Johan’s Challenge: Developing solutions that accelerate real innovation

The all-electric racing car of the InMotion student team of the Eindhoven Technical University (TU/e) scored the fastest lap time at the Zandvoort race track in 2017. The team partly owes its success to the integrated architecture for the Electronic Control Units, which was made possible with the support of Motar. Johan van Uden was a member of the software development team that automated the code generation process of a model which was developed in MATLAB/Simulink. Motar is currently also used for a wide variety of other design challenges.

Automated Code Generation

During his student days, Johan was one of the founders of the TU/e’s racing team. When he took up employment as a software developer with ICT Group, he was given the opportunity to develop Motar: software that can automatically generate error-free code from the control model. As such, Motar makes an important contribution to the most complicated part of an innovation project: converting a prototype into a ready-to-use product, and in cases of embedded software, this involves converting a Proof of Concept into ‘production class’ software.

Accelerate innovation

Johan: “In disciplines such as mechatronics and robotics, innovations occur practically every day. Developing a prototype is the first step. Once the prototype has proven successful, the next step often involves starting all over again with the software development, a time-consuming process that requires specific expertise. This is exactly what is simplified by Motar. Motar allows you to bring software to production from your graphical model – i.e. from the description of the application’s behavior – without writing any code yourself. This reduces the time-tomarket and lowers the development costs.”

“Innovating is collaborating. ICT Group understands this and facilitates this collaboration at all levels: internally, with customers, and with colleges and universities.”

Resolve customer-specific challenges

Johan was totally dedicated to developing this software. “There’s a variety of code generation platforms, but they are limited to generating application software, while you still need to integrate the underlying embedded software layer manually. Motar automates this entire process. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to develop this myself.” Once this product was finished, it was time for Johan to take the next step in his career, and he became a technical consultant. “I really like developing software, but resolving specific technical challenges and issues is even more interesting. The racing team offered that challenge in terms of developing an electric car for an endurance race. And now I can focus on specific issues that our customers encounter.” “For instance,” says Johan, “ICT Group presently works together with TNO and DAF on a truck platooning project, which allows trucks to drive in very close proximity in order to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission. I worked on a specific part of this system and figured out how we could achieve a substantial reduction of the development time and cost by means of Motar.”

Variety in work activities

Not a single day is the same in Johan’s work as a technical consultant. One day he visits a potential customer together with a sales consultant to discuss technical issues and make an estimate of the time required to develop a solution. The next day he meets with various specialists from ICT Group to discuss a specific customer challenge in more detail. And the next day he could be giving a presentation or a demo at a trade show, a conference, of for a group of students, or he’s involved in testing a new product concept. “It’s this variety that makes this work so interesting. Innovating is collaborating. ICT Group understands this and facilitates this collaboration at all levels: internally, with customers, and with colleges and universities. This makes my work so extremely challenging. And what’s so great: you always see the concrete results of your work in the products. Sometimes this happens quickly, and the product – based on the software we developed – is available on the market within six months. And sometimes it can take years, for instance the platooning concept, for which the truck manufacturers believe that the shortest possible scenario for launching the product is not until 2023.”

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Annie’s Challenge: designing software for Air Traffic Control using Festa’s Model Driven Engineering tool

To shift from traditional software development to a Model Driven Engineering approach means stepping out of your comfort zone. ICT Group’s software designer Annie Jovitha Arulanandam took up the challenge by trying out the Festa Engine tool to design software for an Air Traffic Control system.

When Annie Jovitha Arulanandam started working for ICT Group in 2017, she had more than five years of professional experience in the traditional way of software development. “That means creating lots of code that you often have to rewrite again and again,” she says. Through ICT Group she was introduced to Festa, a company that has created a tool to build high level control logic using a Model Driven Engineering approach. She enrolled in a training assignment to experience the Festa framework first hand, which meant learning a completely new way of developing software.

Multiple users in one system

The assignment involved a mock project to design software for an Air Traffic Control system. In this system, airlines make Air Transport Requests (ATRs) for flights to and from European airports. For each ATR the airline specifies the origin and destination airports, the number of passengers and/or the total weight of the cargo. This request is then sent to an executive that approves or rejects the air traffic request. Since the system involves multiple users, each with different actions, it is an excellent example of the type of high-level control logic the Festa Engine is designed for.

Working with models

Annie had to program all these actions into the software. In line with the Model Driven Engineering approach, the Festa Engine uses graphical models, designed by a domain expert, which represents a functional overview of the software and its requirements. From these functional models Annie had to create an implementation model. She used Unified Modeling Languages (UMLs) to form the data service layer, security and authentication. For Annie, working with models was completely new. “First it was challenging, but when I got used to it, it was fun. I had to design at an abstract level and work with graphical representations. I was working with Unified Modeling Languages, which made me understand the application more clearly.” Using models also made the communication with the other stakeholders smoother, Annie found. “The models represent a language that both the domain expert and the software engineer understand. You graphically see what is required. Whereas traditional requirements in text form are much harder to understand.”

“If an application could be done in the Model Driven Engineering way, I would do it. The benefits are plenty.”

Error proof coding

After the models were completed, Annie was able to create perfect code with one press of a button. It saved a lot of painstaking coding work. “Previously, I always had to be alert about not making manual coding mistakes. Since the model generates the code, it’s one hundred percent error proof.” Learning the Festa Engine and its Model Driven Engineering approach was easier than she thought. “It’s just a different mode of thinking. First I had to think deeply about how the application was going to work. When that was sorted out, I was able to design the models.”

Benefits

Annie says she has become a true believer in the Model Driven Engineering approach. “If an application could be done in the Model Driven Engineering way, I would do it. The benefits are plenty. You have a better understanding of the application, changes are easier to implement and the development process is easier to grasp, both for the domain expert and the software engineer.”

Case study Softwareport: the three musketeers of a Model Driven Integrated Solution

Softwareport provides a software development platform that combines high-level control, embedded software and virtual prototyping into one integrative solution. The Softwareport is a joint venture of three software companies – Cordis, Festa Solutions and Unit040 – that uses a Model Driven Engineering approach, saving time, costs and programming headaches. Read our case study here.

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Wibo’s Challenge: contributing to traffic safety in the Gaasperdammertunnel

It is expected that the first cars will be driving through the Gaasperdammertunnel in 2020. The tunnel is located under part of the current A9 Gaasperdammerweg. The tunnel will increase the traffic capacity for road users, but it will also improve the quality of life for local residents. ICT Group provides a part of the software for the tunnel technical installations and participates in the testing of the systems.

Complex

Tunnel tube closing systems such as traffic lights and road barriers, air ventilation, lighting, safe escape routes … Wibo Tienstra knows all too well that constructing a tunnel involves a lot more than merely installing tubes and laying asphalt. “A wide variety of technical installations for the tunnel and traffic are procured, and they have to communicate properly. In a way that, for example, the air ventilation is activated during traffic jams, and that the drainage systems work adequately when it rains. All aimed at a fast and safe traffic flow for the road user.”

Scenario-thinking

However, in reality it’s not as simple as the impression that Wibo is giving. Every possible scenario – traffic jam, a stranded truck due to a breakdown, fire – everything is scrutinised right down to the finest detail. “Software and systems engineers have to think of everything, and make sure that the systems communicate properly so that everything that needs to happen in a certain situation, happens in exactly that way in order to guarantee the safety of traffic in the tunnel. This makes the project so complex and challenging. It’s important that the software is programmed in a way that the systems function correctly at all times and in every possible situation: during ordinary traffic, in maintenance mode, during calamities, and when the tunnel needs to be evacuated.”

“People with affinity with both technology and programming can eat their heart out in tunnel construction projects.”

Extensive testing

Safety first, and before everything else. For IXAS, the contractor combination that builds the tunnel on behalf of Rijkswaterstaat, that means testing, testing and once again, testing. As a first step, the employees of ICT Group run separate tests of the hardware and software (control system) of the technical installations of the tunnel and traffic (FAT phase). Are they functioning properly? Do they meet the requirements as defined? This is followed by the realisation phase, when all technical products are installed and interconnected, and the system is commissioned (IBS). During this phase the system is put under pressure, and extensive checks are performed. During and after the commissioning phase, the system is checked again (SAT phase). Is everything still functioning properly in the new situation? Are the signals arriving in the way they should? Can the systems communicate with one another in an integral manner? The iSat phase consists of tests that check whether the system’s actions are in line with what has been programmed. So in the case of a fire: is the tunnel closed for approaching traffic, is the air ventilation activated and are the traffic users receiving instructions with regard to what they should do? The last step, the SIT phase, consists of testing the technical system in combination with the business processes of the traffic controllers.

Switch board role

As integration manager of ICT Group at IXAS, Tienstra says he has a finger in every single pie, and knows a little about everything. “That’s important. You have to understand how the installations work, what they do and what they are needed for.”

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René’s Challenge: to guarantee the safety of millions of people at all times

The world’s largest sea lock is currently being built in Ijmuiden in The Netherlands. The lock exceeds the size of the locks in the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. Ambitious? Certainly. But it’s a sheer necessity in order to ensure that the Port of Amsterdam remains accessible for large container vessels and cruise ships. And to create a water barrier that stops the sea during storms in order to guarantee the safety of millions of people.

Sizable project

OpenIJ, a consortium of construction companies, is building the new sea lock in Ijmuiden in The Netherlands. The project has been commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Waterways and Public Works. The new sea lock will have a length of 500 metres, a width of 70 metres, and a depth of 18 metres, which will make it into the world’s largest sea lock. “Roads will be constructed on top of the doors of the locks, offering space for cars and bikes to cross. That’s easily possible because the doorsare wide enough”, according to René van der Pluijm, ICT Group’s Project Manager at the OpenIJ project. René and his team are contributing to the design and the integration of all systems. “From the hydraulic lock doors to the traffic signals, and from the climate installation to the barriers. Road and shipping traffic, everything must be able to communicate.”

Enormous forces

The larger the lock, the larger the volume of water that must be added or drained to maintain the right water level. “During each passage, an average of 70,000 cubic metres of water is flowing in or out of the lock. Moreover, a sea lock involves both fresh water and sea water. Heavier sea water that flows into the lock too fast causes strong currents just above the floor of the lock’s chamber. This triggers an enormous force that is hard to stop. What’s more, water that flows into or out of the lock too fast causes the hawsers that tie down the ships to break. However, water that flows too slowly has economic consequences because the passage through the lock takes too long. These are some of the factors, and I can think of a lot more, that determine how the slides in the doors of the locks need to be controlled. And take it from me, each situation is different. We have to think of a solution for each situation, including extensive programming, integrating and testing.”

“The decision of one person can have consequences for someone else. I communicate and harmonise, and I keep an overview over the entire design.”

Reliable

Safe, reliable and available. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “Unsafe situations must never arise, under any circumstance whatsoever. The economic and public interests are simply too large. This is the reason why we predict possible failures. What can possibly go wrong, and how can it be prevented? We think of all possibilities in advance, and test all possible situations just as extensively as in a normal situation.” Everything is recorded, right down to the smallest detail. And there’s a considerable list of requirements and applicable legislation that must be complied with, in a demonstrable manner.

Ground-breaking

A factor that’s making the project even more challenging is the fact that while the sea lock is under construction and being tested, the old locks remain operational. “The activities are not allowed to cause any hindrance to the shipping or road traffic. Not an easy requirement, for the area is rather small. The construction of the new sea locks is a magnificent technical challenge, in every respect.”

René van der Pluijm, Project Manager at ICT Group working on the OpenIJ project. “Unsafe situations must never arise, under any circumstance whatsoever. The economic and public interests are simply too large. This is the reason why we predict possible failures. What can possibly go wrong, and how can it be prevented? We think of all possibilities in advance, and test all possible situations just as extensively as in a normal situation.” Everything is recorded, right down to the smallest detail. And there’s a considerable list of requirements and applicable legislation that must be complied with, in a demonstrable manner. “The decision of one person can have consequences for someone else. I communicate and harmonise, and I keep an overview over the entire design.”

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Ynze’s Challenge: Ensuring a good traffic flow in Zuidas

Building a tunnel at a mere five metre distance from the front of luxurious office complexes and law firm offices. Renovating a railway station while commuters can continue travelling by train every day. Everything in the domain of Infra coincides in the Zuidasdok project – road, railway, tunnel, bridge – and all this within the format of a postage stamp. A complex environment in which ICT Group is playing an important role.

Management and maintenance

Ynze Goinga, who works for ZuidPlus and is involved in the management and maintenance of the A10 Amsterdam-Zuid ring road, that is crossing the Amsterdam district of Zuidas in Amsterdam partly at the moment. “I’m making sure that whatever issue occurs, the problem is solved as soon as possible. I’m involving the right people, and do all the reporting and administrative work. In addition to corrective maintenance, I also focus on preventive maintenance: making sure that nothing breaks down. How long will something work? Where do you install it? When do you need to maintain or replace something? This applies to the current situation but also to the future. I analyse and assess the design and make choices to facilitate future maintenance. In that capacity I see all areas of the project.”

Sufficient challenge

ICT expertise is of crucial importance during each phase and in every department. According to Ynze, there’s an abundance of challenges for software engineers. For instance, during the construction of the tunnel. Software engineers ensure that the various technical installations of the tunnel and traffic can communicate. “They are interconnecting the installations by means of software to make them perform the functionalities for which they have been programmed. The safety in the tunnel must be guaranteed at all times and under all conditions.” ICT is also an important factor at the Schinkelbrug. This bridge is operated from a distance of a couple of kilometres. Cameras, control, signalling … everything must be seamlessly aligned.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my career.”

Logistics

Ynze continues: “ICT also plays a role in developing software to make processes more transparent and to speed up their flow. For instance in managing the flow of construction traffic. “Every single minute, a truck with building materials enters the traffic flow, and this is bound to cause traffic congestion. This is why we are constructing separate roads for the construction traffic, with the goal of relieving the motorways. A mathematical model that is based on the construction plans can calculate how much construction traffic will be using the roads in five years from now. And this will show the road capacity required for the construction traffic.”

Off to a good start

This is Ynze’s first job “And what a job! Straight away I’m part of the largest project in the domain of infra in The Netherlands. A project that everyone knows about. Right in the heart of an area where people come for work, travel and recreation. This makes the project so complex, but at the same time so interesting. And that’s obvious when you look at the people who work here. Each one of them is an expert in his domain. And I’m allowed to learn from all this.”

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4 applications of IoT in the building industry

Consumers and chain partners are imposing increasingly stringent demands with regard to infrastructure. Roads, the railway network and the drainage system simply have to work at all times. Transparency and availability are the standard, and downtime is no option. The building industry is able to meet this demand thanks to the application of sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and smart analyses enable predictive maintenance and thus guarantee better services.

Customers demand availability and they don’t want any surprises. Maintenance has to become smarter and more predictable. The present infrastructure is ageing. Digitization, more frequent measurements and digital media are causing exponential growth levels of the information flow. At the same time, the end-user is demanding that organizations respond with pragmatic actions and that they share information. Infrastructure projects are becoming more and more complex in terms of engineering, finance and design. Efficient ways of working are gaining in importance. Sensors are essential enablers and are the key to success.

Intervention before the material fails

Improved insight into the way material performs. That’s what’s required. This means faster action and intervention, well before rails or switches fail. To ensure smarter railBLOG BLOG track maintenance, Bam Infra is deploying new technology, which was developed in collaboration with ICT Group. The company is running special measurement trains over the tracks in order to check the geometry and the status of the overhead wires. By linking this data with GPS information, Bam knows exactly which locations require repairs, and just as relevant, which locations don’t need any repairs. Sensors continuously measure the voltage of the batteries of switch installations to determine when they need to be replaced. The result: fewer failures and trains keep running on schedule.

Less salt on the roads and in the environment

Trains are not the only means of transport that benefit from sensors and data. Road traffic and the environment also experience the benefits. Sensors in the road surface provide preventive data when temperatures fall below zero, and this avoids the need for visual inspections. Salt trucks will only need to spread salt in locations where this is required. This saves costly inspections, as well as a lot of salt that would otherwise contaminate the environment. Brine also affects the road surface. Spreading less salt means that roads maintain their good condition. How do the sensors receive their power? Not by using cables or batteries, but by means of the unused signals of WiFi, 4G and GSM. This doesn’t require any further attention because of the residual energy of these communication networks.

Artificial intelligence keeps an eye on the road

Only 2% of the asphalt shows problems of some sort. Nevertheless, inspectors analyze all the images of the roads with their own eyes. “This process can be made much more efficient”, was the opinion of Bam Infra and ICT Group. And this is why they developed a selflearning model to analyze and classify the digital road surface images fully automatically. The model recognizes holes, cracks and raveling in the asphalt. It also detects the presence of animal residues. The algorithm links the damage reports with geographical data, which determines the exact location of the damage. In addition to increasing the efficiency and quality of inspections, this also clears the way for more flexible and well-targeted maintenance. As a result, inspections are performed faster and traffic flow is improved.

No longer any overflowing toilets at Schiphol Airport

Data is not only used for reducing failures and delays on roads and railways. Data also ensures properly functioning drainage of the toilets at Schiphol Airport. During peak moments, some 50,000 persons use the airport’s toilets every hour. In addition to this huge number of persons using the toilets, the most peculiar objects end up in the drainage system. Approximately 80 pumping stations process some 2.5 million liters of waste water. Any failure of those pumps will cause the toilets to overflow. However, increasing the number of pumping stations is not sufficient to accommodate the growing number of passengers. Analyzing the data obtained from the pumping stations allows Ban Infra to see which pumps are used most intensely or which ones require maintenance. This enables timely intervention and, if required, deployment of other pumping stations.

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Frank’s Challenge: Recognize and classify video images with AI

We live in a ‘data-driven’ world in which AI determines which products are shown in a webshop, predicts what music you want to hear, and determines which taxi will take you to your destination in the fastest and cheapest way. Frank Thomson is applying this technology to video.

Wide range of video applications

Companies are using video more and more often, in a wide range of applications: from surveillance and other situations in which you want to monitor any deviation from a normal situation to inspection and investigation of objects. In most companies, viewing and inspecting these images is still a matter of manual work. Frank is training machine learning algorithms to recognize video images. The purpose: fully automatic detection of occurrences of a particular situation. This will allow people to focus on that part of their work that requires their knowhow. Frank: “The time savings are huge, and what’s more, we’re making the work of the staff who need to analyze those images a lot more pleasant.

Fully automatic damage detection

Frank was involved in a project for BAM, during which he trained a self-learning model to recognize various types of asphalt damage. He describes: “BAM is using scan-vehicles to take photos of the road surface. In the past, those photos were analyzed by inspectors. However, most photos don’t show any damage, and it becomes ultra-boring work, but at the same time, you have to remain very focused. We trained an AI model to recognize eight types of damage fully automatically. The first algorithm could already indicate, with certainty, that 80 percent of the images did not show any damage. For the remaining 20% the algorithm proposed further analysis. Those images were then analyzed by inspectors and we used their feedback for further training of the model. Our goal for the future is that we will be able to detect damage in 99% of the cases fully automatically.”

“We’re training AI models so that they can automatically classify video images.”

Outgrown its infancy years

Frank gets inspired when he is showing the business case to customers. “A lot of companies believe that this technology is still in its infancy stage, but nothing is further from the truth. The police have been using AI for years in investigations, for instance for automatic recognition of license plates. And hospitals use it for analyzing radiology images. A welltrained algorithm increases the quality of the analysis and reduces the time required for analyzing the images. Which means that better decisions can be made in less time. The human capacity is no longer the limiting factor. That higher speed can save human lives in diagnostics or investigations. Moreover, application of AI can lead to new revenue models in the inspection and investigation of objects.”

Solving puzzles with data sets

As a data scientist, it’s Frank’s work to create transparency in large data sets which will subsequently lead to more insight. “I’m always solving puzzles: if I add another source to my data set, will that result in new insights? Or can I use an existing source for other applications? For example, can we use the photos that BAM is taking of the roads also for assessing whether traffic situations are clear and/or whether traffic signs are placed in clearly visible and logical locations? And are there any opportunities for other revenue models due to images being analyzed much faster? This is how I often present ideas for new applications to customers. That’s great, because despite the fact that the core of my work is very technical, I’m constantly acting on the common ground that is shared between business and IT.”

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Walter and Michiel’s Challenge: facilitating 24/7 communication between all systems

Most container terminal operators in Rotterdam, Antwerp, and elsewhere are supported by innovative information technologies in managing their operational processes. This allows them to operate their terminals smarter and more efficiently while at the same time boosting their profits. ICT Group has been a valuable partner to businesses in this industry for many years.

Technical and Complex

Throughout the terminal, remote-operated cranes are lifting immensely heavy containers out of container ships as if they were made of cardboard. After completing their journey across water, through the air and onto the shore, these containers are unloaded by the crane on waiting freight trains or trucks and shipped to the hinterland. In the words of Michiel van der Meer, a Software Engineer at ICT Group: “The immense power and complexity involved in this work, along with the sophisticated technology used, is something that appeals to a lot of people. The fact that a crane can be operated and move around thanks to your work – the software you and your team have developed for the container terminal – is thrilling and a really fascinating thing to witness.”

Entire Supply Chain

As a Software Engineer in ICT Group’s Transport and Logistics Business Unit, you will be involved in linking administrative systems to technical and operational systems, orders to internal projects, and new technologies to existing software. Michiel: “We cover the entire supply chain in our work: from the first meeting with the client up to and including delivery. All the systems involved in this process must be equipped to communicate with each other 24/7 and must be safe and secure – we refer to that as ‘mission-critical.’ It means you face a number of complex challenges every day that you need to work out by using your wits. The challenge is that there’s no solution available yet – so it’s up to you to find one and implement it.”

“You never stop learning new things in this business.”

Latest Trends and Developments

Walter Spitters, Operations Manager in the Transport and Logistics Business Unit: “You need to be tough and assertive in this business and know how to get things done, by thinking creatively, suggesting alternative ideas if necessary, and being resourceful in other ways. You need to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments related to software, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. What opportunities do they provide, and how might you be able to use them? That’s how you continue to develop and challenge yourself in our field.”

Involved in the Process

Michiel divides his time between working at the company’s head office in Barendrecht and making on-site visits to major projects in which the company is involved, including in the Maasvlakte 2 civil engineering project in Rotterdam and the Port of Antwerp. This might involve a meeting with the client or another stakeholder, which could be anyone from
the crane manufacturer to the company that developed the administrative system. “No day is ever the same, and what makes these often long-term, complex projects so exciting is that you’re involved in the entire process from start to finish. This begins with your initial contact with the client and covers the preliminary design, the software development process, and, finally, the implementation. You actually get to see the fruit of your labor with your own eyes. You get to make things move, and not just anything either: these are pieces of massive, complex machinery like cranes, containers, and so on.” Michiel falls silent for a second, and then, with a beaming smile: “It’s pretty awesome, man.”

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Saurav’s Challenge: designing error free and reliable software for the medical sector using Model Driven Engineering

Not many software engineers get their very first assignment developing software for the medical sector. It happened to Saurav Paul, who shortly after his degree in Embedded Systems started working as a software engineer for ICT Group. The challenge was to design a software system for a service tool used to check complex x-ray machines. Needless to say, the software had to be delivered error proof, reliable and fast. Philips Healthcare develops innovative x-ray systems for image guided medical procedures. These machines are powered by a so-called startup/shutdown controller that guarantees the machines’ safety and reliability. The functionality of the startup/shutdown controller is regularly checked through a service tool. Philips Healthcare asked ICT Group to develop the software for this service tool.

Modified immediately

Software engineer Saurav Paul was chosen to execute the task. He used a new methodology of software design called Model Driven Engineering. This new approach demands a completely different way of thinking and designing suited to create robust, reliable software systems. “During my university studies I’ve had some experience with Model Driven Engineering, so I was able to begin right away,” Saurav says. In the traditional way of working the software engineer starts programming right away after a short briefing by the customer. In Model Driven Engineering the engineer and the customer first create a model that functions as the blueprint for the later software design. In the model all functionalities and components of the software as well as their internal relations are described. This is done in a language that is easy to understand for both the software engineer and the customer. “From the model the customer can see whether the software does what it has to do,” Saurav explains. “If the design does not correspond with the customer’s wishes it can be modified immediately.”

“I’ve learned a lot and I believe this experience will add immense value to my future projects.”

Error feedback

What makes the Model Driven Engineering approach unique is that computer code can be generated from the model with a single mouseclick. That automation prevents human programming errors and leads to a software system that is much more robust. Saurav worked with the program Dezyne, that has a feature that tests for unwanted properties in the software design, such as deadlocks and race conditions. “In traditional software design you only get feedback about errors when you are testing the software,” Saurav says. “Moreover, it’s quite hard to locate those errors in the computer code. Dezyne not only points out the error, but also shows you its exact location. It forces you to think very deeply about your design.” Ultimately the new approach saves a lot of time. “You spend more time in the beginning on designing the model and correcting errors, but you win all that time back in the end because there are hardly any coding errors left.”

Pride

The end result was much to the customer’s satisfaction. Saurav was happy as well. “I felt a strong sense of pride and satisfaction in completing such a challenging project. Especially since this was the first assignment in my engineering career.”

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“Job satisfaction is important, and that’s what I’ve found at ICT Group”

Arend van Putten has been working at ICT Group as a software architect in the healthcare industry since 2015. Why did he choose this company? What is it that makes his profession so appealing? And what are his dreams for the future

Meaningful work
Arend has been working for technology companies operating in the healthcare industry since he graduated from Twente University: having begun his career at GE Healthcare, he went on to work for radiotherapy equipment manufacturer Elekta before joining ICT Group. “During my studies I completed two traineeships at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. While I was there, I helped develop diagnostic software that speeds up the process of detecting brain tumors. The fact that I was involved in developing software that one day might contribute to saving lives meant a great deal to me. It really made me want to give it my all, and that’s why I decided to look for work in the medical industry after completing my studies.” He turned out to be lucky, finding work as a software developer at GE Healthcare, where he worked in a team of experienced and highly motivated senior developers. “I learned so much from them in various areas: How to deal with quality issues, application life cycle management, customer requirements, and so on and so forth. Traceability and in-depth testing of software are very important in the healthcare industry. When you become part of a highly experienced team in your first job out of college, quality consciousness kind of becomes your second nature.”

From team member to front man
After seven years, Arend made the move to Elekta, where quality assurance processes had not yet reached the same level of sophistication than at GE. His knowhow and experience allowed him to truly contribute to the team effort, while he also learned what it means to be the front man rather than one of the links in the chain of an experienced team. This experience turned out to be very useful in his current role as a software architect at ICT Group. “I immediately felt at home in this company, right from the very first meeting,” is how Arend describes his move. “They are working for customers in the healthcare industry, they’re involved in interesting projects, and they offered me the opportunity to prove myself as a software architect. My ambition for the future is to become a CTO, and this is a good step in the right direction.”

Developing new architecture
He is currently on his second contract job. “I had to develop a new architecture for both projects. It is extremely demanding, and not only from the perspective of the software. You also have to ensure that the team becomes familiar with the new technology, that they feel challenged, and that they enjoy learning new skills. You need to give people the freedom to make mistakes without being penalized, because it allows them to learn. In that sense, I could build on my experience at GE Healthcare, and create an atmosphere that’s conducive to learning as a team.” Arend’s current role extends into the political arena as well. “If you develop medical software, you are required to define and follow a process. Existing processes are not always as efficient and flexible, what makes it inevitable to suggest your changes. And once you get involved in processes, politics automatically becomes part of the game. The fact that everyone has an opinion about everything can be challenging, but at the same time it’s very interesting and you learn to see things from a different perspective.”

ICT Group knows what motivates people
Arend’s current position calls for more ‘soft’ skills than was the case in his previous roles. That turns off a lot of techie guys, but Arend has welcomed this part of the job. “Software is predictable while people are changeable. I like the challenge of discovering how to motivate people. I read a lot about these subjects, and I do my own research. I found the video ‘What motivates us’ extremely inspiring (Google this title and you’ll find it straight away). It turns out that knowledge workers who really need to tap into their creativity in the workplace are driven by three things: they want to determine themselves how they do their work, they want to get better at their job, and they have a yearning for meaning and fulfillment. If you coach your teams based on these three values, they will automatically perform better, and they will enjoy their work more.” Arend’s approach to motivating his client’s team is the same as the approach used by ICT Automatisering. “That’s why I feel so much at home in this company. I can choose the types of projects I want to be involved in. I prefer projects that allow me to increase my professional level, but that also give me the opportunity to learn new things. My business unit only works for the healthcare industry. The software we develop facilitates more efficient processes and more effective decision-making. For instance, faster diagnoses or better treatment plans. That’s one aspect of the job I really love: it just goes to show that our work really matters. And it’s what puts a big smile on my face when I go to work every morning.”

How do you – as an IT professional – intend to contribute to improving healthcare services? Take a look at your new project at ICT Group!