Putting together a website that enabled Waste Watch to make thousands of documents freely available and easy to locate online demanded some smart thinking from developer Chameleon Net.
It's early days for Microsoft's .Net web services framework, but resellers are already installing some impressive applications.
One of them is the document and content management system for Waste Watch, a venture backed by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) that aims to improve public awareness of recycling and waste management.
The system has won Chameleon Net this month's CRN/Syscap Technology Innovator of the Month award.
Last year, the organisation in charge of the Waste Watch programme, the Waste Online consortium, decided it needed a website that would provide a simple way for the public to access information and documents.
This online library, containing practical guides, government reports, EU directives and additional information, would enable users to explore various waste issues and perform complex searches.
As this was to be an NOF-funded project, the site would have to adhere to strict technical standards to ensure the accessibility and sustainability of the information.
This was one of the key challenges and, according to Suzie Peleg, information officer at Waste Watch, Chameleon Net was by far the best candidate for the work.
"The requirements were very specific. We knew what we wanted but not how to get there. Chameleon was infinitely above and beyond what everyone else came up with. It was in a different league," she said.
Chameleon used Dublin Core metadata searching techniques to enable inexperienced users to perform complex searches on the data.
It also came up with a simple way to index the many different types of digital documents stored on the system and integrated this with the searching capability on the website. The company also enhanced the system in a number of different ways.
"The front and back office are so well integrated that you don't even know that you have gone into the back office to start loading up documents," Peleg said.
The project cost only about £50,000, but it has achieved everything Waste Watch wanted and more, she added.
"One of the real beauties of this is that you can use the search mechanisms on the site or go into the file storage system and do what you want. Also Chameleon is generally there for us and very helpful," Peleg said.
Chameleon Net also helped Waste Watch develop the back-office digitisation processes and made it possible to copy metadata documents to prevent any unnecessary duplication of effort.
The system that Chameleon devised for Waste Watch was custom-built using Microsoft's C# and ASP.net (Active Server Pages) environments.
It parses the HTML in documents uploaded onto the system to identify the information required. The resulting document and images are stored in a simple directory structure that can be interrogated by the web front end.
The system automatically converts the HTML to XHTML so the content can be used by a wide range of browsers.
Vicky Reeves, managing director of Chameleon Net, said the company is particularly proud of the front-end capabilities of the site.
"It's a whole document library and the search mechanism that we have designed and having a really good search engine is what makes all the difference," she said.
Chameleon Net has also provided software tools for Waste Online that can be used to update content of any part of the website, even by users with little IT knowledge.
The Technology Innovator of the Month award is sponsored by IT financing specialist Syscap and supported by both CRN and its sister title Computing.
Lisa Little, head of marketing at Syscap, said the Waste Watch project is an excellent example of how the latest technologies are being put to good use by resellers.
"Web services are a relatively new concept and Microsoft tools have not been available for that long. Chameleon Net has done a great job in getting up to speed on these products and developing such an elegant and easy-to-use solution," she said.
ENTER FOR AN INNOVATOR AWARD
The CRN/Syscap Approved Technology Innovator of the Month awards are sponsored by technology financing company Syscap and backed by CRN and Computing.
The 11 monthly winners selected by the judging panel will be short-listed for two annual awards, one for a project for the public sector and one for the private sector.
Winners, who are profiled in both CRN and Computing, receive a trophy, a wall plaque and marketing materials to promote their winning product.
To enter for the award resellers, or their customers, should fill in the online entry form which they will find at www.technology-innovator.co.uk.
You can also request a postal entry form by calling Lisa Glover on (020) 7316 9000 or sending an email to [email protected].
Today saw 14 of the UK IT channel's biggest hitters come together to determine the winners of CRN's WiC awards. But what does being a WiC judge actually involve? Doug Woodburn reports
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