Major awards finalists shape up for the big night

Airways New Zealand, the DIA and West Coast DHB are finalists in the Overall Excellence in the Use of ICT category

Airways New Zealand has developed what it claims is the world’s first fully-automated, aeronautical charge calculation and billing package.

The project, which went live in October 2006, is a finalist in the Computerworld Excellence Awards category for Overall Excellence in the Use of ICT.

The others are the gaming industry’s Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) from the Department of Internal Affairs, and the West Coast District Health Board’s Integrated Electronic Health Record, which are both finalists in other Awards categories.

Airways New Zealand’s Flight-Yield takes flight information from air traffic management computers, determines services provided to aircraft, calculates charges and produces invoices.

Designed specifically for Airways New Zealand, the system is real-time, highly configurable and web-enabled, and offers export potential to Airways from other air traffic control agencies.

Merv Robertson, billing solutions manager for Airways New Zealand, helped manage the development of the three-year Flight-Yield project and was also involved in the design and specification of the former system.

Airlines are billed by the agency for air traffic control services for each flight, based on the weight of an aircraft, distance traveled and for each take-off and landing.

Robertson says the old system was developed in the early 1990s using out-of-date technologies and had reached the end of its economic life. The system was also specific to Airways New Zealand and thus was not scalable or able to be on-sold to other air traffic control agencies.

The old system wasn’t configurable and involved quite a lot of processes, which were coded rather than reprinted by tables. This meant charging policies weren’t that visible, he explains.

Robertson says Airways saw a need to use a packaged-based system. None were out there on the market and air traffic control agencies from the Middle East and Asia had approached Airways about designing one.

Thus, Airways developed a packaged system that not only suited its own needs but could also be adapted for use in other countries. Robertson says the new system has paid for itself within ten months.

By making the charging processes more visible, it found errors, so charging policies are now more accurate, leading to an initial revenue gain of a $1 million a year.

By linking directly to other financial management systems, the automation has also speeded up the billing and settlement process by five days, leading to a reduction in working capital of $2 million.

It can also be operated part-time by one person working from home, compared to having a situation like other countries where up to 20 people are needed to perform the same task.

Indeed, Airways New Zealand says it has been contracted to do the scoping for a similar system in one country and feature it as part of an air traffic management upgrade in another.

“It’s been highly reliable from day one,” claims Robertson.

This, he credits on the project using Rational Unified Processes (and toolset), particularly with regard to documenting and managing requirements.

Airways developed very detailed use case specifications, the project was developed incrementally, and tested very early, he says. There was also extensive parallel training when both old and new systems operated side-by-side.

“We had a system that was robust from day one,” Robertson says.

Equally happy with the Electronic Monitoring Systems is Rebecca Griffin, gaming advisor for Pub Charity.

EMS was launched by the Department of Internal Affairs earlier this year as a way to monitor the operations of 20,000 gaming machines in pubs and clubs around the country. It features a Wide Area Network linked to a centralised computing and processing facility in Wellington with a back-up system in Auckland.

Its basic functions are to acquire, validate and process gaming data acquired from venue site controllers; provide configuration and profile data to venue site controllers; provide a data warehouse for queries and reporting; and link to the DIA’s licensing system.

Griffin says EMS has “opened up a new world to data collection” to the organisation.

One person can now collect the data instead of three, which arrives at the touch of a button.

Griffin often travels as she audits the country’s gaming machines and says the system’s web-based functionality means she can check any issues from remote sites. The system’s ability to link to other software will also allow detailed analysis of individual machines and machine sites to enable better use of them.

Finally, the West Coast DHB has created an Integrated Electronic Health Record (profiled in June 25 issue) covering its patients across 16 sites. This also includes installing a new hardware and WAN system and sharing patient data with other DHBs.

A picture archiving and communications system (PACS) has replaced X-rays with a digital alternative, whose pictures can be instantly sent across the country.

The project means GPs and other health professionals can access patient information off-site straight away, allowing better quality diagnoses and hopefully better health outcomes.

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