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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Timetable Data Modifications Sets Up Simulator to Improve Passenger Experience

Timetable Data Modifications Sets Up Simulator to Improve Passenger Experience

Zircon Makes Timetable Data Modifications For Simulator Set Up to Improve Passenger Experience

Operating Systems: Windows
Languages: VBA, XML
Other: Microsoft Excel
Our client is responsible for the operation and maintenance of London’s underground rail network. As part of a project to upgrade one of these underground lines our client was investigating the possibility of implementing an Automatic Train Regulation (ATR) facility, to be provided by a third party supplier.

ATR aims to provide passengers waiting at platforms with a regularly spaced service. This is achieved by allowing trains to vary their speed and the length of time spent dwelling at platforms, within a defined margin, so that each train arrives and departs at regular intervals without bunching up or spreading too far out.

In order to test the possibility of utilising an ATR facility our client had planned to use a Total Systems Simulator (TSS) that had been fed a complete data model of the lines timetable. Unfortunately for our client, the timetable data available at the time of the project did not cater for the requirements necessary to allow ATR to function.

Zircon were engaged by the client to develop a new timetable that would achieve the 33 Trains Per Hour (Tph) target desired by our client, whilst offering the required flexibility to allow ATR to regulate the service.

The solution proposed by Zircon involved taking an existing 33Tph timetable an modifying it in such a way that it would still be capable of achieving 33Tph, whilst coasting would be removed and the length of time spent dwelling at stations would be maximised.

Zircon designed a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet application that made use of VBA macros to read in the existing XML timetable data and place it into worksheets, where the coasting level and arrival time values would be modified in order to remove coasting. This modified data would then presented in a new worksheet. In addition to modifying the existing timetable data, the macros were used to verify and validate the new timesheet by drawing up charts to graphically represent the effect of any changes to arrival and departure times.

Once the timetable data had been successfully modified it was written out into a new XML file ready to be tested by the TSS system.

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New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of Client’s End Users

New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of Client’s End Users

Introduction of New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of POS Device End Users

Operating Systems: Windows (XP, 7), Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Languages: C#, Javascript, VB.NET, XML
Frameworks: ASP.NET, WCF
Technologies: AJAX
Comms/Networking: HTTPS, SOAP
Software Development Tools: Visual Studio
Our client is a well-known provider of innovative and secure Point Of Sale (POS) systems. In order to support companies in possession of these systems our client offers a 24/7 helpdesk that utilised a database to track and manage maintenance of all the POS terminals currently in the field.

One of these companies expressed a desire to take complete control over the maintenance of the terminals on their premises, and as a result would require some degree of access to the maintenance information database. Our client needed a solution that would interact with the database and provide access to only the relevant information.

Knowing that they did not have access to the necessary resources in house the client approached Zircon for help with developing and implementing a solution.

Initially, Zircon took on more of a consultancy role, the client knew that they wanted a web based solution but were unsure of the best way to proceed. By working alongside the client and maintaining a clear view of the requirements it was decided that a web portal that utilised ASPX.NET, AJAX and JavaScript technologies was the best way forward.

Upon the completion of the final development and testing stages the solution went live to the client’s end user, who immediately put it to good use. With Zircon’s help, our client managed to avoid a potentially difficult situation and allowed them to continue providing a revenue earning service.

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Next Generation CCTV System Boosts Passenger Safety and Supports Driver Only Operation

Next Generation CCTV System Boosts Passenger Safety and Supports Driver Only Operation

Next Generation CCTV System Boosts Passenger Safety and Supports Driver Only Operation

Operating Systems: Linux
Languages: C++, Python, XML
Comms/Networking: QT
Other: BS EN 50128 SIL1
Our client provides CCTV systems to passenger train manufacturers across the world. Our client was developing its next generation CCTV system and Zircon was contracted to work closely with them to provide the software element of the system.

Zircon was responsible for the design and development of the software and its integration with client provided hardware and subsequent testing. The system was required to be developed in accordance with EN 50128 Safety Integrity Level 1 as Driver Only Operation, where the driver is responsible for ensuring whether it is safe to move off, was a requirement.

The CCTV system consists of a number of components:

  • Saloon, Door, Front/Rear Facing and Roof cameras
  • Video Recording Unit
  • Network Switches
  • Drivers Touchscreen Interface
  • Off-train playback software

Zircon developed software for all of the above elements.

The software was designed to allow the system to self-configure itself as components are added and removed from the CCTV system network.  Video footage is continually recorded onto hot swappable disks until all available space is filled before the oldest recordings are overwritten.

The CCTV system receives alarm messages (passenger or fire) from the train and if an alarm is triggered then the recording of the incident, and a period of time either side, is archived.  Video is recorded in a secure format in accordance with Home Office regulations and separate playback software developed to prevent tampering to allow video footage to be used in legal cases.

On arrival at a platform, the drivers in-cab display is activated to show images from the Door cameras.  The driver is then able to ensure they are free from obstruction before moving off.  If an alarm is raised, then drivers display will switch to the nearest camera to give them a view of the incident.

Zircon’s involvement started with developing and defining the client supplied system requirements into a set of clear and traceable points.  These requirements were then used as an input into the System Architecture Design, where the System was split into a set of components.  Each of the identified components was then analysed, designed and captured in a Component Design Specification.  These specifications could then be used by the Zircon development team to develop the code.  In order to ensure the production of maintainable code, and reduce cost at later stages in the products life, Zircon worked to a set of coding standards and gave great care to carry out regular code reviews and static analysis.  Component, System/Integration and Acceptance testing was then used to ensure that the developed software conforms with the original requirements and was fit for purpose.

Due to the safety aspects of the system, the software had to be robust and reliable and the integrity of the live and recorded video footage maintained at all times, and as such the software was developed in accordance with EN 50128 SIL 1 procedures and to Zircon’s BSI accredited Quality Management System. 

Before final handover to the client the system was tested and reviewed by an independent third party to ensure the system met the EN 50128 SIL1 standard and that the system assurance procedures had been followed correctly.

Zircon successfully delivered the software to our client and has subsequently provided support services to our client as they introduced and modified the system for new clients.

 

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