Talk with your eyes

Our client (through his church) is a man who has had a stroke and has been in a care home for several years as he is unable to communicate or do anything for himself. He is very frustrated as his brain still works but he cannot talk or write.

After an initial visit to see if there was any way we could help him, we developed a solution using a laptop with an eye tracker built into it. We chose a laptop so that it can be mounted on his wheelchair and allow him to be more mobile e.g. when going to church.

The eye tracker works with specialised software to allow the user to select letters by staring at a screen based keyboard . Once a word or sentence has been formed, the software will speak the words using a synthesised (English) voice.

We delivered and set up the system and spent some time training our client and a friend of his in the use of the system and, by the time we left, he was already learning to type letters on the screen.

Going forward, the system will allow the user to control the laptop so it would be possible to use the internet or type documents.

If you would like to more about this project or you think we may be able to help someone you know then please get in touch.

Cruise Booking System

We were approached by a company offering day cruises on the Solent for parties and sightseeing trips. They have a number of vessels and take bookings for individuals and the whole boat. They ran their business using a custom built database running on a very old PC which was running a long out of date version of Windows. The system did not meet their current requirements and the PC it was running on was failing.

Our systems analyst spent time onsite with the client, looking at the way they do business and what they would like to have on their system. We were also able to suggest extra features that would help their business based on the experience we have gained from working with other clients.

Open Sauce Systems designed a web based application to replace our client’s existing system which will allow them to manage all their customers, cruises and bookings as well as produce tickets, cruise manifests and other reports to help make the business more organised and efficient. The system will monitor quantities of tickets sold so that resources can be managed and will let them book extra services such as catering and entertainment.

As the system is web based, they can access it from anywhere and there is potential to expand the system, for example, to integrate customer bookings and automatic notifications should they be needed by the client. They will also be able to retire their old PC as we will look after all the maintenance!

Waste Management System

Our client is a large waste processing and recycling business that receives thousands of tonnes of waste a day. They have to comply with numerous Environmental Agency rules and regulations as well as provide evidence of the movement and processing of different waste types to their customers and to the authorities.

Their business was managed using a number of off the shelf products (spreadsheets and documents) as well as a database written in house. Data needed to be entered onto three different systems which was slow, labour intensive and prone to errors. They were unable to provide timely information to their customers which led to unnecessary phone calls and emails.

Open Sauce Systems visited the client, analysed their business processes and listened to their requirements. We designed a web hosted application which manages all their waste processing paperwork; from the initial receipt of the consignment to the production of the necessary statistics for the Environment Agency. We also designed an interface allowing customers to log in and see the status of their waste consignments and download the appropriate paperwork in real time instead of having to wait days for it to be forwarded to them.

Now that they are entering data in one place, data input time has been drastically reduced as most information is already on the system and can be entered automatically e.g. customer details, waste types, etc. In addition, as the system is hosted by us in one of our UK data centres, the system is reliable, always up and backed up with no ongoing maintenance needed by the client. It is also flexible so that should any of their requirements (or those of the Environment Agency!) change, we will be able to alter the system to reflect these changes.

Network Infrastructure

Overview
The client has taken on a large country estate, many miles from the nearest town, and intends to convert it into a private school with adjoining nursery and outdoor activities centre. Their requirements include installing broadband internet, an internal network with wifi access and a communications system. At the start of the project there was no connectivity to the site and the remains of a few network cables at some parts of the site.

Open Sauce Systems took on the entire project and worked to a tight and rolling timetable to ensure the works were ready. The nursery school was already trading at the start of this project with summer schools starting in 2015 and the main school beginning in September 2016.

Project areas
This project can be broken down into a number of main areas and these are detailed below:
Internet connection
Internal network infrastructure
Outdoor activity centre network
Nursery network
Main building network
Boarding house network
Communications system

1. Internet connection
As a temporary measure we installed a standard BT analogue line with ADSL broadband to the main building on site. This was fed along an existing underground network cable to the nursery school which was already trading. This enabled them to have a phone and some internet connectivity although the maximum speed available was 2-3 Mbps.
We investigated having the phone line upgraded to BT Infinity but, after testing, this was found not to work.
In the longer term the school will need a much faster and greater throughput internet connection as most pupils require use of the internet and most school functions these days require the internet. Having attempted (and failed!) to get a quote from BT for installing a fibre optic connection we opted for a licensed radio link which will supply the school from the nearest major town/city. We tasked a specialist contractor to specify, install and maintain the link and this task is ongoing and will be updated when complete.
The aim of this connection will be to bring a fast and large throughput internet connection directly to the site at a reasonable cost.

2. Internal network infrastructure
There are several distinct areas of the site to be connected. The main buildings, the boarding house, the outdoor activity centre and the nursery school. The distance between some of these is several hundred metres with the nursery being across a road and several car parks. Due to the size of site and the limitations of using standard network cabling (both in distance and capacity), we specified a fibre optic backbone between parts of the site and a radio link to the nursery. The fibre link was run between the main IT cabinet in the basement of the main building and “mini-hub” cabinets in the boarding house and the outdoor activity centre. This connects the sites with a fast, upgradeable and reliable connection with plenty of capacity for numerous users.
Each mini-hub is fitted with a 24 port switch, with fibre connections and power over ethernet (POE) for ease of connecting wifi units and IP phones, a patch panel for local network cable connections and a fibre patch panel. The main IT cabinet is also fitted with a main internet router and a Linux based server for controlling the WiFi network.
As the main building has a grade II* listing we tried to ensure we were sympathetic when running the fibre backbone. We were able to make use of the extensive basements and tunnels as well as parapeted roofs to hide the fibre from view as much as possible and we also removed many old and poorly fitted cables while carrying out the work which enhanced the buildings.
The fibre link has enormous capacity and spare cores should the network need to be upgraded in the future.
The link to the nursery was achieved by installing a radio link running from the roof of the main building to the chimney of the nursery building giving a good line of sight connection over 200 metres. The main building transmitter is connected to the router in the main IT cabinet via specially shielded cable. This new link meant that we could disconnect the temporary feed along the underground cable which was slow and unreliable.

3. Outdoor activity centre network
Having installed a new mini-hub at the outdoor activity centre fed from the new fibre backbone we were able to install a local network. The site consists of a sports hall with a number of log cabin dormitories near it. The top floor of the sports hall includes an office which is where the mini-hub is located. The requirement was for WiFi access in the hall, office and log cabins.
We ran catenary wires from the main hall to the log cabins and installed Ubiquiti WiFi access points in them. These access points have the advantage of being centrally controlled and also being unobtrusively mounted on the wall or ceiling. They also allow users to logon to one access point and roam between all the others. An access point was installed in the main sports hall and an IP phone was installed in the office. The IP phone is currently connected to our cloud phone system until the onsite PBX is installed.

4. Nursery network
The nursery has already had a temporary network fitted with some basic WiFi access points and a hosted IP phone. This network has been improved now that the radio link has replaced the temporary underground feed but the internal network is still very basic and ad-hoc.
We will be installing a mini-hub cabinet with powered switch as at the other sites. We will also install 8 Ubiquiti WiFi access points and a number of standard ethernet points for fixed computers and IP phones.

5. Main building network
A temporary network feed has been run to one of the downstairs rooms in the main building as it is being used throughout 2015 even though the main school is not yet open. In the room we have installed a Ubiquiti WiFi access point and an IP phone connected to our cloud PBX.
Before we start the installation in the main building we will be carrying out a WiFi coverage survey as the building is old with extremely thick walls. We plan to install WiFi access points covering the whole building as well as fixed sockets for computers and IP phones. These connections will run back to mini-hubs installed in several locations and run back to the main IT cabinet in the basement.
This work will be carried out before the main school starts operating in 2016.

6. Boarding house network
In a similar way to the main building, this part of the school will be networked with WiFi access points and some hard wired connections for computers and IP phones. This work will be carried out prior to the building coming into use in 2016.

7. Communications system
As with most organisations, they will require a communications system. Currently we have installed several IP phones connected to our cloud based PBX. We will be installing an IP PBX in the main IT rack which will control all the IP phones on the site as well as some offsite for certain staff. Due to the size of the grounds and the nature of the work, there is a requirement for a radio system for mobile staff when out of the main buildings. We have specified a digital radio system that connects to the IP PBX so that calls can be made from and to the radios. This will enable mobile staff, such as the caretaker, to be contacted by phone wherever he is and staff needing emergency help to contact somebody even when they are on the sports fields or in the woods. Linking the system to the PBX also means that there is no need to ensure that somebody else has a working radio whenever they go out.

Summary
This major project has been designed, specified, installed and project managed by Open Sauce Systems. We will also be maintaining the system on a support contract and will control the main network remotely. This allows us to monitor and make changes to the various parts of the system without needing to make site visits.
The system has been designed with expansion and flexibility in mind so that the whole network will be able to keep up with the growth of the school and the changes in technology that the future brings.

June 2015

Bespoke Business Systems

Open Sauce Systems are well-qualified in building business systems from the ground up. Typically, these begin life as a CRM or ERM but through customisation and enhancement become the fabric of the organisation. Managing data is key to business success and when that data needs to be mobile, Open Sauce Systems have the experience to work with you to produce the system and tools you need.

Open Sauce Systems – Simplifying the business communications maze

CIO – “Open Sauce Systems put me back in control of my communications costs“. See our Testimonials

Integration with existing system

There was a time when information systems and communications were seen as separate disciplines. Open Sauce Systems specialise in delivering the benefits of integrating voice communications with existing information systems. Examples include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems – staff receive a full, on-screen brief on an existing customer as soon as they receive an incoming call, right down to the orders they have placed; Enterprise Resource Management systems (ERM) where the phone system can be used to locate loads, track resource usage and so on.

Support

To many clients, the improved control of call costs and increase in functionality is only part of the story. The majority of organisations are paying for a level of support that they do not need. This equates to money off the bottom line. Open Sauce Systems have re-written the arrangements for support such that clients pay only for what they need – or indeed, none at all! Levels of Service range from no support, through pay per call-out, to a full managed service. Support can be combined with further development work such that additional functionality can be designed, built and deployed without any loss of service.

International calls

A client spent a considerable proportion of time making calls to an overseas customer. The client had tried a number of calling schemes but remained uncomfortable with the cost. Open Sauce Systems set up an IP network such that calls would use the internet to a point near the customer then use the public system for the “last mile”. The savings were immediate and considerable with break even being achieved within 3 months.

Remote user IP phone

As part of an efficiency drive, a client had embraced the “work from home” culture but was dismayed at the resulting costs of voice calls to and from his staff who were based away from the office. These included staff who were working from properties in Europe. The client already paid for broadband to each house but now had to cope with call costs on top! Open Sauce Systems installed a remote IP phone at each house and configured them to be network devices on the client’s own corporate network. From this point on, all calls between the company and his distributed workforce were free. In addition, calls from the home-based staff to other organisations appeared to come from the company location and were accounted for on the existing telephone services bill.

IP Phone

Not all the technology necessary to deliver the features of Trixbox is contained within the server. A considerable amount is installed into the familiar body of a desk telephone. This is a uniquely addressable network device that constantly exchanges information with the server. It also provides the conversion from voice to IP stream. Devices are available with speed dial buttons and even video screens. If a user is particularly keen to use his existing analogue phone, an analogue phone adaptor can be fitted out of sight, to provide the required functions.