NSW traffic authority switches to Macs

In what may well be Apple Computer's largest coup in the Australian enterprise space, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) will deploy 1200 Apple G4 iMacs across 140 registry offices.

A statement Computerworld obtained from the RTA reveals the G4s will be used as point-of-sale terminals for its counter staff to handle RTA customers transactions across "prepared business applications" as well as for "collecting data and payments and issuing licences, registration certificates and receipts for various transactions".

The move away from Wintel desktops also appears to reiterate the recent strong stand by the NSW government to seek alternatives to wholly proprietary operating system kernels - and the licensing models that go with them - where cost-effective and viable alternatives exist. To this end, the RTA is making no bones about its preference for open standards and open source, with what appears to be more open source action slated for the near future.

"The Apple rollout is a continuation of RTA usage of open standards-based software and systems. The further adoption of open source is being undertaken to provide more choice of vendors and to guarantee RTA systems are providing value for money," the RTA statement said.

Unix, it appears, will also remain firmly ensconced at the RTA for the foreseeable future fronted by Apple's OSX 10.3 Panther operating system. "Apple OSX 10.3 was the major advantage sought as it fit neatly into the Unix-based registry network. [The] cost of the machines was comparable to machines being offered by other vendors. [The] technical capability of [the] iMacs was superior and users definitely preferred the ergonomic design and look and feel of the terminal," the RTA statement said.

In terms of a standard operating environment, the RTA's iMacs will be tied into a data centre and registry servers running over Sun Solaris, with alongside custom RTA application[s] currently installed on Java stations in the registries. This Java virtual terminal (JVT) has been ported to work on the iMac terminals.

Developed in-house by the RTA, the JVT provides users with an integrated primary application, including access to driver and vehicle databases, Eftpos transaction processing and photo-licence data capture and production.

The terminals will also include a Mozilla open source browser to access Web applications and a mail client in addition to a Citrix ICA client to provide access to data centre-based applications. Data on customer licences and registration is held on an Oracle 9i database, accessed via a Cool:Gen application called Drives and purpose-built e-business (J2ee) applications.

The RTA's payroll, resource management and HR systems will continue to run off its current SAP system with staff accessing information and internal communications via an intranet.

Neither Greg Carvouni, chief information officer of the RTA, or Tony King, Apple Computer Australian managing director, was available for comment.

iMac specs
1200 Apple iMacs deployed across 140 RTA branches
OSX 10.3
1GHz PowerPC CPU
Swivel-mounted, 15in LCD monitors allow easy customer viewing of photo licences
DVD-R and CD R/W combo drives
Request for proposal called mid-2003, contract signed January 5 2004; rollout April/May 2004

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Julian Bajkowski

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