Live Auction App Case Study

“Humboldt go the extra mile. They’re flexible and very responsive. We like the fact that we can ask for something and they might come back with a better suggestion of how to solve the problem. We always feel like it’s a two-way conversation.” (Stewart Ford, Group IT Director, Aston Barclay)

Aston Barclay is one of the largest car auction groups in the UK, with a total of five locations across the country.

Aston Barclay were experiencing inefficiency because of the multitude of backend systems that were operating across the company. The customer experience also needed a complete overhaul in order to increase the service offering and provide mobile functionality.

“Humboldt cleared the decks and streamlined everything in our backend to make it really slick, which gave us a platform to rapidly develop the front end.”

Humboldt developed a mobile app to enable customers to bid in real time in any Aston Barclay auction. Designed to match the look and feel of the existing in-hall system, the app also provides customers with essential information to assist them in the bidding process. Thanks to seamless integration with the DVLA database, customers are able to cross-check the history of any vehicle in the auction, and can also benefit from the DVLA’s own valuation of the vehicle. The app is fully integrated with Aston Barclay’s backend system.

“We now have a mobile app that is constantly updating. We really feel ahead of the game thanks to the work Humboldt have done.”

In addition to the mobile bidding app, Humboldt has provided a range of other solutions, including:
-Streamlining of all backend management software
-Integration with external systems to provide 3rd-party lookup vehicle data and seamless listing for sellers
-Backend inventory system
-Specialised API for larger customers

“Our car auctions are the heartbeat of the business, so to have one centralised system that runs smoothly has made a huge difference.”

iPad app for Royal Holloway University study into macular degeneration


Macular degeneration is a painless eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision. Central vision is used to see what is directly in front of you, when reading or watching television for example. The central vision becomes increasingly blurred leading to symptoms including difficulty reading printed or written text (because it appears blurry, less vibrant colours and difficulty recognising people’s faces.

Humboldt was invited to join a project to build an iPad app to test ‘eccentric viewing’, which scrolls the text at a steady pace through the reader’s peripheral vision, enabling those with macular degeneration to read text.

Working in conjunction with a team at Royal Holloway University, we used iOS app development technology to build an app, which was aimed at medical researchers working on macular degeneration, as well as patients investigating the approach themselves.

The app was preloaded with sample ebooks, and more could be downloaded from the web.

Working with Humboldt

Professor Robin Walker, who headed up the project at the university said: “It was extremely useful to work with a company with knowledge relating to the wide range of challenges involved in this project.

“A number of decisions needed to be made because the initial specification had not been worked out in detail. With Humboldt’s guidance, these issues were quickly resolved. The choices proved to be sensible as the final version of the app fulfils all our requirements. Humboldt challenged us to think differently and suggested considerations such as the best way of programming the app and iPad features so they would be most useful. Their knowledge of digital publishing, digital rights management, and releasing an app via Apple, was invaluable.

“With their input we were able explore possibilities, such as voice activation, and then choose whether or not to use these techniques as we went along. There was a clear advantage to working with people you could sit down with to discuss the initial ideas, test prototypes, and make changes to the initial specification.

“I really enjoyed the relaxed and informal way we worked together with regular communication by email and in person. Most meetings were quite brief and enabled us to develop the ideas and the app from scratch. Humboldt then confirmed decisions in writing and gave us detailed costings broken down into stages. Any teething problems were quickly resolved and I had complete confidence in the company’s ability to produce a working app that could be released on iTunes.”

The result

The app was successfully launched and is available through the App Store. Professor Walker has received further grants to pursue the work. Click here to find out more about the app

Arqiva DCinema project

Arqiva runs a satellite network that streams films and adverts to cinemas on behalf of film distributors. The network uses a transmission system and satellite receivers from a Canadian company. Movie files are large, for instance, a major Hollywood release may be several hundred GByte.

We were asked to build a system to provide integrated management functions for Arqiva’s main digital delivery process.

The system was installed in 2011, and we continue to work with them as they evolve and streamline their delivery process to cope with changes in transmission methods and new customer needs.  Arqiva’s goal is to deliver a greater number of movies per week and to ensure its equipment and satellite bandwidth is not left idle.

The result

The system runs on a small cluster of servers in Arqiva’s data centre and uses Web Interfaces, Java, Linux Servers, and PostgreSQL to handle the databases.

It performs many functions including

  • monitoring distributor folders to detect when cinema files arrive
  • consistency checks on DCPs (digital cinema packages) from distributors
  • moving files to the correct server for transmission
  • generating transmission file lists
  • checking transmission results and generating reports
  • operator’s web interface

We will be launching a customer-facing portal for the system during 2014.

Working with Humboldt

“That we’ve worked with Humboldt for about five years is credit to its integrity which was established from the outset,” says Ian Holloway – technology consultant and project manager at Arqiva.

“Humboldt provides an integral part of the Arqiva DCinema project and from day one, it felt like they were part of our internal team. Adrian and his team played a major part in the initial scoping of the project and continue to do so as the system evolves.

“Open and flexible in their approach, Humboldt willingly suggests alternative approaches and quickly adapts to changes in the project.

“Communication is essential and it’s one of Humboldt’s strengths. The team readily communicate throughout the project’s lifecycle to its final delivery and acceptance.

“Humboldt’s professional approach, contribution and commitment to this project has enabled us to provide a first-class service to our DCinema customers. For example, Humboldt optimised the processing of cinema (DCP) files, reducing the number of times they were copied over the network from three to just one. This reduced the time it took to process a newly arrived movie by several hours.

“A recent update automates the process of generating delivery report spreadsheets for customers, and they are about to begin a major improvement to our live event management service.

“We consider Humboldt as a trusted partner and will definitely continue to work with them”.

Upgrade for thermal imaging camera


Rufilla, a software development consultancy that specialises in training, asked us to support a project for one of their clients.

The client had a thermal imaging camera, aimed at building inspectors and engineers. We were asked to carry out a mid-life upgrade on the product, which included enabling it to support high capacity SD cards (SDHC).

What we did

The camera was a Linux based design, with u-boot bootloader.

We applied the customer’s board specific modifications to a more recent Linux kernel, which supported the SDHC cards, and we made both u-boot and Linux kernel changes.  This was an important upgrade as SDHC cards were becoming more prevalent and the client wanted to give end-users greater choice.

We also made a series of minor enhancements to the camera, which responded to end-user demand. They included modifications to its video system, which reduced the delay between moving the camera and the change showing in the viewfinder. This made the camera easier to use.

The result

The project was delivered on time, and the customer was able to issue an update, which gave compatibility with a wide range of memory cards. This gave their end users more choice and enabled them to store more images.

Says Joe Nicholson MD of Rufilla, “We’ve collaborated with Humboldt many times so I knew they had a great deal of knowledge and experience of Linux video drivers.”

“They were a key component in making this project successful. Fast and flexible, they approached each element in the most appropriate way. This involved meetings, joint investigations, short milestone software delivery, as well as advice on the correct approach.”

“We worked jointly on many tasks so communication needed to be excellent. Humboldt made this very easy and seamless by using online collaboration tools.”

“I have to say, I don’t think we could have completed this project without them”.

MD evReader for iPad

Download on the App Store

The iPad app we’ve developed for Royal Holloway University is now in the app store. The MD evReader helps people with macular disease (MD) to read eBooks using the eccentric viewing technique. Eccentric viewing involves a person trying to see by making use of the peripheral, rather than central vision. The technique is like trying to see ‘out of the corner of your eye’ and can be a useful way of enhancing visual tasks such as reading. The app scrolls text, one line at a time, with the speed and direction of scrolling controlled by a track pad on the iPad screen. Large fonts can be used and the text can be presented onto a digital TV screen via HDMI.

Development required overcoming a number of technical challenges to ensure steady performance while rendering large fonts to two screens simultaneously.