Judgement day rewards communications projects

Three winners were selected from more than 60 entries for the BCS IT Awards, writes John Kavanagh. And for one winning team, being presented with a...

Three winners were selected from more than 60 entries for the BCS IT Awards, writes John Kavanagh. And for one winning team, being presented with a trophy by BCS patron HRH the Duke of Kent marked the end of an eventful seven days.

The team, originally from Newcastle University, had developed Arjuna, the first system to meet Java Transaction Service standard set by standards body the Object Management Group, as part of the university's work on developing robust distributed systems.

The university launched Arjuna Solutions two years ago to take work to market. In July, Arjuna was taken over by US company Bluestone Software. A week before the final judging, Bluestone was bought by Hewlett-Packard, which had funded early Arjuna research.

The Arjuna software enables a user, via an online intermediary, to access theatre and restaurant booking systems, which run the software, reserve, book and pay for tickets online. The user can also confirm bookings and pay for tickets.

Researcher Jonathan Halliday said the only obstacle was companies' readiness to open their systems and work together. Sales are made to systems companies and big user organisations for workflow and running transactions across different applications and machines.

RadioScape won an award for a software approach to broadcasting and receiving digital radio, based on the international standard.

It was formed four years ago in a market dominated by hardware based on chips developed for specific tasks.

"Technology and services change so fast you'd need to develop new equipment every couple of years," said Phil Comelio, head of software development.

"With software, we use standard PCs and add new features quickly, keeping basic broadcasting equipment the same," he explained.

RadioScape also provides software for receivers. This is part of a digital radio package from Psion, including a receiver and software for choosing stations, recording and displaying information put out by them.

The translation of speech into automated sign language displayed on a screen for deaf people won an award. It was built by a consortium of East Anglia University's School of Information Systems, the Post Office and Televirtual, a specialist in capturing human movement electronically.

Tessa, the Text and Sign Support Assistant, has been developed after a study of the most common transactions and phrases used at Post Offices. It is now tested at 10 branches.

The Post Office wants to develop it to handle more natural conversation converting English to other languages. This is so staff can speak to people who only have English as a second language.

The most ambitious aim is to achieve recognition of sign language performed by deaf customers and convert that back into speech for counter staff.

This is the 28th year of the BCS IT Awards which were sponsored by Barclaycard, British Telecom, the Department of Trade & Industry, Hitachi, IBM, ICL, KnowledgePool, Logica, Nortel Networks, the Post Office, Psion and Shopcreator, with Text 100 providing public relations services.

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