Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The VECAP Project

Our final assignment for Introduction to Computer Science was to study the documentation of the VECAP project and give an advice to one of the parties involved based on our findings. In this project, three companies, namely The Dinkelland Research Institute for Rehabilitation, Virtual-Fit and ExercITe, work together to produce home training equipment that can send and receive information over the internet. Additionally, an online community aspect is added to keep the users motivated to do their exercises. Soon it became clear that communication between the parties is very bad, and because of this deadlines are missed and the project doesn't evolve as planned.

While this assignment isn't related with Computer Science at first glance, there are some lessons to be learned from it that also apply to Computer Science. Firstly, the principle of a "black box" is also seen in this project. For instance, one party has a trainer with a connection to the internet, and the other parties don't have to know how this works internally, they are only interested in what the input is (a user who trains, resulting in training data) and what the output is (training data via the internet). How this training data is acquired, for example, is not relevant to the other parties. Because of this, the party that manufactures the training equipment has to make sure the input and output are clearly defined for the other parties, since they won't know what is going on internally.

Secondly, it is extremely important to have proper communication between the parties involved in a project. If this is neglected, components are build that aren't compatible with each other. Not only internal communication is important, communication to the press and unions that represent the users is also essential. If you don't report anything about the progress of your project to the press they will come up with their own stories that often don't depict your product the way you want, and if you don't communicate with unions they will feel left out and as a result approach your product with care.

Thirdly, in Computer Science it is important to be able to grasp what exactly a company wants. Often specifications for products will not be complete, simply because certain requirements are deemed too obvious to mention or are forgotten. Building a product to these incomplete specifications will result in a product that seems fine to the creator but isn't acceptable to the company who requested it.

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