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  1. Technology
December 15, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

A computerised Command and Control system has been installed by Software Sciences at the Automobile Association’s recently opened Regional Control Centre in Thatcham, Berkshire. The centre represents a UKP3.5m investment and is the second phase in a UKP30m nationwide programme. It will provide the motorists’ club with incident logging, information retrieval, command data and two way mobile data communications with patrol vehicles. In April next year all vehicles will be fitted with mobile data terminals from Spectronics Micro Systems Ltd of Cambridge. The Command and Control system at Thatcham is based on an ICL Series 39 Level 30 mainframe with four ICL Personal Computers providing back-up with one being used for message switching to other AA centres. It runs VME 2900 and makes use of the IDMS-X database package and Transaction Processing Monitor system. Incoming information is entered and membership details updated by accessing the AA’s Minder administration system at Basingstoke. The location and map reference of a breakdown is determined and directed to the relevant operator to inform roadside service patrols, relay patrols or garages. Meanwhile information is coming in from other AA centres via the message switch system and tasks are being delegated as appropriate. The Spectronics mobile data terminals automatically print out details of jobs to be attended. They comprise a printer – whose mechanism is supplied by Matsushita Electric – a keyboard and an 8-bit Motorola 6809 microprocessor. A patrol man makes an entry on the keyboard which is then encoded into audio tones and sent back to the control centre. Once there a data communications controller directs it to the ICL mainframe where it can be converted and picked up as text. The system also works in the opposite direction, enabling information to be printed out on the terminal in the patrol vehicle. Spectronics believes this is a major step forward for the AA whose air waves are becoming increasingly crowded. It also means patrolmen have written material to fall back on when writing reports. Voice communication is possible but only in emergencies. Over three quarters of a million breakdowns are expected to be handled annually by the end of the century with 3,000 calls a day coming in at peak periods. Farnborough, Hampshire-based Software Sciences Ltd is a division of Thorn EMI Computer Software.

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