Ergon Software in Everyday Life
In our everyday lives we constantly come across software – in many cases programs that have been developed by Ergon. On the following pages Jessica is going to make a foray into the world of Ergon’s software.
Go along with Jessica on her software discovery trip!
Getting past the tills quickly
The personnel planning system has to work perfectly if there are to be no enormous queues at the tills and enough fresh produce on the shelves at all times. To guarantee first-rate service for customers the two biggest retailers Coop and Migros rely on Zebra, Ergon’s time management solution for work scheduling, timekeeping and accounting. The customer in the shop benefits here as Zebra plays a key role in ensuring staff are deployed to optimum effect.
This fast, powerful and user-friendly web application helps store managers with the task of scheduling the working hours of their employees in line with their contracts and the relevant legislation. For example, the consistency check therefore does not allow employees to record a shift that is longer than permitted or for breaks to be left out. In this way the system ensures that the rules governing working hours for all staff are not broken and that any additional payments are calculated correctly. In addition to personnel planning, Zebra also handles access authorisations.
How can such a hotel with hundreds of guests manage to have enough hot water for everyone to take a shower at the same time? The answer here is embedded systems: processors that are embedded in a device to control and monitor it. They are all around us, and hardly anything would work without them. Nowadays huge installations are controlled with the tiniest of embedded devices. The number of possible applications and functions is constantly increasing.
From research ...
How software from Ergon became involved in hot showers is a long story and has to do with Belimo, a technology company listed on the stock exchange with an international workforce of some 1000 people. This firm has been engaged in the development, manufacture and distribution of electric drives for air vents and valves for HVAC systems since 1975. With its extensive product range, Belimo is a world leader in this niche market.
In 2006 Belimo asked Ergon to draw up a feasibility study evaluating different embedded devices which could be incorporated in its drives. In the course of their subsequent cooperation Belimo sharedlogic was used to create an embedded platform which provides the functions needed to develop control systems for building services components. The basis here is an embedded Linux system, which is installed in a drive and offers a runtime environment for control programs. It is supplemented with graphical tools for development and start-up as well as a web interface for operation when in service.
... to the start of production
In the autumn of 2010 Belimo sharedlogic for OEM customers was launched as the latest technology for producing intelligent, ground-breaking components for building services applications.
Oventrop, a German manufacturer of valves, controls and systems for the building services industry, has used Belimo sharedlogic to develop a new hot water heating system for high output levels. This involves cascading heat exchanger systems, which are actuated using a shared logic control system. This is how there’s always enough hot water under the shower.
Anyone travelling by train is familiar with them. Here we are talking about the red devices with the large display that are always carried by train conductors. They are fully incorporated in the IT landscape of Swiss Railways (SBB) thanks to the mobile device (Zugpersonalgerät) containing Ergon’s software. It allows them to retrieve any data they need in real time. Direct access to the customer database lets them for example immediately check while on board whether passengers really have forgotten their railway travel card without them having to bother showing their fare card at the ticket desk afterwards. This is a service that is appreciated by anyone who has ever been in this situation. And customers of Rhaetian Railway can even use various contactless chip cards such as the graubündenCARD and die ENGADINcard as a means of payment.
With their mobile device conductors can also sell all available tickets at any time or check the new electronic tickets stored on mobile phones in a matter of seconds. The latest timetables? They are available at the touch of a button. The Zugpersonalgerät is a major factor in making life easier for passengers and railway staff.
Growing numbers of people are meanwhile taking advantage of electronic payment – something that is convenient and saves time. Not to mention the business world. E-banking caters for a need that is also met by the LLB Group. It offers both private customers and professional asset managers the wide-ranging functions needed to fulfil their high demands: from enquiries about their assets through portfolio management and payment transactions to stock market dealing.
New solution for all customers
This traditional financial institution has recently switched over to the Avaloq banking system, introducing at the same time a new online banking system for Bank Linth (Linthbanking) and LLB (LLB iBanking). At LLB some 60 percent of bank payments are made online. Every month thousands of stock exchange orders are also placed online, with the integrated market data feed offering valuable assistance when it comes to decision-making. The E-Post service, which mails customers their own payment receipts electronically, is also proving popular.
Security and convenience
This user-friendly application developed by Ergon is designed for local installation. A multi-level security concept ensure that unauthorised persons are unable to access the system. Access is granted via a digital signature certificate on a USB token, a PIN and a personal password.
Besides its high security standards the application offers another key benefit: It is far more user-friendly than a browser-based solution. Customers particularly benefit when it comes to complex functions. The design of the new solution is easy to understand and offers functions that increase flexibility for online banking.
AMAG asked Ergon to partner it for the maintenance and further development of its garage-based IT infrastructure. This infrastructure encompasses software components in Java and .NET, linking the 83 garages owned by AMAG and the some 500 partner firms to the works systems of the Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg. Specific issues include warranty handling, software distribution for vehicles, the electronic parts catalogue or operating procedures.
The brief also includes a hardware component called the Bluebox: an industrial PC with a specifically configured Linux system. A Bluebox can be found in every partner garage, separating the secure workshop network from the office network operated on the responsibility of the partner garage.
Bluebox for the latest vehicle software
The Bluebox links the IT systems at the garage with those of AMAG and the Volkswagen Group. Whenever a vehicle is brought in for service or repair, the mechanic can ask VW in Wolfsburg about the car’s previous history using the Bluebox together with the software components described above. He can download data sheets, view the electronic parts catalogue or retrieve instructions for repair.
In addition, warranty claims can be handled directly with the works via the Bluebox infrastructure. Any spare parts required can be ordered online from AMAG’s parts warehouse via Bluebox and are sometimes even delivered on the same day depending on the time the order is placed
After a visit to the theatre fill up your wallet quickly with the cash needed for a nightcap in your favourite bar – the nearest cash machine is just round the corner. It is even handier that customers of Raiffeisen bank can also ask its cash dispensers about their current balance and most recent transactions. All card-based transactions are authorised via the cash machine transaction server. This includes taking out and paying in money at Raiffeisen’s ATMs as well as withdrawing cash from terminals belonging to other banks.
Millions of transactions
Ergon provided a server of this type for the Raiffeisen Group, Switzerland’s third largest bank, which is now well equipped for the predicted rise in the levels of transactions: Raiffeisen is one of the biggest players in the Swiss payments processing sector. Banking transactions are expected to grow by 50 percent between now and 2014.
To ensure that the millions of transactions can continue to be processed smoothly, Ergon once again teamed up with Comit to adapt their Card-X transaction server used by various banks to meet the requirements of Raiffeisen. They pulled this off in around 12 months, although all 367 of Raiffeisen’s branches in Switzerland were directly involved in this project as well as more than one supplier. The top priorities here were expandability and reliability in terms of system stability and performance.
Cash when on holiday
Whether we are travelling for business or pleasure, the same mechanisms come into play should we need cash on our journey. The ATM transaction server will also check and authorise all transactions at ATMs and cash machines owned by other banks at home or abroad in terms of our current balance and drawing limits.
The solution also supports live maintenance of the transaction server. This means that the software can be updated without system interrupts: an important condition if people round the globe are to be able to withdraw money at all times.
Not only are iPhone apps really useful – for Ergon they are an exciting field in which to experiment. They let users find out whatever they want 24/7. As a pioneer of mobile solutions, Ergon was involved in the development of iPhone software right from the start and gained experience in creating apps very early on.
We are constantly preoccupied by the weather. For Ergon reason enough to develop an app. iWeather.ch is Switzerland’s first iPhone weather app to directly access the data held by MeteoSchweiz. It shows the latest weather reports for 70 meteorological stations throughout the country as well as the current barometric pressure, animated rainfall radar, wind forecasts and an hour-by-hour forecast for the next 6 days. Whether you are a mountaineer or paraglider, iWeather.ch is the place to come if you are after the latest weather. It also tells business people whether they need to take an umbrella with them to their next meeting.
The world’s weather at your fingertips
Sometimes you want to know about the weather in another country. What’s the weather doing at my holiday destination? Are friends in Australia enjoying better weather than us? This is why Ergon teamed up with the weather experts from meteoblue in Basel to develop an iPhone app for the weather all round the world. meteo4me offers highly accurate global weather forecasts for the next six days as well as all key meteorological parameters provided at hourly intervals.
Whether we pick up the phone, surf the Internet at home in the evening or settle down with a thriller on the TV, these are all completely different activities. But they have something in common if we obtain these services from a single supplier.
Known as Triple Play, this package consisting of telephone, Internet and television, is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. WWZ, a regional cable network operator, offers its customers this service.
Range constantly increasing in size
When it comes to its extensive range of telecoms services, WWZ relies on Taifun, the software solution developed by Ergon. With Taifun the company can guarantee that all processes – from customer enquiries through provisioning of the required service to invoicing and continuous monitoring of service quality – are not only handled smoothly and efficiently but also with a focus on the customer. This allows the necessary processes to be automated to a major extent.
Road users in Switzerland are used to getting to their destination safe and sound even when it’s snowing. As soon as the first snowflakes start to fall, the road network is invaded by snowploughs and gritters with their orange warning lights. They set off on their task of clearing the country’s highways and byways in the middle of the night.
To cope better with the challenges of dealing with ice and snow, the roads inspectorate of the canton of Lucerne and FEDRO asked Ergon and Kelag to develop a special software solution tailored to their needs. It helps the staff responsible for keeping Swiss roads clear in winter with their task of ensuring optimum travel conditions on the federal and cantonal highways. The new system allows the road clearance department to undertake preventive measures whenever the relevant data and weather forecasts point towards snow. It is thus quite possible to come across a gritter when the roads are dry although it won’t start snowing until later.
Full information for the overall picture
The latest reliable information about the weather is essential here. This is why staff in the road clearance department can call on a total of 60 climate and weather stations, each equipped with a range of measuring probes and sensors. They constantly supply data for different meteorological parameters such as air and ground temperature, humidity, freezing temperature, precipitation and wind as well as road conditions. Specific weather forecasts are constantly provided by MeteoSchweiz and other meteorological services, so resulting in a host of valuable information.
All functions in a single system
All data are brought together in a clear, standardised user interface. The system combines a range of functions: real-time meteorological data and forecasts, complete manpower planning, contingent and monitoring including integration of communications with service vehicles, reporting and automated quality control.
The solution has really proved its worth this winter. There were fewer accidents on the entire road network as the accurate forecasts ensured black ice just did not have a chance.