Early Fault Identification with Software for Remote Condition Monitoring

Early Fault Identification with Software for Remote Condition Monitoring

Early Fault Identification with Software for Remote Condition Monitoring Of Track Circuits

Operating Systems: Windows (8)
Languages: C#.NET
Frameworks: .NET4, WPF
Databases: SQL Server
Zircon was approached by London Underground to help develop a monitoring system to allow them to assess the status of track circuits on the Victoria Line which would frequently fail without any warning, and lead to high levels of lost customer hours.

The work was part of an ongoing improvement program for this line and our client wanted to be able to detect failures before they happened. Zircon was tasked to develop a software package that would retrieve data from a database, provided by the client, and present it in real time on a touch screen display in the control room.

The majority of this project revolved around the development of the front end Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the back end server solution to work alongside it. The GUI was designed so that it colour codes each track circuit according to their operational status, this allows our clients engineers to identify which circuits have begun to drift away from normal operating conditions.

Once a potential issue is identified, engineers are able to view current and historical conditions for that circuit plotted together in graphical format. Not only does this allow for quick fault diagnosis but also early identification of failing equipment.

In order to provide our client with support for the entire project lifecycle, Zircon generated a system level test specification for the GUI and server side application. We also provided our client with technical on site software support for factory acceptance and line acceptance testing, as well as assisting the client with the documentation and assurance activities associated with the GUI software.

The new system has since been approved and implemented; our clients were more than satisfied with the service provided by Zircon and are hopeful that the level of lost customer hours will see a significant reduction.

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Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Operating Systems: Windows (XP, 7)
Languages: C#.NET, C++
Cobham Aviation Services provides operational readiness training, mission rehearsal and electronic warfare training for military and international armed forces. This involves using complex software to simulate attacks and when Cobham decided that this was nearing the end of its useful life they asked Zircon to update it.
Background To The Project

During the Falkland’s War Exocet missiles inflicted heavy damage on the Royal Navy.  After the conflict there was an obvious need to train naval personnel and pilots in how best to cope with the evolving threats posed by hostile guided missiles.  For many years Cobham Aviation Services has been performing this role for the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and NATO, amongst others.

The company operates a fleet of Falcon 20 jets fitted with a number of pods that create a variety of different effects to recreate hostile environments.  These include radar jamming and threat simulation, communications jamming, false target generation, electronic surveillance, platform location and attitude logging, and height-keeping towed targets with controllable radar cross section.  The Electronic Warfare Officer on the plane controls the system and produces whatever effects are required to stage realistic end-to-end rehearsals of complex and demanding missions.

When the multi-million pound contract was recently renewed for a further 10 years it was decided that the legacy software needed updating.  It was written in Borland C++, a language which was no longer supported.  This meant it was becoming increasingly difficult to further develop the application to allow enhancement of the training schedule.  What’s more the hardware had become dated and was difficult to maintain.  So Cobham felt the need to translate it into a more modern language.

“They were very focused on building a good relationship with us, and pretty driven in terms of accomplishing what was required on schedule.”

Colin Rebettes

Cobham

The Zircon Solution

Colin Rebettes, one of Cobham’s electronic warfare experts, explains that “We’d written the original software ourselves, but that needed translating from an old Borland compiler to an integrated development environment.  We had the capability to do that in-house but our workload meant it was more sensible to outsource it.”

When Cobham started making enquires about a suitable software house to undertake this project Zircon’s name came up.  “We went to their offices,” Colin explains, “had a look around, reviewed their capabilities, and were impressed with the work they’d done in other environments.  Also, the fact that they had BSI ISO9001:2008 (TickIT) accreditation was important to us.”

We were able to port the software over into a current language (C# .NET).  This enabled us to retain much of the core application code.  In the process we also fixed a number of bugs that had either become apparent over time or which we discovered once we set to work.  This approach was much more cost effective than a complete re-write and has successfully extended the life of this legacy system and made future enhancements a lot easier.

Rising To Every Challenge

Colin explains that “There was a bit of an issue in that this environment was new to the Zircon engineers.  They weren’t familiar with the kind of tasks the software was being asked to perform, but they soon developed a good understanding of what was going on.”

Another issue was the fact that “We couldn’t supply Zircon with the actual hardware and had to rig up an environment on which the software could run and be tested – we had to create some simulated interfaces for them to work with.  Then there was the fact that there was a huge quantity of legacy code which was not written to current standards and which contained a lot of bugs  So it was a big job.”

Despite all these difficulties we were able to hit our milestones on schedule.   “They were ahead of us much of the time,” concedes Colin, “we were pretty busy on other projects and weren’t always ready to verify and sign things off as soon as they were completed.”

“There was a bit of an issue in that this environment was new to the Zircon engineers …..  but they soon developed a good understanding of what was going on.”

Colin Rebettes

Cobham

Easy To Work With

Colin comments that “The level of services from Zircon was excellent, they were very professional.  Although their offices weren’t nearby to ours we stayed in close touch with their engineers on the telephone.  We had no difficulty sorting out challenges as they arose – they were good at communicating.   And if it was something that needed discussing face to face they’d come down to see us at a moment’s notice.”

“I liked the fact that they weren’t too big, or too small,” Coin continues.  “They had all the necessary skills, capabilities and resources, but weren’t so large that working closely with us was a problem – it was a good fit.  They were very focused on building a good relationship with us, and pretty driven in terms of accomplishing what was required on schedule.  If we had a similar project I’d definitely be looking to use them again.”

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Zircon Successfully Delivers Peace of Mind to the Highways Agency in Partnership With WSP

Zircon Successfully Delivers Peace of Mind to the Highways Agency in Partnership With WSP

Zircon Successfully Delivers Peace of Mind to the Highways Agency in Partnership With WSP

Operating Systems: Windows
Languages: C#.NET, XML
Methodologies: Object Oriented Design, UML
Comms/Networking: TCP/IP, CORBA
Configuration Management: Source Safe
Software Development Tools: Visual Studio
Zircon recently helped WSP Intelligent Transport Systems to develop a Video Information Highway Certification Package (VIH CP) that will be used by the Highways Agency to ensure that new Video Clients and Television Base Stations comply with the agency’s VIH specifications.
Background to the Project
Our client, WSP Intelligent Transport Systems, play a pivotal role in the development of innovative and technology based solutions for a variety of transport systems and networks.

In this capacity they were asked to help the Highways Agency cope with an increase in demand from commercial and public organisations for access to the Agency’s CCTV images.

WSP were tasked with developing a supplier independent certified test system to ensure that all new Video Clients and Television Base Stations fully complied with the Highways Authority’s CCTV VIH specifications. What’s more, the new system had to be designed in such a way that it would not adversely affect the existing CCTV network or compromise its integrity in any way.

“I found them quite flexible – if anything needed to change from the original requirements, they were very good at taking this on board.”

David Weston

Project Manager, WSP

The Challenge
WSP decided to call upon Zircon’s expertise to help them complete this project. David Weston, Project Manager at WSP explains that “We’d used Zircon before on the original certification system, and that went well, so it was suggested that we contact them again for this. We just decided they were right for this…there was no tendering process.”

The project, which ran from November 2009 to July 2010, went very smoothly from start to finish, without any major challenges. “The project was well managed and deliverables were on time and to a high standard” commented David Weston.

Teamwork
“We worked together very closely, in effect as one team, and that was a big factor in creating such a good solution” David adds. “We were able to combine our skills very effectively.”

He was also particularly pleased by the fact that “[Zircon] were happy to send us code at regular intervals so we could do testing as it was being developed – it worked well in that respect. Some contractors want to be very protective of the code and will only release it all at the end. Zircon was very open to this collaborative style of working.”

David has no hesitation when asked whether he would use Zircon again. “Yes, I would recommend them, if it was a software related project.” He adds that “Obviously unexpected things happen along the way, and you have to take things in your stride.

The guys at Zircon were very good in this regard. I found them quite flexible – if anything needed to change from the original requirements, they were very good at taking this on board. Other companies are often not so accommodating. They will insist on reviewing the costs whenever there’s minor change.”

“They were happy to send us code at regular intervals so we could do testing as it was developed.”

David Weston

Project Manager, WSP

Conclusion

The package has been successfully delivered and is performing as required.

It is now providing Video Clients and Television Base Station developers with a controlled and closed environment in which to test the functionality and interfaces of their device without any danger of interfering with the live operational systems.

The last word from David Weston was that “Everything, design, development, testing and deployment, went as I expected it to, and as I had hoped. You can’t say fairer than that.”

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