It's all about doing it cheaper, faster

Finalists in the "Excellence in the use of IT" category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards include projects to help our dairy farmers, boost the use of public transport and improve accounting efficiency.

Finalists in the “Excellence in the use of IT” category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards include projects to help our dairy farmers, boost the use of public transport and improve accounting efficiency.

Bringing e-commerce information and online help to farmers is the aim of Fencepost.com, the agri-info website of dairy giant Fonterra.

Launched in August 2000, the website is aimed at people not necessarily IT-savvy, and to serve areas suffering from low bandwidth speeds. Fencepost.com technology chief Malcolm Paul says this means the site must be easy to use and not have flashy graphics to ensure decent download times.

The site also brings enterprise applications to farmers and offers milk quality information and productivity tools. There is also weather, news, jobs and classified advertisements. Recent developments include a farmer-to-farmer livestock exchange, Live.ex, and Prime.ex, an online tendering system for bulls and cows.

In the past two years, daily site traffic has tripled to 6000 to 8000 visits, which usually last around 30 minutes, Fencepost says.

The system was developed in ATG Dynamo, a Java-based application server that integrates systems using XML. Interwoven handles content management while data integration is in BizTalk, Paul says.

Hoping to boost use of public transport by better informing would-be passengers is the aim of Auckland Regional Council’s Virtually thr project.

The project comprises ARC’s Rideline website and related WAP/SMS versions to tell cellphone users when a bus is due to arrive.

The Rideline website, launched last year, can tell users when buses are due either by bus number, street location or landmark location, and links in with ferry services.

Project leader Lynne Booth says Virtually thr uses the database the council first developed for its public transport call centre.

Buses running on time is a particular problem during peak periods, so in coming years Rideline will offer real-time services that use GPS systems to tell users exactly how far away buses are. Booth says the first GPS systems should be installed on Link buses by year-end, with other buses getting them installed over the next few years.

Oxygen Business Solutions, the business processing offshoot of Carter Holt Harvey, has worked with Datacap Business Solutions to develop an artificial intelligence automation of the accounts-payable function.

Working over the internet, the system decides whether an invoice can be accepted straight into SAP’s accounts payable without human intervention, by cross-checking and using information downloaded from the SAP system to verify the data captured from the invoice (eg GST number or purchase order details).

Using Datacap’s technology Oxygen claims to be able to automate more than 90% of captured data for its accounts payable with an error rate of less than 0.5%.

The process begins when supplier invoices are received in the mail. These are scanned using a combination of intelligent optical character recognition and neural technology.

The OCR uses templates while the neural technology works by searching for key words and learning where to find the right information.

Information captured includes who the invoice is from, the purchase order number, date, invoice number, dollar value and GST element, and line-item detail.

Oxygen spokesman Stuart Dickinson says the system has lead to faster and more efficient processing of accounts, so staff can do other things other than simple data entry. Suppliers also gain more accurate payment.

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