Our quality centred approach to development has helped us deliver a huge range of projects – on the web, the desktop and mobile.
We work with customers ranging from ambitious startups to multi-national organisations.
For an idea of our development capabilities see the case studies below or give us a call.
BBC - Live Events CMSMore
Softwire were commissioned by the BBC, through a competitive tender process, to develop a Content Management System (CMS) to assist with the BBC’s comprehensive coverage of music festivals. The BBC required a system which would reduce the cost of publishing festival microsites, enabling the BBC to focus resources on producing great festival coverage.
The BBC develops dedicated microsites for the major music festivals it covers. These sites provide lots of useful information: practical advice on how to get there; live coverage; profiles of the acts performing; and tips on who to watch. They also contain a large amount of audio and video content and, in many cases, offer live multiscreen viewing.
To date, these microsites have been built on a constantly improving template. The BBC wanted to commission a CMS that would radically reduce the amount of effort and time needed to get a new event site up and running. Softwire were very proud – and excited – to be selected to develop this CMS, in collaboration with our design partner Picture.
The application was built using a combination of Java and PHP. The CMS was based on Java, Spring and JSPs with a MySQL database, and the public-facing site was written in PHP and Zend, interacting with the CMS database via a Java service layer providing a JSON API. There were two main technical challenges: handling the extremely large usage spikes associated with a live event, and integrating with a wide array of existing systems.
These live event sites are extremely popular, attracting large numbers of visitors during the event. This can generate major usage spikes in the region of 100 requests per second. We delivered a system capable of handling this level of usage via multiple levels of caching, at the database, the JSON API and in the browser. This was particularly challenging in the browser, where we had to manage the competing requirements to cache extensively and to provide a responsive, personalised experience to logged-in users. There are a number of integration points:
- information on the artists pulled in from BBC Music
- live streaming and pre-recorded video clips via iPlayer
- social media content delivered via Twitter
- photos from the BBC’s image services.
In addition, we had to ensure seamless onward journeys to related BBC programmes. We successfully managed the integration of these disparate systems by pro-active and frequent communication with a wide range of BBC stakeholders and Picture, running multi-site daily stand-ups and regular sprint planning sessions.
We delivered the completed system in time for it to deliver the online coverage of Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend 2012 – the BBC’s biggest ever free-ticketed live music event.
Yudu Media - Digital Publishing PlatformMore
Softwire designed and developed YUDU Media’s next-generation digital publishing platform, on which they base their business.
Our Agile project management processes and broad range of technical knowhow drove the success of this cutting-edge project, cementing YUDU’s position as a market leader and innovator in the digital publishing industry, enabling them to expand into new markets, and vastly increasing their user base.
The digital publishing platform is designed to allow users to self-publish feature-rich digital publications accessed via a standard web browser using a page-turning interface. Softwire worked closely with YUDU during an initial consultancy phase to refine the feature set and produce a detailed functional specification, before developing, testing and deploying the new software. We worked as an autonomous development team and communicated regularly with YUDU’s own project manager to ensure the project schedule stayed on track.
The software comprises a number of distinct interacting components, as follows.
- A Flash-based page-turning reader application that is downloaded and executed within the user’s browser.
- A sophisticated web-based publishing interface, through which publishers can upload raw PDF, Word, Excel or PowerPoint files and configure how the publication should appear to users, e.g. by adding rich media, hyperlinks, table of contents and order forms, etc.
- A statistics server to record detailed statistics on how users read the publications, e.g. which pages they look at, and a reporting web interface to allow advertisers to view these aggregated figures.
- Dedicated PDF processing servers to do the heavy-lifting of converting raw PDF files to a Flash-compatible format, to provide a high level of scalability.
- Public ePublishing marketplace allowing users to organise, promote and sell their publications.
The implementation is mostly based around Java Enterprise technologies including JBoss application server, Spring MVC and Java EE (including EJB3 and Java Persistence), and uses Oracle databases.
The implementation of the ePublishing marketplace constituted a major new phase of work which was implemented using Ruby technologies, integrating with the Java portions of the system via web services. This phase of work employed an Agile development process in order to allow rapid evolution of the system based on feedback from YUDU and their customers. This approach allows Softwire to deliver great results quickly and with much flexibility.
Given the scope and attention to detail of YUDU’s requirements, this project was a significant and complex undertaking and required a relatively large team. Nonetheless, Softwire delivered the initial release and the subsequent phased feature releases on schedule whilst maintaining a high level of quality throughout.
The system has been a great success with YUDU’s existing customer base and provides them with a leading edge technology platform with which to expand their business into new markets.
Airwave - Asset Manager EnterpriseMore
Softwire provided Airwave with a seamless transition from their outdated and unwieldy web application based on an Access DB, to a modern, scalable SQL-based solution, enabling them to increase the number and size of the organisations they could support and thereby significantly grow their business.
Airwave delivers critical communications solutions to organisations involved in providing vital services to the public. Their customers include the police, fire and ambulance services as well as more than 150 other organisations with a public services role.
Converting from MS Access to SQL Server and improving scalability
In 2009 Airwave commissioned Softwire to develop an asset management system targeted at UK Emergency Services. Their existing system, written in ASP and VB on top of an MS Access DB, had reached the end of its lifecycle and was proving hard to scale or modify in order to accommodate their customers’ needs.
Softwire invited stakeholders from Airwave and a number of their customers to provide input and feedback into the new user interface, to ensure that the modernisation process retained the familiarity and usability of the old interface.
The new system is based on Microsoft’s ASP.NET MVC platform and targets both Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server as a database backend. Softwire architected the database in such a way as to make the conversion from the Access Database as smooth as possible
The system was designed in a modular, extensible manner. This enabled Airwave to increase the marketability of the product, by offering licenses for individual modules or the entire product suite, and enhancing the system to meet their customers’ needs.
Sensitive data and complex workflow
A custom workflow management system handles the movement of assets through statuses and between locations. In addition to normal asset tracking and management functions, the system also interfaces with TETRA radios and networks to provide seamless management and commissioning of TETRA radio assets. It is a large and complex system, representing several man years of effort.
Owing to the sensitive nature of the assets which are tracked in the system, data security is a primary concern and the application has a sophisticated access control and auditing system.
Softwire used their expertise in web security and thorough testing procedures to architect a robust system with a sophisticated access control and auditing component, thereby providing customers with confidence in the security of the sensitive data involved.
Agile development and reliable delivery
Softwire used an Agile development methodology (Scrum) with a cross-functional team of developers, testers and analysts. The development phase consisted of a series of cycles (“sprints”), each three weeks long. At the end of each sprint Softwire made a fully tested release to Airwave, which was reviewed and used to determine the development priorities for the next sprint.
This process brought a number of significant benefits:
- Regular reviews ensured that Airwave could react to changing customer priorities and emergent requirements, ensuring that the final system met all their business needs.
- Softwire’s use of a cross-functional team of developers, testers and analysts meant that each release was fully planned and tested, ensuring that quality was baked into the system from the start, minimising the number of issues found post-launch.
- Regular releases and a commitment to ensuring that functionality in each release was in a fully complete and shippable condition allowed Airwave to test the system throughout the project, and to have a good overview of the project progress. This provided them with peace of mind and confidence in the project outcome.
- All stakeholders were involved throughout the development process and could contribute to functionality decisions whilst minimising scope and schedule creep, enabling Softwire to deliver the system on time and to budget without compromising on functionality.
- The commitment of Airwave and customer stakeholders to the Agile process meant that Softwire were able to offer a fixed price yet still cope with emerging requirements without a heavy change management overhead – truly the best of both worlds for the customer!
The end result was a robust, scalable system which met the needs of its users. Despite its size and complexity, it was delivered on time, on budget and to a very high level of quality.
Cambridge University Press - English Grammar in Use OnlineMore
Cambridge University Press (CUP) commissioned Softwire to produce an online, cloud-based version of their best-selling English grammar title, English Grammar in Use. We produced a flexible Content Management System (CMS) which not only produced the rich web-based user interface that CUP required, but also significantly reduced the cost of producing similar websites in future. This provided CUP with a new revenue stream and an increased interest in their educational titles.
There were a number of challenges to this project. CUP had some specific technology requirements, and a very tight deadline. Our technical flexibility, speed at picking up new languages, and vast experience of challenging projects left them free to make the correct business decisions without compromising on timescales or quality.
The application was built in .NET, using the MVC Framework. CUP required the site to be hosted using Amazon Web Services (AWS) in order to reduce the hosting burden, and to increase scalability to allow for unpredictable growth. This, together with the nature of the content, meant that a standard CMS package wouldn’t be appropriate, so Softwire built a bespoke CMS framework that allowed additional features to be added rapidly.
The application contains an embedded third-party SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) player, which is used to display interactive exercises. SCORM is a standard used in a number of educational packages, and allowed CUP to leverage their existing experience in SCORM for this project. Softwire worked closely with the makers of the SCORM engine to ensure that the integration of the player into a cloud-based environment was a success.
The challenging timescales, and the wide variety of content that needed to be present in the site, meant that CUP required a functioning CMS early on in the project in order to have sufficient time to enter and review the required content. Softwire ran the project using an agile methodology, and scheduled early releases for the required user stories. This enabled CUP to begin entering parts of the content within weeks of the project starting, and thereby hit their deadlines.
Originally the main content of the website was to be provided using SWF objects. However, early in the project, it became apparent that the third-party supplier that CUP had chosen to create these would not be able to provide them in time. Softwire overcame this by proposing to replace this with a custom HTML editor to the CMS, including audio uploads. Again, the agile methodology employed enabled Softwire to accommodate the changes to the scope of the project without jeopardising the timescales.
The content had various different rules regarding spacing and layout. Softwire added custom buttons to the HTML editor to mark content as having specific CSS classes, which maintained the required level of simplicity whilst allowing for much more flexibility than the original SWFs would have done. This set-up allowed CUP to enter the entire content of the book via the CMS, and significantly reduced the cost of creating subsequent websites.
The project was delivered on time, and to a high level of quality, with no significant issues raised during the warranty period.
BBC - The Listening ProjectMore
Softwire worked with the BBC to deliver an audio recording archive in support of The Listening Project, a major BBC initiative to record and preserve the experiences of UK citizens.
We used our technical versatility and excellent Project Management to successfully deliver this project despite some big technical challenges and very hard deadlines. As part of this project we developed a generic audio upload solution in order to make similar projects easier in future, thus saving the BBC money and helping them to obtain more user-generated content.
The Listening Project is an ambitious, large-scale BBC initiative, in partnership with the British Library. The mission is to preserve, in an audio format, the stories and experiences of as many UK citizens as possible, to make these stories easily available online and broadcast a selection on Radio 4 and a number of regional radio stations. The BBC commissioned Softwire to produce an easy-to-use site which would enable listeners to access the full archive of recordings, and to upload their own.
In terms of its collection and presentation of audio files, this project had few precedents on the BBC site, and presented a number of interesting new technical challenges. Softwire worked closely with the BBC, and with our design partners Picture, to ensure that not only did we meet these challenges for this particular project, but we also provided re-usable solutions for any similar projects in the future.
Large file uploads presented a particular issue given that the BBC platform is optimised for content delivery. Accepting large amounts of incoming data required careful architecting to ensure that the upload requests were not routed through presentation layer servers ill-suited to handle them.
The BBC required listeners to enter some details along with their recordings. In order to give the site administrators a large degree of control, and to make the solution as re-usable as possible, Softwire created a generic audio upload platform, which allows simple configuration of new upload forms through a combination of simple database changes and administration user interface.
The launch date for the project was set before Softwire had been engaged, and the heavy advertising of the site and accompanying radio show, via TV and radio trailers and a prominent place on the Radio 4 website, made that launch date an immovable hard deadline.
Softwire assisted the BBC with some consultancy during the planning stage to weigh up alternative implementation options and help define a project which would reconcile the needs of a future-proof platform and a speedy delivery. In addition there were a number of stakeholders, including not only the BBC website owners, programme editors and publicists, but also the British Library archivists. However, our dedication, flexible resourcing and pro-active project management ensured that this project was successfully delivered.
Allianz Global AssistanceMore
Allianz Global Assistance is an insurance and roadside assistance provider and part of the larger Allianz Group. Allianz Global have outsourced a number of their software development projects to Softwire since 2006.
Softwire’s first engagement with Allianz Global was to conduct an audit of their Warranty Extranet system and make recommendations for changes. Softwire conducted an audit of the complete system, from the code to the hosting environment, and made a series of recommendations for how to resolve the existing issues and mitigate against the risk of recurrence.
Our first development for Allianz Global was to develop the Online Renewals Website for motor warranty renewals. This was the start of a series of highly successful B2C motor warranty offerings provided by Allianz Global UK, and was developed and project managed by Softwire on a fixed price basis.
We have completed many development projects for Allianz Global since, including a B2C travel insurance website, and a hire-car claims website for dealerships, which integrates with the IAA system.
One of the largest projects undertaken by Softwire for Allianz Global Assistance was to develop a system to sell various insurance products for a major motor manufacturer. The system consisted of a sales portal used by both end customers and the manufacturer’s dealer network to purchase policies; a claims and policy administration system used by the operations team; as well as various back office systems and reports for the underwriters and other parties.
The system was based on the ASP.NET’s MVC framework, C# and Microsoft SQL Server, using NHibernate. One of the main technical challenges was integrating the system into the existing back-end systems such as reporting, financial reconciliation, payment, letter sending and the pricing engine. We were able to overcome these by working closely with the internal teams responsible for these systems to ensure that everything met in the middle and that the system as a whole was effectively integration tested prior to go-live.
The other major challenge we faced was that the delivery date was, for various business reasons, firmly fixed and a significant amount was riding on it being successfully met. Our strong lines of communication helped us to meet these challenges. We provided a weekly status email, including detailed risk and issue logs, as well as providing more frequent progress updates via email and telephone. We held regular sprint review and planning sessions to help Allianz Global to prioritise features and carefully manage dependencies. In this way we were able to deliver the completed system in time for a successful launch.
Scottish and Southern EnergyMore
Scottish and Southern Energy commissioned Softwire to develop the Meter Communications Website (MCW). This is an internal website used to allow Customer Service Representatives to manage customers’ requests regarding their meters. The site allows the user to search for meters, pass on the customer’s request to the Itron Managed Service (IMS) for processing and to view reports on system usage.
The system is built using Microsoft’s ASP.NET MVC framework together with a Microsoft SQL Server database. It integrates with the existing Customer Services system and uses Active Directory to control user permissions. Communication with IMS is performed via a web service, using Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), combined with the generation and processing of files meeting a particular format.
It became apparent early in the project that it would not be possible to get access to a test version of the IMS system within the required timescales. Softwire met this challenge in the following ways:
- We created a mock version of the IMS web service to develop against. This was based on the published interface, which meant that when the test service was available, it was straightforward to switch between the two.
- We worked closely with SSE staff to simulate IMS file processing. We achieved this simulation by regularly sending the files generated by the system to SSE staff, who then ran them through the IMS system on our behalf.
Softwire recommended developing the MCW system using an Agile development methodology. The main development phase was broken up into a set of two week sprints. At the end of each sprint, Softwire loaded the system onto a test site, and performed a demo of the site to the end users at SSE.
This sprint process ensured that the users were able to view each area of functionality at an early stage, and could provide feedback to ensure that it met their usability needs. Additionally each release was fully tested, and the source code was available to SSE for code review. These combined to ensure that there was a high degree of confidence in the system when the final version was delivered.
The final release was delivered within the required timescales, and to a high level of quality. No significant issues were raised during the warranty period, and the project was handed over to the production support team.
BBC - Introducing rebuildMore
The BBC commissioned Softwire to perform major enhancements to their music-sharing application, BBC Introducing. Softwire’s understanding and management of the risks involved enabled them to deliver a robust, reliable application, reducing the BBC’s support burden tenfold.
The breadth and depth of Softwire’s technical knowledge made them the perfect partner for this challenging project. For example, this was the first JRuby application to be put on the BBC’s public platform, making it easier for the public to upload music to the application and thereby greatly increasing participation.
BBC Introducing is a pan-BBC initiative to discover Britain’s best unsigned musical talent and give it the break it deserves. Upcoming artists can upload their music to the BBC via www.bbc.co.uk/music/introducing/uploader and it will be listened to by radio producers and dedicated listening panel members. If they like what they hear, the music could be played on local and national radio (e.g. BBC 6 Music) and result in session time in a studio or an invitation to play on the BBC Introducing stage at a major festival.
Softwire were selected from a highly competitive tendering process to implement an improved Introducing application for the BBC, due in large part to our expertise with the wide variety of platforms and technologies required.
The project involved moving the internal application used to track and listen to uploaded music from one platform (Ruby on Rails, hosted on the BBC’s internal network) to a new one (JRuby, hosted on their publicly-available network). In addition we re-architected and re-implemented the upload process, applied a redesign to both the public-facing and internal applications, and most importantly developed a large number of enhancements to all areas of the application.
The technologies involved in the project included JRuby, Ruby on Rails, Java, Apache Tomcat, MySQL, PHP and Zend. The application integrated with a number of pre-existing BBC services, and adherence closely to the BBC’s demanding standards and guidelines. The project broke a significant amount of new ground for the BBC, putting the first JRuby application on their public platform and taking advantage of new gateways and file stores.
Softwire provided initial scoping and requirements consultancy to ensure that the project was well-defined and took account of the needs of all business stakeholders. Softwire subsequently delivered the project in an Agile manner, with regular deliveries to the BBC’s servers to maintain a constant rate of visible progress.
The BBC maintained a large degree of flexibility and control throughout the project, staying in close contact with the project team. This methodology gave the BBC clear guarantees on how much functionality they would receive for the budget available.
The application is now live and serving the public, and was met with immediate praise from users. As a result of the reliable implementation by Softwire, the support burden for the BBC has been reduced tenfold.
G2 United Kingdom are a marketing agency who have called on Softwire to help build and support a number of digital solutions for their clients, most notably Nestle.
Softwire built the back-end for a rebranded website for Nescafe, including a facility for consumers to redeem codes from the backs of coffee jars and exchange them for rewards with online partners. The system experiences a steady traffic flow, and handles additional loads caused by advertising campaigns.
Behind the scenes a web content management system allows G2 to make changes to the website content without raising change requests with the developers, a consumer services call centre interface gives access to consumer account details, and a back office system provides administrative and reporting capabilities.
Softwire worked closely with G2 and various third parties to clarify and refine the requirements through the project lifecycle, particularly as those requirements changed in response to client feedback. Although the project was based on an up-front specification, an Agile approach was taken to accommodating emerging requirements, with a successful focus on achieving the required goals within budgetary constraints.
The solution is built using ASP.NET MVC / C# 3.5, connecting to a SQL Server 2000 database using Linq (Entity Framework) and a custom reporting solution. Softwire suggested building the front end content management system using the open source N2 CMS, heavily customised to support Nestle’s stringent security requirements, and this recommendation proved appropriate and successful.
Softwire successfully delivered all the required functionality to G2, on schedule and to budget, and the website now forms an important part of Nescafe’s digital strategy.
Softwire provided a developer to work on-site at Neuxpower’s offices, developing their sales system. His self-sufficiency and strong communication skills helped to make the project a success, and his attitude to code quality has made the system trivial to support post-delivery.
Neuxpower develop file-compression software which is used by companies such as NASA, IBM and Cisco. At the point of commissioning Softwire, they had multiple sales-people tracking sales leads and quotes in an Excel spreadsheet, which led to human error, and occasional issues when transferring successful quotes to their order system. The process was also failing to provide enough visibility of on-going leads, making it hard for salespeople to follow up on them effectively.
Softwire’s developer worked in Neuxpower’s offices, developing a new sales system to their specifications and integrating it with their order system. He estimated the project up-front and provided re-estimates whenever the requirements changed. He worked in a self-sufficient manner, and escalated issues at the appropriate time – in particular, planning ahead and arranging regular meetings to ensure that he was never blocked from completing his tasks. This enabled Neuxpower’s managers to spend their time on other areas of the business, confident that the project was in safe hands.
The system was built as a web application on the LAMP stack, using PHP5. Our developer impressed Neuxpower with his attitude to code quality, employing a test-driven approach and providing readable, well-commented code. The codebase has been handed over to Neuxpower’s internal developers for support, but it has so far required zero bug-fixes, and they have found it easy to add the few enhancements they have required.
Neuxpower’s sales team are now using the system to create consistent quotes and track sales opportunities. As a result they are able to convert more quotes into orders, and process those orders more smoothly.
BBC - Music site refreshMore
The BBC /music site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/music) is a major part of the BBC online brand, receiving 50,000 or more unique visitors an hour at peak times. It provides a home for editorial content generated by the BBC Audio and Music Interactive team, and acts as a hub to pull together music themed content from throughout the BBC, centred on individual artists.
/music is closely integrated with the open source MusicBrainz project, and the MusicBrainz database of artists and recordings provides a core set of data around which BBC-specific content is added. After the announcement of a major planned upgrade to MusicBrainz, the BBC identified that a substantial piece of development work would be needed to update the /music site to integrate with the new MusicBrainz interface.
This provided an opportunity to migrate the underlying codebase to the BBC’s new Forge (PHP/Java) platform from the deprecated Perl platform it was previously running on. Additionally it allowed the BBC to commission a graphical refresh – bringing the style of the site up to date and make it consistent with other BBC offerings.
Softwire were selected to implement these enhancements due to our extensive domain knowledge (gathered during previous development and consultancy projects for the Audio and Music Interactive team), and our proven ability to deliver in the tight timescales required by the imminent MusicBrainz upgrade. A short consultancy phase clarified requirements and scope, and identified some areas of the site which were outdated and no longer desired.
We then took on the delivery of the project, involving breaking apart the monolithic Perl application driving the current site, and producing two new applications:
- A Java service responsible for database access, exposing a data API usable by any other application within the BBC seeking artist information.
- A PHP presentation application formatting the API data, combining it with other BBC internal data feeds, and rendering the finished page.
The application had to meet the BBCs demanding standards, particularly regarding load-testing, managed via careful design of the internal APIs and caching policies. It also had to integrate with many other services, both within the BBC making this a technically very complex and challenging project.
In addition to the technical challenges there were demanding timescales driven by the immovable MusicBrainz upgrade date. Softwire dealt with these challenges through strong and active project management.
We engaged closely with the BBC to identify and actively manage risks, and adapt to changing circumstances and obstacles. Some dependencies placed on 3rd parties or other teams within the BBC could not all be achieved on time, and Softwire’s flexible approach to delivery was vital in enabling the project to succeed despite these obstacles.
The redeveloped site was launched successfully and ahead of schedule in August 2011 and occupies a central position in the BBC technical roadmap for consolidating their online audio and music platforms.
Airwave - Workflow Management ApplicationMore
Airwave delivers critical communications solutions to organisations involved in providing vital services to the public. Their customers include the police, fire and ambulance services as well as more than 150 other organisations with a public services role.
In 2011 Airwave commissioned Softwire to produce a Windows Mobile client application on behalf of the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA). The application is used by staff escorting detainees to manage their daily schedule and to collect signatures and other audit information.
The application requires two-way communication with the central server – receiving schedule and detainee information from the server throughout the day; and transmitting data about completed jobs and collected signatures back to the server.
A key challenge was dealing with unreliable mobile data connections and allowing the user to continue to carry out their job even while the device is out of signal range. When the device reconnects, it is possible that updates may be received to the schedule which are incompatible with events which have occurred on the ground while it was offline.
Thanks to the rigorous testing plan, designed by one of our experienced Test Leads, we were able to cover the most likely (and many unlikely!) scenarios and ensure the software behaved as the user expected in all cases.
This highlights one of the key advantages of the Agile approach which we recommended: a fully integrated team including testers, analysts and developers. This means that testing, quality, and commitment to meeting user needs is a continuous process throughout the development life-cycle – not isolated activities at the start and end of the project (too early to know what is needed or too late to do anything about it).
One of the key aspects of Agile software projects (and indeed any software project) is open and effective collaboration with the customer and users or user representatives. We shared most of our project management artefacts with Airwave, including:
- Burn-up charts showing the cumulative work completed and remaining which gives arguably one of the clearest views of project progress.
- Timesheets and weekly status reports
- Risk and issue logs
- Bug reports and access to our issue tracking systems
- And, where possible, Airwave attended our planning and estimating meetings, stand ups and sprint retrospectives.
All of which provided Airwave with a clear picture of progress, as well as allowing them to contribute and provide direction and guidance throughout the project. This minimised Airwave’s business risk and contributed to a high quality, robust solution.
Yudu Media - iPad Reader ApplicationMore
Softwire met extremely challenging deadlines and enabled YUDU media to release one of the first apps on the iPad platform. By doing so without compromising on quality, we delivered one of the most robust, usable iPad reader solutions on the market, helping YUDU to maintain their reputation for innovation and creativity.
Softwire have worked with YUDU for many years; architecting, implementing and enhancing YUDU’s successful online digital publishing platform. This platform translates traditional documents such as PDFs into rich, interactive, Flash-based in-browser experiences.
Softwire were therefore a natural choice for YUDU when it came to extending their platform to the mobile consumer. YUDU commissioned Softwire to design and develop a rebrandable content reader application targeting the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch families.
Softwire provided a full service throughout the entire product lifecycle: working with YUDU to discuss and refine specifications, designing, developing and testing the software, deploying to the Apple App Store, and providing on-going support and enhancements.
Softwire worked in close communication with technical and sales staff from YUDU to produce a solution that was closely aligned with the changing priorities of YUDU’s customers, whilst working to an aggressive deadline. Softwire met this deadline and enabled YUDU to be amongst the first to market on the iPad platform.
- An application able to read and display PDF content, targeting the iPad and also the iPhone and iPod Touch families. A smooth and slick user experience was paramount in order to fully take advantage of the tactile and responsive iPad platform.
- Seamless integration with (and extension of) the YUDU Pro publishing platform. The app not only displays PDFs published on the core system, but adds interactive functionality such as inline video display, web, email and phone links, page navigation and textual search, amongst others.
- Quick and simple rebranding functionality, allowing YUDU’s clients to easily customise the look and feel of the application displaying their publications.
- A clean architecture allowing future extensibility, as well as full forwards- and backwards-compatibility. This will ensure that content can always be read, regardless of the version of the app or age of the published content.
The iPad app was written in Objective C using the Cocoa API and the iPhone SDK. The Yudu Pro extensions were written in Java, using various Java Enterprise technologies, such as JBoss, Spring MVC and Java Persistence backed by Oracle databases.
Softwire delivered to both the agreed schedule and planned budget. The finished product is impressive, slick and intuitive, a strong player in the digital publishing space on Apple devices, and an important part of YUDU Media’s successful catalogue of publishing solutions.
RealVNC are the de facto standard for remote control and access software, providing solutions on almost every platform. RealVNC engaged Softwire to develop a Blackberry application for the automotive industry based on their remote connection framework.
The application provides remote access and control of the device over USB to dashboard touchscreen viewers in the forthcoming range of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. It allows drivers to plug their mobile devices into the vehicle, providing a large easy to use interface to the phone via the touchscreen.
As an automotive application, safety is obviously paramount. The application monitors vehicle speed and the user’s use of the device – for example allowing mobile navigation but blocking texting at speed.
A key challenge was making the application interface consistent with mobile applications that VNC provides on other platforms. This needed to be done whilst retaining a native feel to the design, and providing an intuitive and streamlined user experience supporting 26 languages.
RealVNC were so impressed with Softwire’s work that they asked us to be their first approved VNC Automotive App developer. We look forward to working with them again on future projects!
Cambridge University Press - Educational Software PlatformMore
When Softwire was asked by Cambridge University Press to deliver four educational software products our consultants quickly spotted an opportunity to add extra value. We designed and subsequently built a generic, extensible delivery platform, letting CUP rapidly produce new products at a fraction of the previous cost.
The successful delivery of this platform, and Softwire’s on-going responsive and reliable service, has generated a lucrative extra revenue stream for CUP, not to mention helping them to win a prestigious award.
The original requirement was for a series of four interactive CD-ROMs to accompany the face2face series of books for students learning English. As part of the initial consultancy phase, Softwire identified that it would be more cost effective to create a generic Flash-based CD-ROM delivery platform based around a single data-driven application plus a Content Management System to administer and publish the CD-ROM contents, instead of developing each interactive CD-ROM as a separate, standalone project.
This indeed proved to be the case, and the resulting time saving allowed the development of additional features within the project budget which helped the face2face Elementary CD-ROM win a prestigious award for CUP.
Subsequently, the original face2face platform has been extended and enhanced for other CUP publications including Objective IELTS, English in Mind and Essential Grammar in Use. All of these projects have benefited from the fact that the original feature-set supported by face2face comes essentially ‘for free’ as it can be re-used with the new content without requiring any additional software development effort, thereby providing extremely good value for money for CUP.
On a technical level the interactive CD-ROM application is built using Flash and exposes a clear and intuitive user interface – this being a key requirement as the intended user base, by definition, speak only basic English. The Content Management System is web-based and built using ASP.NET with a backend SQL Server database. This is hosted directly by CUP and supported by Softwire on an ongoing basis.
Thales Information Systems Security (ISS) is a world leading provider of information and communications security solutions.
Thales engaged Softwire to deliver a powerful single sign-on solution (SSO) for their existing SafeSign product suite and the UK local government market, to a tight deadline.
Softwire provided a range of services covering the full project lifecycle:
- Initial specification refinement consultancy to formalise Thales’ vision for the product, and incorporate the specific needs of potential clients.
- Development, conducted in an Agile manner. Softwire made regular releases which were reviewed by Thales, and used to guide development priorities and adapt to emerging requirements.
- Comprehensive documentation; for users, integrators and developers.
- Code handover, including a full codebase walkthrough.
- Provision of interactive training workshops for the ISS professional services team.
The SSO gateway was architected as: a central login gateway and administrator interface, supported by desktop, web and VPN clients to handle login integration with existing systems. Technologies and standards used included Java, Struts2, Hibernate, Tomcat, InstallAnywhere (targeting Windows and Linux) and SAML2 (security communications protocol).
The range of cryptographic functions required (e.g. one-time-password verifications, challenge-response verification, XML signing) was provided by integrating with SafeSign Authentication Server via a bespoke API.
The system was tested exhaustively, via continuous unit testing (via FitNesse, JUnit and EasyB), end of sprint system testing, a thorough UAT period conducted by Thales, and penetration testing carried out externally.
The end result was a well-featured, robust, flexible, extensible and well documented product, produced on time and within budget, ready to be packaged and sold as part of the SafeSign product suite.
Softwire provide consulting and development services to build bespoke integrated solutions for RSA’s customers. Our professionalism and technical versatility provide RSA and their customers with confidence in the outcome of business critical projects, and thereby help RSA to obtain more business.
RSA, The Security Division of EMC is one of the largest providers of secure cryptographic systems in the world. On one project for a major financial institution, Softwire implemented a remote registration authority to manage the issuing of smart cards and their associated certificates to system users. Softwire initially provided consultancy services to work with the end customer to understand their integration requirements in depth. This was followed by a detailed design phase during which we provided a comprehensive design document for signoff by all interested parties.
Softwire then integrated RSA’s products with the customer’s existing solution. This involved development of a registration website and an associated Windows service plus interfaces to a number of external systems.
In order to succeed at delivering this project Softwire had to communicate clearly and accurately with a number of different organisations including RSA, their customer, the smart card provider and another cryptographic service provider. We did so by maintaining open communication channels throughout the project and working very closely with RSA’s own project manager to ensure that any technical issues were identified and resolved quickly. Our professionalism and deep understanding of the technology involved maintained RSA’s good relationship with this important customer.
Overall this was a challenging project on both a technical and management level, but one that Softwire helped to ensure was delivered successfully.
Torridon Solutions are project management software specialists who approached Softwire to develop their flagship software product – Swiftlight™ – having undertaken an extensive review of the market for both onshore and offshore software development partners.
At the start of the project Torridon had a very clear vision of the product and customer experience they wanted to create. Softwire’s job was therefore to help to make that vision a reality. The product itself is a desktop application which is targeted at smaller scale projects and a general management audience in organizations of all sizes. With an intuitive and powerful graphical user interface, Swiftlight™ combines outstanding ease of use, clear visuals and a smart structure in a way that encourages best practice, makes it fast and easy to create and modify project plans, and makes it easier to communicate those plans around an organization.
Softwire began by prototyping and subsequently fleshing out some of the more complex application views, both as a proof-of-concept and to reduce the technical risk in later phases. Having successfully completed this task we continued to develop further application views and features under Torridon’s direction, all the time maintaining clear and open communication channels with Torridon’s management team.
The product is implemented using C#.NET and incorporates a number of third party technologies to provide advanced capabilities where required, notably for custom application views, licensing and activation, and Microsoft Office integration. Softwire managed all technical interaction with these third party vendors.
At the time of writing the product is going into launch following an extensive system testing phase. The indications from beta testing and early customers are strongly encouraging. Softwire expect to continue working with Torridon for the foreseeable future to provide ongoing technical support and further development of new features as the market demands.
Voicekey is a recent spin out company, founded to commercialise research from Nottingham Trent University’s Computer Science department. The company specialise in the design, test & delivery of a range of standard and bespoke speech-enabled identity management solutions. Voicekey’s patented voice biometric encoding technology allows users to carry a cryptographically signed version of their voice biometric around with them without fear of loss, cloning or counterfeiting.
Voicekey commissioned Softwire to build the core voice verification library of their eponymous product. The voice verification library creates and securely verifies user voice biometrics. In addition Softwire developed a proof of concept application using the library to provide voice verification for Windows PCs.
Softwire’s brief was to take the verification algorithm developed at the university, refine it to improve the accuracy and performance in real world scenarios and demonstrate its suitability as part of a viable product. This involved a great deal of research and experimentation and is exactly the sort of intellectual problem which Softwire employees love (and excel at solving).
In addition to the theoretical challenges, the project also involved using a number of complex technologies including: neural networks; signal processing and analysis; cryptography and low level Windows security APIs. Softwire were able to call on our wide range of technical knowledge and skills and our existing experience in the security sector to overcome the technical hurdles and deliver a robust solution.
Softwire delivered a verification library implemented in C++ (with a C API), a GUI enrolment application and a plug-in to add voice verification to the Windows login process.
Voicekey are now undertaking a field trial of the core library, in preparation for building a product range of voice verification solutions providing government agencies, corporate and small-to-medium enterprises with the capability to secure their physical and IT infrastructure against the twin threats of identity theft and identity fraud.
CFS Europe provide customer feedback systems at point-of-sale for large retail organisations throughout the UK and Europe, including banks and major high street stores. Having implemented a solution to collect the data at point-of-sale and transfer it back to head office, CFS needed an automated and streamlined system to generate the multitude of reports requested by their clients and to deliver them on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, which is when they approached Softwire.
Softwire worked closely with CFS to understand their requirements and produce a specification that defined the required functionality. We then developed and tested the reporting software, deployed this on CFS’s own servers and continue to support the solution on an ongoing basis.
The reporting system is built on a Microsoft technology platform and comprises a web-based administration interface through which the reporting schedule is configured, synchronisation jobs to transfer daily data updates into a central OLAP data cube and reporting components to generate the required reports from the OLAP cube at the scheduled times.
Report scheduling is handled intelligently with a single reporting task able to result in the generation of numerous department-level reports (potentially in the hundreds) with each delivered by email to the appropriate contact within that department. This approach minimises the amount of manual configuration required by CFS and significantly reduces the possibility of data entry errors.
Technologies employed include ASP.NET for the web interface, a C#.NET Windows service for the report scheduler, SQL Server Analysis Services for the OLAP cube and SQL Server Reporting Services for report generation. All components were delivered to budget and have allowed CFS to manage an extremely large reporting operation with just a small support staff.