data sources, some of which the client had never used before, we had to investigate and understand each source and the related interfaces. This helped to ensure interoperability of the data sources and that they would be suitable for use with our client’s product.

Having collated the findings from the workshops into a requirements specification, we were asked by the client to provide an estimate of the required resources and potential duration of development. As part of the estimation process we utilised UML to design a viable system architecture from the requirements specification.

With requirements and system architecture in hand, the client was able to commence the development of their new product. By utilising Zircon’s services, the client was able to focus on other important aspects of the project, knowing that we could bring together the various stakeholders and ensure all of their expectations would be captured in the final requirements.

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Zircon Works With End Users to Produce HMI for Integration into Newcastle GLOSA System

Zircon Works With End Users to Produce HMI for Integration into Newcastle GLOSA System

Zircon Works With End Users to Produce HMI for Integration into Newcastle GLOSA System

Operating Systems: Andriod 5 (Lollipop)
Languages: Java, JSON
Configuration Management: Git
Software Development Tools: Android Studio
Hardware: LG Smartphone
Newcastle City Council had been a part of an EU funded project to develop and deploy a Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS). Following the conclusion of the project in December 2015, our client received additional funding to further extend the capabilities of the system.

The aim of the feasibility study was to demonstrate how Carbon Dioxide emissions produced by public transport vehicles (e.g. buses) could be lowered by allowing drivers to know the status of traffic signals in advance. The system was to be comprised of roadside units that control the traffic light system and On Board Units (OBU’s) that communicate with the roadside units as the vehicle passes by.

Part of the study required a number of vehicles to be equipped with Android based devices to act as a Human Machine Interface (HMI) between the driver and the OBU’s, to allow the messages regarding the status of traffic lights and road hazard warnings to be displayed visually and audibly in real-time.

Initially Zircon were given the responsibility of developing the HMI as an Android application capable of displaying information on either a tablet or mobile phone. In order to ensure that the presentation of the application would align with user expectations, Zircon undertook a series of workshops to get advice from the bus drivers on which of the HMI prototypes would be suitable. The outcome of these workshops was to keep the HMI as simple as possible, to reduce the risk of driver distraction.

The application provides a map of the local area that displays hazard events. Overlaid on this are images that will display messages regarding the status of traffic signals so that the drivers will be able to anticipate the state of the junction when they arrive there. The application is capable of informing the user either, what speed to approach the junction or other information, such as the length of time left until a light will change from red.

Whilst working on the HMI project, Zircon discovered that the client was experiencing difficulties with sourcing a supplier of the On Board Units that was capable of fulfilling their requirements. As we had an in depth understanding of the project and our client’s requirements, Zircon offered to source suitable off-the-shelf OBU hardware and provide the required additional functionality.

Working alongside the OBU supplier, Zircon made updates to the hardware’s client software so as to enable the provision of real-time GPS data for use by the HMI. In addition to this, Zircon made a number of enhancements to the OBU’s so that they would be capable of logging data remotely and enable the ability to update the software installed.

As a result of Zircon’s assistance our client not only had a product that was able to fulfil their needs, but also the peace of mind that there was a solution to a very troublesome problem.

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Driver Development Introduces Valuable Functionality to Client’s Signalling System

Driver Development Introduces Valuable Functionality to Client’s Signalling System

Driver Development Introduces Valuable Functionality to Client’s Signalling System

Operating Systems: Windows (7)
Languages: C++
Software Development Tools: PRQA, Microsoft Visual Studio
Other: BS EN 50128 (SIL2)
Zircon’s client develops and maintains Rail Signalling control software. One of their products, a signalman’s workstation is used by a number of rail operators around the globe to control signals and points in order to direct trains to their destinations, whilst avoiding route collisions.

Our client routinely makes modifications to the core software, to accommodate the differing operational practises of their clients.  Additional functionality can be added through the development of additional software drivers and Zircon was asked to carry out the development of one such driver.

Our client’s software allows signalling technicians to monitor and control the rail network. Trains are routed by the system and often these routes will use the same set of points. To avoid a collision, once a route has been set for one train then all points along that route are locked until that train has passed through the entire route, thus preventing any other train occupying the track along the route.

However, there are occasions when it is desirable to be able to partially release a route in order to let another train cross over the set route, once that track section has been cleared by the preceding train. Prior to the project, there was no way to override the system to clear a locked point.

Zircon developed a driver that utilised the products existing driver framework to provide the functionality to allow a signalling technician to clear locked points.  It integrated with the products logging and diagnostics facilities to ensure all actions are logged for later analysis. All of the code produced was developed to our clients coding standards and verified using peer review and static analysis.

Upon the projects conclusion, the driver had been successfully integrated and fully tested, including component level testing, to ensure the software met the requirements of EN 50128 SIL2.

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Independent Testing of Software Drivers Provides Supporting Evidence of Safety Standard Compliance

Independent Testing of Software Drivers Provides Supporting Evidence of Safety Standard Compliance

Independent Testing of Software Drivers Provides Supporting Evidence of Safety Standard Compliance

Other: BS EN 50128 (SIL2), Module Testing
Zircon’s client is a household name in the railway signalling industry, and has developed a number of software packages that they continue to alter and improve over time. Additional functionality can be added through the development of additional software drivers. On this occasion our client’s engineers had developed two new drivers which were to be integrated into the core software product.

The core system is safety-related and developed in accordance with the EN 50128 standard to Safety Integrity Level 2 (SIL2), therefore the new drivers themselves were also required to meet EN 50128 SIL2.  The SIL2 process requires that the software being tested must be tested by an individual that had not been a part of its development. Therefore, if our client wanted to keep the entire development process in house they would need to find an engineer that could not be related back to the development process.

Unfortunately for our client, they did not have the internal resources available at the time and took the decision to outsource the work to a third party, with Zircon being selected.  Having worked with Zircon in the past, the client knew that we had the right level of understanding of the SIL2 process, their product line and could rely upon the quality of our engineers.

Once given the software by the client, our engineers took the original requirements and generated a number of tests to ensure that the drivers complied with the original plan and that the core software would not be adversely affected upon integration.  Zircon engineers then carried out testing of the software in accordance with these plans.

Upon the conclusion of the tests, we provided the evidence to our client that the software had met the SIL2 standard and could be distributed to the end user.

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Looking for a team to support your next Rail software venture?  Zircon is there to help you ensure project success, contact the team today.