World Leaders in pre-payment gas and electricity utilities, located in Telford, Shropshire, UK.
• Adopting a strategic methodology to deliver a mission critical application.
• Effective combined use of Abstract Solutions training and consulting.
• Success in an extremely constrained execution environment.
About the Case Study
The case study describes Landis+Gyr’s domestic payment meter project for utilities in the North American market
The application allows a domestic user of a commodity (such as gas or electricity) to make an advance purchase of energy supply from an approved outlet, using a smartcard. Gas or electricity is purchased from a point of sale device located in local shops, post offices and petrol stations. Back home, the customer places the smartcard into the customer display terminal, which authorises the meter to supply energy to the purchased value.
“In our drive to find a new application development method we were looking for an approach that offered a highly structured process which gave reliable software that was efficient in terms of cost and time” Matt Hamblin Project Leader
Up until fairly recently, Landis+Gyr’s expertise had been in hardware design. As Mark Lewis comments: “Five years ago 80% of our skills were focused on hardware: However, we quickly realised that the software element of our business would become more and more strategic, with the result that today 80% of our skills are software focused”. Early development projects had been based on Structured Methods but with a toolset that allowed for the design specification of the system to become out of step with the subsequent coding of that same system.
Matt Hamblin set about the pilot evaluation of available methods. “We needed a method that supported object orientation and real-time applications. The key goal was to find a rigorous method that enforced consistency between the design of the system and the code generated from that design. From my research and from talking with other experts, the executable object modelling approach came up time and time again
Selecting integrated modelling tools
A number of alternative suppliers were short-listed and were invited to give Landis+Gyr a thorough demonstration of their capabilities. Products ranged from simple diagramming packages to full blown Modelling tools that were strong in simulation. Overall, across the key criteria, Abstract Solutions were clear winners, as Matt Hamblin explains: “Abstract Solutions was a much better modelling methodology than any of their competitors. We also felt that Abstract Solutions could offer us a much better package of training, support and consultancy. This was critical for us.”
Mission critical real-time application
From a user’s perspective, the team at Landis+Gyr were struck by the precision and the amount of detail the Abstract Solutions approach required. Landis+Gyr also made extensive use of Abstract Solutions methodology to simulate the execution of the application. The simulator uses the analysis captured in the modelling tool database and executes the application. “To give you some idea of how robust and mission critical the project is, we’re using batteries within the customer display terminal that have a lifetime of several years. This system has to go in and work from day one, and not be touched again for years to come.” “We needed a method that supported object orientation and real-time applications. The key goal was to find a rigorous method that enforced consistency between the design of the system and the code generated from that design.
There can be no doubt that Landis+Gyr see the adoption of executable modelling techniques and of Abstract Solutions as strategic. From practical experience gained from the North American project, Landis+Gyr have redefined their business model around the methodology itself. Mark Lewis concludes. “We see our future being dependent on the robustness of the products we create today and good software development is the cornerstone of that strategy.