A total solution for water supply utilities, “AQUA-V”
Development environment to help in extending functionality in future, while leveraging existing system assets and developer skills.
Developed a business system running on both PC and Android, with Delphi XE
DK Corporation (Daiichikankyo), a water metering/billing services contractor, built a total solution for water supply utilities, “AQUA-V” and started its full-scale operation. They chose Delphi XE, a cross-platform development solution, for their software development projects, including “AQUA FIELDER” for metering with an Android device.
“We decided to strengthen our water metering/billing capabilities in the field with a powerful mobile app.”
- Naoki Goto, VSP Team Leader/System Engineer, System Solution Dept.of DK Corporation
Using Delphi XE for both PC and Android, DK Corporation successfully built a powerful mobile app development environment. They are now working hard to enhance the field capabilities to a higher level.
DK Corporation introduced Delphi in the 1990s to develop a business system on their own. Their strength rests upon the inseparable assets of field metering/billing and in-house business system development capabilities. This enables the business system to meet the needs encountered in the field quickly.
When developing the new system, they considered another choice of development environment. However, upon release of Delphi XE, which supports app development for multiple devices, DK Corporation decided to use a single IDE for both PC and mobile. The advantage for the development team was that they could continue using the familiar features and ease-of-use of Delphi and it also could be used in developing software for Android as well. Delphi was considered to be the best choice for mobile enhancement of field capabilities.
As one of major changes, the new system project integrated a business system and a GIS system, which used to be two separate systems. The project involved not only drastic changes technically but also in terms of design. Screen design was outsourced to a design company to create a motif symbolizing “water” for the water billing system.Delphi XE provided them with new development environment for innovation.
“In making a shift from Delphi 7 to Delphi XE, we didn’t encounter with any difference in Delphi’s behavior. Both versions use a common programming syntax. Both use a common shortcut key operation with Control key in IDE. That gave us a great advantage,” says Yasuhiro Sugo, Deputy General Manager of System Solution Dept.
Photo: Panasonic’s TOUGHPAD Android tablet
His decision to employ Delphi XE posed a challenge for their mobile app development team. Their existing business system used the Windows Mobile platform for mobile and eMbedded Visual C++ for software. A move to the Android platform required a new development environment. Taking a step-by-step approach, they defined the first phase as feasibility study to start with, then accumulated experience.
They chose Panasonic’s TOUGHPAD Android tablet for the mobile platform and the FireMonkey framework, a multi-device app development tool included with Delphi XE, for creating Android software.
The mobile development team said that they had a different environment and a different language—PLUS they gained huge advantages. “[Delphi’s] autocomplete feature was useful. Live Bindings was very helpful in linking database and UI control to be shown visually. Just by connecting a data query with UI, we can display results, instead of implementation with hard coding in the past.” (Makoto Miura, Development Group/HHT Team, System Solution Dept.)
In addition to the issue of migrating the development environment and language, they had more challenges to address. For example, they needed to display only a specific amount of information on the small screens provided by mobile devices. “We wanted fewer screen transitions. As a result, we had more elements displayed on each screen.” (M. Miura) Too many elements per screen slow down the speed. “We divided a screen into sections by trial and error to achieve an optimal trade-off between the number of elements and the speed.” (N. Goto)
They also had to address the change in character encoding from Shift JIS to Unicode. The most challenging part was a solution for a portable printer used for metering in the field. The printer accepted Shift JIS code only. To enable printing of characters that are not convertible to Shift JIS, they invented a “hidden” technique of “preparing invisible objects, entering those in a command column to send bitmaps displayed on a screen to a printer, then sending.”
As mentioned above, DK Corporation has been focusing on enhancing “field capabilities.” In the development process, the development team observed metering work to get the viewpoint of those actually working in field. In response, the team provided field-friendly solutions, such as a touch panel button making an audible sound when pressed. This improvement was based on the field request for a function to confirm a step is done (“the button was pressed”) in the on-site environment that is different from that of the office.
They have a number of new ideas for extending the mobile application. “We are discussing work attendance management, communication with metering personnel in the field, conduction morning meetings with Android devices… and more.” (Y. Sugo)
Through working on the challenge for the new technology and creating related inventions, DK Corporation successfully built an integrated development environment for both PC and Android mobile with Delphi XE. From this project, they have confidence that the excellent functionality and productivity offered by Delphi XE powers them towards further enhancement of the system as well as their services.
Mr. Taro Matsumoto,
Director of Business Coordination HQ/General Manager of System Solution Dept. (lower left)
Mr. Yasuhiro Sugo,
Deputy General Manager of System Solution Dept. (lower right)
Mr. Naoki Goto,
VSP Team Leader/System Engineer (upper left)
Mr. Makoto Miura,
Development Group/HHT Team (upper right)