EDS takes up CBA's Colonial processing

EDS has picked up a seven year contract valued at $US700 million to integrate IT from Colonial into the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's own IT operations following the bank's recent takeover of the Colonial financial services group.

A existing outsourcing agreement between EDS and the bank dates back to 1997, when it was valued at $A3 billion over 10 years. The new contract is seen as being equally significant. "A key factor in the success of our merger will be the integration of both organisations' systems," noted Russell Scrimshaw, head of technology, operations and property at the bank.

Some complexities in the deal have meant that full details of the new contract have not yet been ironed out. "While EDS has the opportunity to transition the majority of Colonial Services, some existing arrangements between Colonial and third-party IT providers are expected to be outside such an arrangement," an EDS spokesman explained. EDS and CBA expect to finalise details over the next two or three months.

TAB Queensland bets on speech recognitionTAB Queensland (TABQ) has gone live with a natural language speech recognition betting system developed by VeCommerce, which was formerly the software arm of Scitec. A spokesman said that a three month trial of the Telebet Express system had shown that consumers were able to use voice instructions to carry out routine transactions and inquiries on the telephone.

In the wake of the implementation of the system VeCommerce has licensed the software from TABQ for an up-front fee of $A500,000, financed by a share swap. "TABQ has agreed to licence the intellectual property rights back to VeCommerce to enable VeCommerce to implement the Natural Language Speech Recognition System in other wagering operations in Australia and other jurisdictions," explained Dick McIlwain, TABQ's chief executive. "TABQ will retain an interest in these applications by its shareholding in VeCommerce.

"The technology also offers call centre and inquiry services the capacity to eliminate queuing and a whole host of infrastructure labour costs," McIlwain added.

KAZ scores big development deal

Recently listed services provider KAZ Computer Services has been awarded a contract to develop a global superannuation management system for a group of three Australian superannuation funds and Shearpond. Total development cost is estimated to be $A15 million and the project is expected to take 18 months.

When the system is completed, KAZ will retain a 22.5 per cent interest in the product as well as exclusive marketing rights. A spokesman for KAZ estimated that the Australian market includes more than 240 retail super funds, some 100 industry funds and more than 3400 corporate superannuation funds.

Peter Kazacos, managing director of KAZ, is not daunted by the size of the project. "KAZ has developed and currently supports the superannuation software management systems for over five million Australians for one of our clients," he explained. "Our company has unique expertise in the area and is now using this expertise to leverage into the global superannuation management market.

Govt backs Bullant's server saver systemThe Australian Government has made a $A3.7 million commercialisation loan for software developed by Sydney company Bullant. The Zero Friction scalable client/server technology is claimed to overcome problems with servers that grind to a halt when hit by a sudden surge of users. "The project has the potential to provide a major productivity boost across industry and deliver other major benefits for the Australian economy," claimed Senator Minchin, Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, while announcing the loan.

The loan is believed to be the largest concessional loan offered by the Commonwealth Government, but will not satisfy Bullant, which is looking to raise a further $US28 million from international investors off its own bat.

The company will target Internet investors, with the claim that its "Zero Friction computing makes sluggish delivery via the Internet a thing of the past," noted COO Robert Pieterse. "As e-commerce becomes more sophisticated and the speed of business increases, organisations are realising that readily available, real time application tools are fundamental if they are to compete successfully," he added.

ComOps wins another e-commerce order

ComOps has won a contract to implement business management and electronic commerce applications for the Hill Wine Group. A spokesman said the systems to be installed will allow customers to order from, be invoiced by and pay for their stock directly to Hill Wine's head office, so generating cost efficiencies, accelerating the ordering and distribution of products, and allowing more accurate shipments, pricing and invoicing.

"We are using ComOps to transform our operations from being largely paper-based to a sophisticated e-commerce environment linked back to our main database and accounting system," explained Terry Hill, executive chairman of Hill Wine.

Just last week ComOps announced that it had won a similar contract to implement systems for Metal Manufactures Electrical Merchandising.

Industry body supports copyright laws

It just goes to show that you can't please all the people all the time: Last week the Australian Information Industry Association announced itself extremely unhappy at the Federal Government's newly passed Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Bill. This week the Internet Industry Association said it welcomed the bill, as "an important piece of legal infrastructure which will underwrite the further development of e-commerce in Australia".

Peter Coroneos, executive director of the IIA, suggested that the legislation makes clearer the nature and extent of content rights in the new media. "The Bill updates a hopelessly antiquated law which was rapidly losing its relevance as more and more content was moving online. It brings us into line with the US law and is probably even superior to it in some respects," he claimed.

"We think it strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of both our content development and content carriage members," Coroneos said.

News briefs

Lumina Technologies, the technology arm of Internet Travel Group, has reached an agreement that will allow Sabre Pacific Ltd (SPL) to distribute and further develop a cut-down version of the Lumina corporate travel management software. The deal is worth at least $A1 million, a spokeswoman claimed.

Wireless modems developed by listed West Australian company Wavenet International have been approved by Singapore Telecom (SingTel) and Arab Telecom of Kuwait. John Thompson, who was recently appointed managing director of Wavenet said he was excited by the deals which create "a large demand for our type of products".

Oakton Computing has won an extension of a contract with NSW Police for the further development of the Internet-enabled investigation management product e@gle.i. The 12 month extension is expected to be worth an additional $A1 million in revenue to Oakton, a spokesman claimed. The project is developing a database management system to make day-to-day police duties less arduous, the spokesman added.

A consortium of universities in NSW has ordered a 64-processor SGI 2400 supercomputer, along with a pair of eight-way SGI 2200 systems. The purchase was supported by the Australian Research Council under the Research Infrastructure (Equipment and Facilities) Scheme and by the NSW Government. The large machine will be housed at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, while the smaller machines will go to Newcastle and Wollongong to provide some local processing grunt and to give access to the large system.

Smart cards keep making headlines

There seems to be no escaping the reach of smart cards as specialists in Australia just keep on making headlines. This week the attention-grabbers were Keycorp, Authentic8, Fujitsu and even the Federal Government.

Keycorp and US transport ticketing systems provider Cubic Transportation Systems, have agreed to deliver integrated payment solutions to Australian transit and financial services markets, with the possibility of an international expansion. Under the deal Keycorp will be come a major supplier to Cubic for the Sydney Integrated Ticketing System, and a similar initiative in Brisbane.

Keycorp has also been certified with the highest level of security for its MULTOS smart card operating system. The certification was granted under the Australian Information Security Evaluation Program operated by the Defence Signals Directorate against international standards.

British Telecom is piloting a smart card secure remote access service from Australian company Authentic8. The key2connect service uses Public Key Infrastructure with Authentic8's secure remote access and smart card personalisation software, as well as Microsoft's Windows for Smart Cards operating system. If the pilot is successful the system could be extended to 60,000 BT employees, which would increase its value to about $A5.5million.

Fujitsu has entered a partnership agreement with EFT-POS New Zealand, which provides merchant terminals to NZ retailers and manages the retail transactions between consumers, retailers and the back-end. The partnership will build more secure systems through the use of Fujitsu's SmartCity card management and issuing system.

At the Asia/Pacific Smart Card Forum in Melbourne this week Senator Richard Alston introduced some research undertaken by the National Office of the Information Economy and presented in a report, The Smart Card: Key to the New Economy. Alston said that estimates showed that in 1999 Australia's smart card technology sector generated revenue of about $A450 million and that $A390 million of that total came from exports. Alston noted, however, that the takeup of smart card technology is slow. "Current smart card projects in Australia are mostly small and standalone. The long-term sustainability of the industry relies on large-scale projects using smart cards," he added.

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