Melbourne ambulances use Auckland Uni system

Melbourne's Metropolitan Ambulance Service is using software developed at Auckland University to optimise its use of vehicles and equipment.

The software, which has been packaged as SIREN (simulation for improved response of emergency networks), arose from a project the university started for St John Ambulance in 1999.

One of the developers, Dr Andrew Mason, a senior lecturer at the university's engineering school, says SIREN is a combination of a simulation engine and visualisation tools. It can replay a year's worth of ambulance call-outs and analyse what would have happened if another ambulance had been operating or an additional entire ambulance base. It can also predict how long vehicles will take to travel from point A to point B given the traffic conditions at the time.

This means SIREN can be used to provide statistical reports as evidence of what would happen if funding isn't provided for more resources.

For St John Ambulance the software used a road network map supplied by the Auckland Regional Council. The Melbourne ambulance service uses a similar map from Victorian local authorities.

Melbourne's ambulance service approached the university last year after hearing about the work done for St John. Realising that the software needed further work to become a marketable product, the university licensed the software to Auckland-based Optimal Decision Technologies (ODT) which worked on making it commercially robust. ODT has developed a crew rostering system for Air New Zealand that saved the airline $15 million.

For Melbourne's ambulance service SIREN captured the rules used in its dispatch operations. It is in the final stages of implementation.

"It's not just standard computer science system," says Mason. "It's embedding operations research. Operations research is using maths and computers to solve practical problems."

ODT has done work with Trade NZ to identify market opportunities in North America, particularly Canada, where the public health system is similar to New Zealand and Australia.

ODT's Daniel Batten says volumes for ambulance call-outs are increasing around the world and yet most services don't have systems to plan for that growth.

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