In-Depth

AIRMAN

Innovator Award Submission

Sybase PocketBuilder and Airman

I. Project and Personal Information

a. Company and division name: Sybase, iAnywhere Solutions
b. Web site URL: www.sybase.com
c. Project designation
d. Brief explanation of the goals of the project: To help airport staff effectively manage their wildlife and enhance flight safety, Winfield Solutions created AIRMAN (Airport Information Report Manager), a safety systems management tool poweredby Sybase PowerBuilder®, Sybase PocketBuilder™, and SQL Anywhere® from iAnywhere® Solutions, a subsidiary of Sybase.
e. Brief description of the business risks involved: Since airports had never typically used hand held devices in their operations, there was a large concern over user acceptance by field personnel. A few other vendors of airport management softwarewere considering this approach, so market share would be an issue if they delivered PPC aware applications. A few attempts to develop AirMan Mobile with eVB and "C" tools had already failed and there was not allot of development knowledge at the time in the hand held computing area.
f. Brief description of how the system helps users: The systems helps AIRMAN enhance flight safety.

II. Organizational Objectives

a. What short- and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project? Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money? How were benefits measured? Was the system missioncritical to the organization?

Key Benefits:

  1. Significantly streamlined data collection and reporting
  2. Reports previously taking 8 to 10 hours to generate, now take 5 minutes n Information captured in real-time, more detailed and accurate
  3. Enhanced flight safety
b. Describe the business purpose of the new system: Airport managers need accurate, up-to-the minute data on the various species present at locations around airport grounds to spot potentially dangerous trends. Armed with this data, they can take action against potential threats that could potentially turn into bird strikes or collisions endangering the aircraft and its passengers.
c. Describe the features of the new system: AIRMAN's mobile extension using Sybase PocketBuilder data exchange pipelines eliminated the need for re-entry by enabling direct data capture on the device. Once the data has been synchronized with the central AIRMAN database, it was available for immediately analysis and reporting.
d. Explain the functions of the new system: Generation of reports could be accomplished in a matter of seconds.
e. Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why? This was a joint venture between Winfield Solutions and Software Tool & Die Inc. No officials or groups were opposed to developing the application.
f. Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how? No, but the various Airports were contacted to see if they were given such a tool, it might help their daily operations. There was a general consensus at that time, that this technology might be useful
g. What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome? Understanding the new WinCE Operating System and understanding the differences and capabilities between the various PPCmanufacturers was the challenge. Learning the new PocketBuilder development system and designing the human interface for a very small screen space overcame the challenge. Also, implementing data synchronization between the hand -held database and the corporate database; and developing a reusable framework of components for the WinCE O/S and PocketBuilder helped overcome the challenge.
h. Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made? No

III. Category

E-business Application Development

IV. Methodology/Process

a. Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project. The PocketBuilder development system was the best IDE used to date to develop AirMan Mobile as it was a port of the already highly acclaimed PowerBuilder Object Oriented development system developed by Sybase and used for mission critical applications word wide. For example, the use of the patented DataWindow technology to easily manipulate relational data is 2nd to none in any other development tool. The ASE database has well known for over the past decade as the best-in-breed small foot print database for mobile applications. This RDBMS is extremely fast, easy to deploy and configure and interfaces well to most development systems - especially PocketBuilder.
b. Were testing tools used during development? If so, when were they used? Was the testing cost-effective? Extensive use of PocketBuilder's integrated debugging system was used along with internally written test scripts in the PocketBuilder tool were used. Greg Winfield who had extensive Airport Operations awareness reflecting the business community usage of the new system performed end user testing. Mr. Winfield is a retired Aircraft controller.
c. Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it. A RAD (Rapid Application Development) methodology was used with extensive "Protocycling" iterations were used to allow development and testing to be performed simultaneously. Plus late in the RAD cycle field-testing was conducted with actual Airport operation personnel for their feedback.
d. What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? Feature and bug tracking was accomplished through e-mail and shared Internet access. If used, please describe how. Tools like PocketBuilder and Excel were used to help automate the process.
e. Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project? No

V. Technology

a. What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully? How did the team respond to those challenges? Understanding the new WinCE Operating System. Understanding the differences and capabilities between the various PPC manufacturers.
  1. Learning the new PocketBuilder development system
  2. Designing the human interface for a very small screen space.
  3. Implementing data synchronization between the hand held and corporate database.
  4. Developing a reusable framework of components for the WinCE O/S and
  5. PocketBuilder.

The development hurdles were overcome with superior software and seasoned development staff experience.

b. What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project? Why were they selected over competing tools? What process was used to select development tools and software platforms? PocketBuilder and ASA DBMS from Sybase as they were known to be "Best-in-Breed". Also, previous failures with eVB and "C" development 3GL tools indicated that 4GL technology was required.
c. Describe the overall system architecture. Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe. Distributed Client / Server solution.
d. What characteristics of the tools and technologies used were most important in achieving the business purposes of the system? Zoom able and rotational screen support. Easily customizable by the end user for colors and features required. Seamless bidirectional data transfer, also ease of use (ie: automatically raising the keyboard on data entry fields; creating new database entries by duplicating similar transactions; automatic data saving; etc).

VI. Project Team

a. What was the size of the development team? Very small.
b. Describe the software development experience of the team members.
  1. 23+ years in developing database, GUI, C/S, Web and distributed computing solutions for private and government clientele.
  2. 12+ years development experience with PowerBuilder.
  3. 10+ years experience as a DBA.
c. What was the composition and skill level of the team? Did development teams require training to work with the technology? Self trained in PocketBuilder. Full and highest certifications in PowerBuilder in the industry. Certified in SQLServer, ASE, Oracle, DB/2, etc DBMS systems.
d. How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar time frame? Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project? Did the project stay on schedule? Six months. There was no formal schedule as this was an R&D project initially. The drive to take it to production only jelled in the last few months as development was extremely successful after 3 months of prototyping.
e. Did management and the user community consider the project a success? Absolutely!
f. If you had to do the project over again, would you do anything differently? If yes, please explain why. No, just faster as a large collection of reusable components have now been created to accelerate the PPC platform development along with data synchronization.

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