Buying a car? Browse the Net ...

Buying a new car no longer means walking around dozens of car yards looking for the perfect vehicle.Auckland software developer Steve Barker has written an application which lets you browse the lots by surfing the Internet.

Barker, of Auckland's Vertical Systems, developed his Autonet software after motor industry associate Richard Howard approached him with an idea of how to take advantage of the Casio LCD camera. During a business trip to Japan, Howard thought of using a digital camera to build a database of spare parts and second-hand cars which could be sent back to New Zealand for customers to look at. In conjunction with a UK-based car dealer who did business in Japan, he wrote an Autonet prototype using Visual Basic, but the results were unsatisfactory. After talking to Barker, it was decided to rewrite the application using Borland's Delphi development tool. By February, Barker had designed an application which ran with the digital camera and another to run on a workstation to display the images. "We have since integrated the two, so now the one piece of software handles the database, the camera and the email," Barker says. "We tested it commercially in late February with an importer who has a big volume of cars, and released it on to the market at the beginning of April."

Barker added email capabilities to enable captured images to be sent to car dealers direct. "Wholesalers can enter vehicle details into a notebook computer in Japan and email them to another user."

The general public can use Autonet, and have details of any car in a dealer's database faxed to them, eliminating the need to visit the car yard. Barker has formed a company--called www.autonet.co.nz --to market the software, and also has a Web site on the Internet which allows car dealers who have bought Autonet to put their database online.

Access is split into two levels, thus allowing car dealers to see wholesale prices, while restricting general public access to retail costs.

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