Trains, planes and vague queries in the BCS finals

Projects ranging from government systems to tracking emergency escapes from aircraft have been chosen as finalists in the BCS IT...

Projects ranging from government systems to tracking emergency escapes from aircraft have been chosen as finalists in the BCS IT Awards.

The BCS IT Awards scheme, now in its 29th year, is the longest running initiative of its kind. In previous years it has recognised some of the landmarks in IT in their earliest stages, from packet switching and teletext to online learning and e-commerce.

The awards recognise innovation and originality by IT users, suppliers and researchers, often working in partnership. They are designed to honour significant developments which have come to fruition in the last year and are predominantly based in the UK.

Bracknell Forest Borough Council in Berkshire worked with software companies Novell and Metastorm to develop what is claimed to be the UK's most advanced e-government system. It allows the authority's 110,000 citizens to access personalised information and communicate directly with council staff online, using unique, secure digital identities. Currently people can view their council tax accounts, make payments, change personal details and review planning applications online.

The Virtual Railway project from engineering group Bechtel, Infrasoft Solutions and Railtrack allows engineers to design and analyse railways before construction. It is said to be yielding "significant improvement" in safety and design standards.

National databases of job vacancies and learning opportunities have been set up by the Department for Work and Pensions. The Work Bank Project provides online access to these databases and related information. It has also involved the University for Industry and IT companies EDS, Logica and Xansa.

Emergency evacuations from aircraft, ships and buildings can be evaluated with software developed by Greenwich University. It tracks the paths of individuals, enabling engineers and regulators to improve designs.

The Internet Kit from ik.com is claimed to enable anyone to create a professional Web site in five minutes with no technical expertise.

The new Post Office Change of Address Service will provide a secure way for people to inform government and companies of an address change.

The ability to search large amounts of information using vague queries based on examples has been developed by York University and Cybula, a pattern recognition systems specialist. Their method has already been applied to trademark databases, problems in chemistry and searching postal addresses, and is said to enable people to search in more natural ways, without worrying about spelling or the exact appearance of an image, for example. The work has been motivated by studies of how the brain might store and process information, and it is based on neural networks.

The seven finalists will be presented with medals on the judging day on 7 November at Le Meridien, Piccadilly, London, when other IT people can see the projects between 2.30pm and 5pm. Normally three projects win awards.

BCS IT Awards finalists
  • Bracknell Forest Borough Council's e-government system

  • The Virtual Railway project from Bechtel, Infrasoft Solutions and Railtrack

  • The Department for Work and Pensions'Work Bank Project

  • Aircraft evacuation evaluation software developed by the University of Greewich

  • The "vague query" search method developed by York University and Cybula

  • The Post Office Change of Address Service

  • The Internet Kit from ik.com.

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