Visual Software Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable Applications / Solutions

Besides its inter­op­er­abil­i­ty prod­ucts, Visu­al Soft­ware offers appli­ca­tions that are high­ly con­fig­urable, have been opti­mized for use in rur­al set­tings and are ful­ly inter­op­er­a­ble with oth­er VSI prod­ucts as well as those made by oth­ers with a stan­dard­ized inter­face.

These solu­tions include the fol­low­ing:

Veracity — Education

Veracity — Education

Stu­dent Man­age­ment, Online Learn­ing, Online Library

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Veracity — Healthcare

Veracity — Healthcare

Patient Man­age­ment, Online Health Records, Online Library, Telemed­i­cine

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Solar Energy Systems

Solar Energy Solutions

Reli­able and Cost Effec­tive, Low-Volt­age Sys­tems for Edu­ca­tion and Health­care

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Visu­al Soft­ware is com­mit­ted to deliv­er­ing "sus­tain­able" solu­tions to its cus­tomers; appli­ca­tions that are con­fig­urable to meet future needs, afford­able, and main­tain­able by users in the customer's coun­try. We are not a con­sult­ing com­pa­ny but rather an Inde­pen­dent Soft­ware Ven­dor (ISV) who cre­ates its own prod­ucts and does what is need­ed for its cus­tomers to ensure a suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion that will run reli­ably for many years after instal­la­tion.

The term "sus­tain­able" appears to be very pop­u­lar in its use, but not very well defined — if you do an Inter­net search of the term, the first page of results will yield sev­er­al dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions. So, in an effort to avoid con­fu­sion, we will define what we mean:

  • The care tak­ing and main­te­nance of a sus­tain­able solu­tion should be main­tain­able by local staff, pro­vid­ing good jobs for local cit­i­zens.
    When we install a new sys­tem, we will typ­i­cal­ly start the project by han­dling many of the tasks involved in get­ting it into full pro­duc­tion, but at the same time, train­ing local staff to per­form instal­la­tions, upgrades and pro­vide at least first-tier help desk ser­vices. At the point when local staff become capa­ble of per­form­ing these duties, Visu­al Soft­ware will drop back to advi­so­ry and sec­ond-lev­el help desk roles and pro­vid­ing updates to the soft­ware as need­ed.
    • This chart shows a typ­i­cal "mix of effort" for a large-sized project that includes cloud-based soft­ware, train­ing of local staff, and imple­men­ta­tion of our solar ener­gy pack­age. The blue areas rep­re­sent work per­formed by Visu­al Soft­ware staff and the orange area rep­re­sents work per­formed by local staff.
    • At the begin­ning of the project, the soft­ware is con­fig­ured, the cloud host­ing is set up and train­ing of local staff begins. As the imple­men­ta­tion pro­gress­es, local staff will become pro­fi­cient in the instal­la­tion of solar kits and pro­vi­sion­ing of accounts. Visu­al Soft­ware involve­ment will become less nec­es­sary as the project con­tin­ues and reach the point where the imple­men­ta­tion is almost exclu­sive­ly being man­aged by local staff.
  • Appli­ca­tions in the solu­tion should be eas­i­ly adapt­able to meet cur­rent needs of the cus­tomer (coun­try).
    All VSI prod­ucts are high­ly con­fig­urable, allow­ing the cus­tomer to change:
    • The data fields in each "object" (stu­dent, school, clin­ic, patient, book, etc.) can be mod­i­fied to meet cur­rent needs with­out mak­ing any changes to the application's code.
    • The "look and feel" of the appli­ca­tion can be changed to meet the customer's design require­ments with­out chang­ing any appli­ca­tion code.
    • The data exchange stan­dard (edu­ca­tion, health­care, agri­cul­ture, immi­gra­tion, etc.) ref­er­enced can be changed as nec­es­sary with­out chang­ing appli­ca­tion code.
    • The site nav­i­ga­tion can be mod­i­fied for dif­fer­ent user roles (admin, stu­dent, patient, teacher, etc.) with­out chang­ing appli­ca­tion code.
    • The foun­da­tion­al frame­work can be used with exist­ing data­bas­es with­out changes to the appli­ca­tion code. These data­bas­es can be host­ed using a wide range of providers, includ­ing Ora­cle, SQL Serv­er, MySQL, Post­GreSQL, Access, DB2, Sybase or many oth­ers.
  • Applic­tions should inter­op­er­ate with oth­er new and pre-exist­ing appli­ca­tions in real-time, secure­ly, and auto­mat­i­cal­ly. 
    The foun­da­tion soft­ware for all our appli­ca­tions is a plat­form for exchang­ing infor­ma­tion between dis­parate appli­ca­tions in real-time. This con­sists of a high-speed mes­sage switch, capa­ble of trans­fer­ring mil­lions of mes­sages hourly between con­nect­ed appli­ca­tions, and an adapter that is able to enable exist­ing appli­ca­tions to inter­op­er­ate with oth­er appli­ca­tions with­out requir­ing changes to the orig­i­nal appli­ca­tion.
  • The solu­tion should, once installed, con­tin­ue to work for sev­er­al years with­out requir­ing phys­i­cal main­te­nance (in most cas­es).
    We accom­plish this in sev­er­al ways:
    • Appli­ca­tion soft­ware is host­ed in a coun­try­wide "pri­vate cloud". This allows us to update the soft­ware as nec­es­sary with­out issu­ing indi­vid­ual updates to all remote loca­tions. The only soft­ware required remote­ly is an Inter­net brows­er, which gets auto­mat­i­cal­ly updat­ed as changes are made to the brows­er soft­ware.
    • Phys­i­cal­ly, our sys­tem is designed to run "low voltage/low pow­er", elim­i­nat­ing the parts of a typ­i­cal solar pow­er sys­tem that have the short­est lifes­pan and pro­duce the most heat. Defined in the US Mil­i­tary spec­i­fi­ca­tion MIL-HDBK-217, it is wide­ly accept­ed that for each reduc­tion in tem­per­a­ture of 10°C, the lifes­pan of elec­tron­ic com­po­nents is dou­bled.
  • The cost of the solu­tion should decrease over time, so that once the project is com­plete, remain­ing ongo­ing costs are afford­able by the coun­try.
    There are a few things that fac­tor into this:
    • The appli­ca­tion soft­ware license cost should reduce to a "main­te­nance lev­el" by the end of the imple­men­ta­tion. We have struc­tured the cost of the appli­ca­tion licens­es to be rel­a­tive to Visu­al Software's involve­ment in the process, reduc­ing to a min­i­mal lev­el after the third year when (typ­i­cal­ly) the coun­try will be respon­si­ble for ongo­ing costs (spe­cial fund­ing may have been avail­able dur­ing imple­men­ta­tion that runs out once com­plete).
    • Atten­tion should be paid to the Inter­net access costs. Many coun­tries out­side of the US still pay for Inter­net ser­vices by GB trans­ferred and do not have fixed-price con­tracts with unlim­it­ed data includ­ed. These costs will need to be paid from oper­at­ing bud­gets after imple­men­ta­tion, so it is impor­tant to keep these costs as low as pos­si­ble. To address this we have spent con­sid­er­able time opti­miz­ing our appli­ca­tions so that a min­i­mum of data is trans­ferred.

Optimized for Low Bandwidth

To illus­trate this opti­miza­tion, we per­formed a num­ber of tests, brows­ing to exist­ing sites and record­ing infor­ma­tion about how long it took to load the page and the amount of data trans­ferred when the page loaded.

The chart to the right shows times (in mil­lisec­onds) for the fastest page from sev­er­al pop­u­lar sites, com­pared with the slow­est of Veracity's pages — the results of a search that returns about 9,600 patient records.

All tests were per­formed from the same serv­er, and in each case sev­er­al access attempts were aver­aged to get the dis­played results.

To com­plete the tests, we also mea­sured how much data was sent from the serv­er to the brows­er.

Page Load — Amount of Data Transferred (in KB)

Typ­i­cal Word­Press Site
Typ­i­cal Google Search (results)
Yahoo (News Site)
Apple Home Page
Verac­i­ty Search Result (9600 records returned)

Page Load — Speed Comparison

Typ­i­cal Word­Press Site
Typ­i­cal Google Search (results)
Yahoo (News Site)
Apple Home Page
Verac­i­ty Search Result (9600 records returned)

These results vary between the pop­u­lar web sites (the fastest site doesn't always equate to the least infor­ma­tion being sent to the brows­er), but the ratio between the pop­u­lar sites and Verac­i­ty are sim­i­lar (Verac­i­ty trans­mits much less infor­ma­tion to the brows­er).

This may not seem sig­nif­i­cant, but when mul­ti­plied by the num­ber of requests for data sent in a billing cycle by every­one, com­bined, the dif­fer­ences become far more pro­nounced.

Why is this important?

Fre­quent­ly, coun­tries (or oth­er orga­ni­za­tions) receive spe­cial assis­tance (grants, aid, etc.) to imple­ment a new sys­tem, but that finan­cial help will only be for the imple­men­ta­tion phase. Even­tu­al­ly, the orga­ni­za­tion will need to pay for the oper­at­ing costs itself. In Africa, Inter­net cus­tomers pay for their wire­less Inter­net data by the giga­byte; there are no "unlim­it­ed data plans." In Africa, as of May 2019, data rates for 10GB of data range from USD $8.37 (Egypt) to $279 (Equa­to­r­i­al Guinea). Prices con­tin­ue to go down, but they are not close to the price of data in the US.

Using an aver­age price per 10GB of data, we can com­pare Verac­i­ty against a high­ly opti­mized site (Google, blank search box). Assum­ing 2 mil­lion page requests dai­ly and a low-aver­age cost/GB (in bulk), the fol­low­ing chart illus­trates costs access­ing var­i­ous pop­u­lar Inter­net sites (for com­par­i­son pur­pos­es only):

Click image for larg­er view

Although data rates will con­tin­ue to go down, chances of Inter­net Providers chang­ing the mod­el for charg­ing out­side of the US from "per GB" to "Unlim­it­ed" are still low.

Scalable Technical Model

All Visu­al Soft­ware prod­ucts are designed to be scaled to sup­port very large user com­mu­ni­ties, as evi­denced by our abil­i­ty to sup­port cus­tomers such as Lon­don, UK, the Aus­tralian states of Vic­to­ria, New South Wales, Tas­ma­nia, South Aus­tralia, Queens­land and even­tu­al­ly, the entire con­ti­nent. Some of our guid­ing prin­ci­ples in the devel­op­ment of our prod­ucts is and has been:

  • Make sure the archi­tec­ture is sim­ple and flex­i­ble. The appli­ca­tion code itself may be com­plex in mak­ing sure that the trans­porta­tion of data is secure and very fast, but as these com­po­nent pieces are fin­ished and test­ed, they make a com­plex prob­lem (like trans­port secu­ri­ty) look as if it were a sim­ple task.
  • Select the appro­pri­ate tools to sup­port a scal­able solu­tion. For exam­ple, we only use enter­prise-lev­el data­bas­es to sup­port the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty plat­form and our ver­ti­cal appli­ca­tions. These can typ­i­cal­ly scale across sev­er­al servers and, for dis­as­ter recov­ery, across sev­er­al loca­tions. Exam­ples of Enter­prise class data­base servers are Ora­cle, Microsoft SQL Serv­er, Sybase and DB2.
  • Con­tin­u­al­ly test per­for­mance with very large datasets — mil­lions of patients or stu­dents, tens of thou­sands of schools or clin­ics, hun­dreds of mil­lions of school atten­dance or assess­ment records. In doing this test­ing, look for bot­tle­necks and work to improve the per­for­mance of those sec­tions.

Scalable Implementation Model

As we begin work­ing with coun­tries to imple­ment edu­ca­tion, health­care or inter­op­er­abil­i­ty projects, we plan each project in phas­es:

  1. Short "proof of con­cept" either with testers and sim­u­lat­ed data or in 1–2 select­ed schools or clin­ics. This is to give the cus­tomer a sense of com­fort with the func­tion­al­i­ty of the sys­tem.
  2. Short "pilot" with 50–100 schools or clin­ics. This is to work out all imple­men­ta­tion details, such as deliv­ery of equip­ment (solar pan­els, lap­tops, etc.), pro­vi­sion­ing accounts, etc..
  3. Full imple­men­ta­tion. This will typ­i­cal­ly run 1–5 years, depend­ing on the num­ber of schools (or med­ical facil­i­ties) being deployed.

Visu­al Software's Ipse­ity™ prod­uct man­ages iden­ti­ties and accounts for large com­mu­ni­ties (mil­lions of objects). It is part of our inter­op­er­abil­i­ty frame­work, mean­ing that any appli­ca­tion that is part of the frame­work (and capa­ble with exchang­ing infor­ma­tion in real-time with oth­er appli­ca­tions) can be used as a source for the objects being man­aged.

For exam­ple, in edu­ca­tion, a Stu­dent Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (SIS) may be part of the frame­work, allow­ing it to share infor­ma­tion with oth­er edu­ca­tion appli­ca­tions. Typ­i­cal­ly, Stu­dent Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems are the "author­i­ta­tive source" for stu­dent infor­ma­tion such as stu­dent demo­graph­ics, enroll­ments, etc.. This same infor­ma­tion can also be sent to Ipse­ity, allow it to assign a Stu­den­tID num­ber if one doesn't exist. This elim­i­nates the need for the infor­ma­tion to be entered more than once, increas­ing the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the over­all sys­tem.

For more infor­ma­tion about Ipse­ity, see: Ipse­ity Prod­uct Infor­ma­tion.

The Verac­i­ty Edu­ca­tion appli­ca­tion pro­vides the fol­low­ing basics and options:

Basics

A pri­vate cloud-based sys­tem that main­tains basic infor­ma­tion about:

  • Schools
  • Stu­dents, School enroll­ments
  • Staff mem­bers (teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors, oth­ers)
  • Cours­es, Course enroll­ments
  • Atten­dance, Assess­ments, Grades
  • Sys­tem for assign­ing Unique Iden­ti­fiers (Stu­den­tID, TeacherID) and man­ag­ing accounts for stu­dents and teach­ers
  • Online facil­i­ties for stu­dents:
    • Video cours­es (pre-record­ed), Online cours­es
    • Book library – thou­sands of books are avail­able in “eBook” for­mats in dif­fer­ent lan­guages and could be made avail­able to stu­dents and teach­ers

Options

  • Real-time class­room / “teacher shar­ing” capa­bil­i­ty
  • Add busi­ness rules to check entered data against qual­i­ty stan­dards so that data can be aggre­gat­ed for usable sta­tis­tics
  • Inte­grate the country’s Nation­al ID main­te­nance sys­tem with Verac­i­ty™ for qual­i­ty improve­ment, less data entry and bet­ter report­ing

(all com­po­nents are ful­ly inte­grat­ed and share a com­mon data­base store)

In the Verac­i­ty Health­care appli­ca­tion, the fol­low­ing basics and options are avail­able:

Basics

  • Imple­ment a pri­vate cloud-based sys­tem that main­tains basic infor­ma­tion about:

    Click Image to Enlarge

    • Clin­ics
    • Health care work­ers, patients
    • Office/Home vis­its, appoint­ments, med­ica­tions pre­scribed
  • Each of these “objects” can have files attached to them (scanned doc­u­ments, test results, Inter­net ref­er­ences, etc.) and all com­po­nents are ful­ly inte­grat­ed and share a com­mon data­base store.
  • Add busi­ness rules to check entered data against qual­i­ty stan­dards so that data from the cen­tral data store can be aggre­gat­ed for usable sta­tis­tics.
  • Imple­ment an online train­ing library (pre-record­ed) and syn­di­ca­tion with exist­ing med­ical libraries.

Options

  • Appoint­ment reminders, med­ica­tion reminders
  • ID cards (print­ed region­al­ly, used to stream­line data entry and elim­i­nate errors)
  • Infor­ma­tion about patient pay­ments
  • Direc­to­ry of advi­sors with appoint­ment set­ting capa­bil­i­ty

The first screen cap­ture is from our Verac­i­ty – Health Care demon­stra­tion sys­tem. Although the data is sim­u­lat­ed, it pro­vides a view of what some of the inter­face pages look like.

Things that can be changed eas­i­ly are:

  • Lan­guage: each user can choose his or her own lan­guage for the inter­face. While it will not trans­late any data, all of the labels and oth­er instruc­tions on the site are trans­lat­ed.
  • Look and Feel: the appear­ance of the site (col­ors, fonts, the styling of con­trols, etc.) can be changed by the cus­tomer to match their stan­dard web site appear­ance.
  • Data­base Con­tents: adding new fields, chang­ing the sizes of those fields, and remov­ing fields are all a sim­ple mat­ter for an admin­is­tra­tor with suf­fi­cient per­mis­sions. If a paper-based or oth­er sys­tem is already in place, the flow and appear­ance data entry on the screen can fol­low exist­ing for­mats. This will speed the tran­si­tion and reduce the amount of train­ing required for end users.

Click image to enlarge

The data in the data­base is stored in the lan­guage (alpha­bet) that is select­ed for the user who enters the infor­ma­tion. This is an exam­ple of the same page when the user has select­ed “Ara­bic” as his or her inter­face lan­guage:

Adding new lan­guages to the inter­face is a sim­ple process, requir­ing the assis­tance of some­one flu­ent in the tar­get lan­guage and enter­ing the new trans­la­tions into a data­base table.

We real­ize that many loca­tions in remote areas may not have elec­tri­cal pow­er to run the equip­ment need­ed to deliv­er these ser­vices, so we have worked with providers to cre­ate a solar ener­gy pack­age capa­ble of pow­er­ing these sys­tems.


Some back­ground on elec­tric­i­ty

AC cur­rent: Alter­nat­ing cur­rent is the type of elec­tric­i­ty that is sup­plied by pow­er deliv­ered from a pub­lic source. You access AC elec­tric­i­ty when you plug an appli­ance or oth­er device into a wall out­let.

DC cur­rent: Direct cur­rent is the type of elec­tric­i­ty typ­i­cal­ly sup­plied by bat­ter­ies or solar pan­els. DC-pow­ered devices typ­i­cal­ly have their own bat­tery (such as a lap­top) or are made for mobile envi­ron­ments. Many of these come with an AC adapter to con­vert the AC pow­er in a wall out­let to the DC pow­er need­ed by the device.

Solar Implementation Design

This design of our Solar Kit is dif­fer­ent than all off-grid sys­tems we've come across. Since the pow­er require­ments need­ed to pro­vide com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy to a class­room or clin­ic is not large (such as with heat­ing or oper­at­ing large motors), we've been able to cre­ate a com­plete sys­tem that does not involve AC (Alter­nat­ing Cur­rent).

Chal­lenge: This sys­tem will be installed in many hot loca­tions, on or near the equa­tor. Over­ly hot sys­tems will wear out quick­ly.

The fol­low­ing dia­gram shows the com­po­nents of a typ­i­cal solar pow­er sys­tem:

click on image to enlarge

In this con­fig­u­ra­tion, the Invert­er is the com­po­nent that gen­er­ates the most heat and is usu­al­ly the first to wear out, espe­cial­ly in hot, dusty envi­ron­ments. We've already men­tioned that heat makes elec­tron­ic com­po­nents and oth­er machin­ery wear out faster. To reduce the con­se­quences of the heat they pro­duce, the man­u­fac­tur­ers add fans to keep the devices cool­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in places like Africa or the Mid­dle East, these fans draw dust into the machine or com­po­nent, there­by wear­ing them out even faster.

We have been suc­cess­ful, how­ev­er, to cre­ate an alter­na­tive set­up where the entire sys­tem runs low-volt­age, DC cur­rent and cool.

click on image to enlarge

Components

A typ­i­cal “Solar Kit” will include solar pan­els, mount­ing equip­ment for the pan­els, a solar pan­el con­troller, stor­age bat­tery (or bat­ter­ies), and low pow­er equip­ment for the loca­tions served by these appli­ca­tions:

  • Edu­ca­tion: 12–15 ruggedi­zed Chrome­books (per equipped class­room), a 32” flat screen mon­i­tor for hang­ing on the wall, 3G/4G (5G where avail­able) router, charg­ing sta­tion, pan­el, cab­i­net
  • Health­Care: 2–3 Chrome­books, scan­ner (used to scan exist­ing med­ical records), ID card read­er (option­al), 3G/4G (5G where avail­able) router, charg­ing sta­tion, pan­el, cab­i­net

Most of the indoor com­po­nents will be pre-installed in a rolling cab­i­net, so no instal­la­tion should be required for almost all com­po­nents and what needs to be installed will remain a sim­ple process.

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