Hearfield Research...

... real-world web design

Hearfield Research designs and makes websites and rich internet applications which address the real needs of our clients.

Project: Earth / Space Communication System

Earth / Space Communication System
Drake Electronics
Autumn 2002 - Winter 2005
Cambridge

Screenshots

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Description

Drake Electronics is one of the two market leading brands that comprise Vitec Group Communications. Drake Electronics is "the market leader in Versatile Communications Solutions (VCS) for Air Traffic Control, Space Operations, Command & Control and Simulation & Training."*
* - source: www.drake-uk.com

Hearfield Research was contracted to design and develop a new user interface for a communications system which was successfully rolled out in Munich, Moscow and Houston to control communications between Earth, the ISS and Space Shuttles. This was a large and long-running project.

The new application was designed to be massively scalable, as a single communications system can have multiple hardware installations in many different countries across the world. Additionally, it may be necessary to arbitrarily subdivide communication stations into groups whose membership may change more than once a day. The design had, therefore, to encompass a combination of collections of real physical communication stations and virtual communities spanning physical boundaries.

Having performed requirements capture and gone through a recursive prototyping process to arrive at a design, Mike worked alongside a talented and multi-skilled in-house development team to create a rich internet application, using Flash objects hosted inside ASP.NET pages, that allows authorised users to manage hugely complex international communications systems from the comfort of any modern flash-capable web browser.

The application performs two main functions, configuration and monitoring. Configuration of communication stations is performed using a virtual representation of the hardware, while the allocation of members to groups is performed using variations on the standard concept of drag-and-drop from filtered lists.

Hardware monitoring is performed by a C#/SQL Server back-end that filters and stores hardware events as they are received. The back-end maintains lists of connected clients and relays only appropriate information to each. The clients are connected to the back-end through a combination of Flash's XML socket - providing real-time push updates which do not have to be requested by the client - and SOAP web services which the client polls at intervals. This simple and powerful technique reduces the amount of data to be transferred and allows the back-end a high degree of control of the user interface.

The user interface is primarily Macromedia Flash, selected for the rich experience that it provides as well as its capabilities in supporting asynchronous socket communications and SOAP web services. Where information could be presented in simple tabular form, HTML was used.

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