Case Study | Thales

  • System Type: Transport Information System
  • Key Technologies: Microsoft.NET, Oracle

The Project

Thales run some of the world’s biggest transportation infrastructure projects and provide the technology behind the live UK timetable information that serves the Departure Boards in train stations, as well as apps such as National Rail and Trainline.

The system behind this ‘intelligent’ data feed of real-time rail information is called Darwin. The system, developed by some very clever people over 13 years, uses algorithms and logic to blend a load of data, including timetable information, real-time updates on signalling and speed restrictions, and insider knowledge such as extra time factored in between stations on some routes.

Teksidia contributed consultancy services on a project that aimed to provide a single source of truth for all train operators when manually adjusting timetables; previous to this there were multiple methods of updating timetables. This work created another trusted source of information that could be used by Darwin to further improve the accuracy of train times.

What We Learnt

Large infrastructure projects such as the type Thales specialise in require detailed requirements management, and so there was a formal process involved in capturing and documenting requirements. This in turn meant that a fairly rigid waterfall process had to be followed – different to most projects we work on as the in-house Teksidia methodology is agile.

We learnt that even within Waterfall, prototyping and proof of concepts can help communicate ideas much more strongly than written documentation. We developed a prototype to ease discussions with the client. This started with ‘low-fi’ wireframes created in a tool called Balsamiq, and ended with a semi-functional WinForms prototype.

This really helped the team focus and provided visual feedback to the client that we understood the requirements and were crystalising them into a valid solution. As an added bonus, we included code and architecture examples within the proof of concept that helped the development team formulate a clearer idea of the patterns and practices required to deliver a best practice solution.

How this experience helps you:

  • Our initial iteration usually contains an element of prototyping to drive out your requirements and help learn what you really need. We call this the ‘Discovery’ phase. See our popular blog post on the Power of Prototyping.

Teksidia are a Software Development consultancy. We make creative use of digital technologies to help your business grow. Discover your potential with our R&D and prototyping services. Or go the whole hog and commission a tailor-made software product.