Case Study -Nexus Tyne & Wear Metro

Requirement

To design and install a cycle locker facility at each station on the Tyne and Wear Metro totalling over 120 individual lockers at 22 stations all inter-connected and monitored & administered by a back office web application.

Solution

My role as sub contractor was to design and implement all of the software components to control, administer and monitor the setting up, usage and access to the locker system. 

The back office solution comprised of a IronSpeed ASP .Net web application where the administrators and operators could control the application. Authentication and authorisation was provided by Active Directory. All data was stored in a central SQL Server database. No direct access to the database was permitted. Reporting with SSRS was required and export to Excel & PDF.

The server also hosted web services controller to connect via SOAP to the 22 stations all reporting in with usage & diagnostics.

Each station controller (industrial PC with Windows)  has a Windows service running autonomously, monitoring card swipes, opening locker, and controlling access. Integrated with a web service that connects to back office periodically to update and download new user and card access information. Data cached locally for speed and offloaded to local db.

Technologies

Backoffice: Windows Server, SQL Server, SSRS reporting, asp.Net, Web Services

Station controller(s): Industrial PC loaded with Windows and local SQL Server for caching. Web services using SOAP, Windows Service 

The web interface solutions were built with an off the shelf product, Iron Speed and integrated into Visual Studio.

All code was written in C#.

Front end user screen

Data from each locker at each station is sent periodically to the back office where it can be monitored.

Usage Screens

Usage information is sent back and logged to assist operators if issues arise or lockers develop faults.

Challenges

There were several challenges:

  1. 1
    Access to the client network can only be done locally or via secure citrix session with monitoring and restricted access. This required that the solution worked straight out of the box and could integrate with exisiting systems and security requirements without disruption.
  2. 2
    Testing the system. Each of the stations need to update the back office and other stations to share status information and to prevent users from hijacking multiple lockers. Full checks of the Pop card, validity and user had to be carried out before access was allowed to place or retrieve a cycle from the locker. Anti tampering techniques had to be employed to keep the cycles safe. 
  3. 3
    It was not possible to remotely monitor the system as we had no external access to the internal network. all servicing, updates had to be done by a monitored, restricted access citrix session.

Skills Required

Skills & Tools

C#

All projects in the solution used C#. Iron Speed with VS using .Net 4 web application, web services and Windows services at each controller for direct RS 485 connectivity to the swipe card unit and locker door opening mechanism. 

SQL Server

Simple 20 table design in SQL server. Accessed via Iron Speed and Entity Framework db layer. SSRS reporting for back office. 

HTML & JScript

Basic HTML and JScript used for layouts.

A bit about me

I've always had a fascination with electronics and software. From an early age I'd study schematics of books I borrowed from the library and built my first walkie talkie and metal detector from parts scavenged from old radios and tv's I'd found dumped by the roadside. I also loved making model aircraft.


That led me to join the Royal Air Force as an avionics engineer where I spent many happy years working on various systems culminating in a 7 year posting working on 51 Sqn.


After my tour in the RAF and benefiting from their excellent training in both avionics and accompanying software I left to join a start-up developing one of the first UK tax filing systems (if you've filed a tax return you've probably used some of the software I helped design with a great team at Digita - now part of Thompson Reuters).


I then decided to start my own contracting and consultancy business. I have held a number of senior positions, interviewed, recruited and built teams of software engineers and developers of various sizes. I consult and contract out my services to various companies and organisations mainly in the UK but have also completed projects for companies in Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. I have experience in many sectors including finance, insurance, recruitment, government, NHS, engineering, public safety both in the private and public sectors.


I have NPPV3+SC clearance to work with government agencies. 


I mainly work remotely from my home office (seems very popular these days!) where I have all of the tools, servers and software required to design, develop and deliver software-based solutions for companies that maybe don’t have the expertise, equipment or programmers to create and deliver the solution themselves. I work closely with the project lead or main sponsor, can travel overseas if required and work as part of a team or individually as the requirements dictates.

Besides architecting, designing complete systems or upgrading existing solutions I have extensive business knowledge, and work closely with companies to get the most out of their systems, be as efficient as possible, automate where possible, integrate disparate systems, migrate data, break up monolithic systems into microservices, innovate and look at ways of reducing costs through IT.


I now focus on helping businesses take advantage of Cloud based solutions via Microsoft Azure and other Microsoft based technology solutions.


If I can help, please feel free to give me a call, lets talk: 01621 835002


Clients have included:


7 Layers

Affinity Sutton

Allen Vanguard

Anderson Consulting

Arts Council

BiTEA Ltd

British Transport Police

Calorex

Deutsche Bank

Digita

Dorset Police

DPS software

Graham Sykes Insurance

Henderson Global Investors

MOD Devonport

MUSC

Museum of Modern Art

Nexus

NHS

Portland Financial

Retail Locations

South East Tankers

Spinnaker Global

TEEC

UBS

Work Request



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Contact Tim