Upgraded Trading Engine Gives TMX the Edge in Exchange Technology
As owner and operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange, TMX Group occupies an important place in the Canadian economy. When it found itself needing to upgrade its trading technology in order to compete with other financial exchanges, the company bet heavily on a major redevelopment of its core service, says Greg Allen, VP of Governance, Architecture and Planning.
The new TMX Quantum XA has dramatically improved the customer trading experience, reducing order entry response times (known in the business as ‘latency’) by 100 times over the previous generation.
“Trading and investing are all about absorbing information and then reacting to it,” says Allen. In addition to its capacity to handle 200,000 messages per second, the service now boasts order entry response times of less than 50 microseconds.
TMX Quantum XA is so fast, in fact, that when they tested the speed of the new services for themselves, “we actually had some customers who thought their measuring instruments were faulty.”
In addition to giving their customers an edge, the speed of TMX Quantum XA has enabled the company to leap-frog many of its competitor exchanges. “It’s simple,” says Allen. “The exchange with lower user response times is potentially going to attract more market share.”
But in the world of exchange trading, being fast isn’t necessarily the most important quality. “It’s one thing to be fast, it’s another thing to be predictable,” adds Allen. TMX Quantum XA also delivers its “faster than lightning” user response times with much less variability (known in the business as ‘jitter’) than in the past.
“In addition to being much faster, order processing times are generally much more reliable and predictable,” says Peyman Parsi, Vice-President, Application Services Delivery. “From the positive feedback we are receiving from a wide variety of customers, it is clear we are adding value to the marketplace.”
When it first set out to redesign its trading engine, TMX went in search of a solution that would require some “thinking outside of the box,” says Allen. “We had a good idea about what each of our competitors was doing and where they were going.”
What they found was that the vast majority of financial exchanges were following the same technological development pattern. TMX’s leadership and development team recognized that if they followed that same path, “we were just going to come out at the end of that race at the back of the pack.”
What was called for “was a much more disruptive solution … a revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, approach.”
Two years of research and development, a million lines of code and six patents later, the sophisticated architecture of TMX Quantum XA has put TMX at the very front of the industry in terms of latency and jitter.
Allen adds that, in the end, the project succeeded, “because we put things together in ways that no one else had.”
Alberta’s New Web-Based Organ and Tissue Donation Registry Saves Lives
Prior to the development of the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry (AOTDR), however, the number of organ and tissue donors in Alberta had been declining. Donations had plunged from as many as 17 deceased donors per million in 2002, to nine donors per million in 2010 – the lowest rate in the country.
Alberta’s low rate of donation also had a cost impact for the Province. A shortage of kidney donors, for example, meant more Albertans required dialysis, at an estimated annual cost of $50,000 per patient.
“There were people awaiting organ transplants who naturally were very passionate about seeing this situation improved,” says Susan Anderson, Assistant Deputy Minister and CIO, Health Information Technology and Systems Division. The government responded by creating a web-based service that enabled adults to go online to register their intent to become an organ and/or tissue donor, or alternatively to declare their intent when they renew their driver’s licence at a registry agency outlet.
Prior to the launch of the service, the only way Albertans could demonstrate their intent to donate was by signing the back of their Alberta Health Card. But this card was not always available when it needed, didn’t ensure the necessary strength of consent and didn’t encourage individuals to have conversations about donating with their friends and family.
“We are not a culture that really likes to talk about or think about death,” says Sherri Kashuba, Interim Managing Director of the AOTDR. “When the death of a loved one occurs, it’s a really emotional and trying time.” The creation of a secure, searchable, signed consent process with witness signatures provided a far stronger statement to survivors about the wishes of their loved one.
Today, Alberta’s AOTDR has more than 39,000 registered users. What’s more, several million people across the province who had never before talked about the possibility of becoming an organ or tissue donor are now aware of the service. Just as importantly, says Kashuba, those people who wish to become organ or tissue donors, “now have the tools and information they need to help them do that.”
Despite the 93 different stakeholders involved in the project, it took Alberta Health and Service Alberta, assisted by CGI, just six months to get the system into the hands of the public. “That was a very agile design, development, and deployment cycle,” says Anderson.
Building on the success of the AOTDR, Anderson notes that the Province is pursuing other opportunities to make e-health a reality for Albertans, including online consultations, prescription renewal and access to scheduling information. “This is just the first step for co-participation.”
St. Mary’s General Hospital ‘Wait Time’ Website Helps Ease Strain
Aside from being sick or injured, waiting in the hospital Emergency Department is just about the most painful experience around. That’s why St. Mary’s General Hospital (SMGH) of Kitchener recently introduced an Emergency Department wait time clock on its website.
The tool was designed to help patients who don’t have timely access to a family doctor, or who may have some discretion about when and where they seek care. “It’s such a departure from tradition,” says Don Shilton, President of SMGH. “People thought that if you put this information in the hands of patients, they might make the right the wrong decisions, or it would invite criticism.”
On the contrary, the service has enabled people to make more informed decisions. “We saw that some of the patients who had previously been to the Emergency Department who were in that category of relatively healthy actually decided not to come at all.”
Of those who were surveyed and decided not to come, 70% went to see their family physician, while 30% went to a private, urgent care, clinic. “The key is that they are not foregoing service,” notes Shilton. “They are still seeking medical attention, but from a potentially more appropriate provider.”
Using sophisticated algorithms developed by SMGH’s technology partner Oculys, in partnership with a University of Waterloo professor, the application doesn’t just inform patients about the current load in the Emergency Department, but predicts what the next six hours may look like. “That’s where the real magic happens.”
To date, SMGH’s clock has demonstrated 90% accuracy predicting when patients will be seen in the Emergency Department. More importantly, it’s helped the hospital to more effectively manage its peak and off-peak work load and avoid placing its burden on “kindred” hospitals.
“In the first 12 months after going live we experienced a 12% reduction in volumes for a broad category of less severe patient cases.” SMGH also recorded a shift away from peak hours and a decrease in the number of patients arriving and leaving without being seen.
Shilton hopes more healthcare institutions will see the potential in wider-scaled adoption of the service. To illustrate, he recounts the story a friend who recently went to an Ontario Emergency Department, but found it packed with patients. So they turned around and drove to another hospital, where things were quieter. “If those two hospitals had this service, that problem would have been avoided.”
It’s no wonder that SMGH’s wait time service is receiving an average of 4,000-5,000 visits per month. With this success, the hospital is exploring opportunities to develop a smartphone application that can give people directions to the closest Emergency Department and the estimated driving time to get there.
“Just knowing what to expect really helps people to better handle the stress of an emergency situation.”
Global Relay: Mission Critical Messaging Finds a Home in the Cloud
A decade and a half ago Canadian entrepreneur Warren Roy recognized that the rise of email was creating ever increasing volumes of electronic records that – just like traditional paper records – needed to be stored and managed.
Well before ‘the cloud’ became a mainstream term, his company, Vancouver-based Global Relay, was delivering data storage and retrieval solutions to businesses for their email, text messaging and social media applications.
“We were dedicated to commercializing a simple technology early on to drive revenue and to learn from our customers,” says Roy, Global Relay’s CEO and Founder. “This allowed us to stay focused on what we thought was a very potent combination of technology and customer service.”
Today Global Relay provides archiving services to 18,000 customers in 90 countries, including 22 of the world’s leading 25 banks. With 325 employees at five offices around the world, it’s one of the fastest growing technology companies in North America.
In its early years, however, the company struggled mightily to find customers for its product and investors to fuel its growth. Then, in 2003, the collapse of Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom changed Global Relay’s fortunes forever.
U.S. regulators responded to these scandals by mandating new record storage compliance regulations for financial firms and public companies alike. These regulations included requirements to preserve company records and supervise business communications such as email on an ongoing basis.
At the same time the company noticed that many large organizations were considering moving to cloud-based vendors who could meet their massive storage needs and exacting service requirements.
“With cloud services you have to be there every day,” says Shannon Rogers, Global Relay’s President and General Counsel. “We’re front and centre helping our customers with some of the most high-pressure moments in their lives.”
To capitalize on a rapidly evolving market and to serve the world’s largest and most heavily regulated organizations, Global Relay recently executed a multi-year strategy to scale-up its infrastructure and enhance its technology. The foundation of this strategy was a $39 million investment in two initiatives: a complete redesign of the company’s core Global Relay Archive service and the construction of a 24,000 square foot state-of-the-art ‘green’ Data Centre.
The project would enable the company to bring a single, easily searchable archive, boasting ‘sub-second’ retrieval times to organizations with up to 400,000 users and billions of messages daily.
Despite the dramatic build-out of its technology, Global Relay’s leaders attribute their ongoing success to less tangible variables, such as a strong service-oriented culture.
“Your culture is far more important to your success than most people think,” adds Warren Roy. “It takes a lot of love … But you need to be absolutely unified behind serving your customers.”
New Brunswick Demonstrates Benefits of a Unified Security Umbrella
It wasn’t long ago that every government department in the Province of New Brunswick was responsible for controlling their own security posture. Predictably, this lack of centralized oversight led to duplication of effort, competing standards, incompatible equipment and – worst of all – a clear appreciation of its greatest points of vulnerability.
Recognizing that it had to fix this situation, in 2012 the Government of New Brunswick mandated the development of a Security Event Management Centre (SEMC) under the auspices of its CIO. The SEMC’s primary objective is to improve the Government’s overall cyber-infrastructure security through the delivery of a uniform, consistent security event management and oversight service.
The SEMC also needed to do this across dozens of different agencies, departments and Crown Corporations, ranging from School Districts and the healthcare system to power companies and the Provincial liqour board.
One of the SEMC’s biggest challenges was to develop a positive working relationship among a host of previously independent stakeholders. “This entire effort depends on the trust of the people we’re doing it for,” says Jamie Rees, Chief Information Security Officer. “If they can’t trust us to deliver, then the whole effort falls apart.”
The opportunity presented itself in April, when the Heartbleed virus stormed the computer world. The SEMC stepped up by delivering advice, assessment tools and lists of insecure servers and devices to its stakeholders, while demonstrating that the government’s security perimeter remained secure and free of infection.
“Heartbleed demonstrated our ability to reach out to other departments and agencies to mount a comprehensive response.” More importantly, “it showed people they could believe in us.” The Heartbleed incident also helped ithe SEMC become perceived as something more than, “just a bunch of scary internet cops that only show up when things are bad.”
Working closely with various industry partners, the SEMC boasts more than 1,000 different sensors and security devices that can report-in on millions of security events across the entire government on a near real-time basis. SEMC staff monitor and report on suspected cyber incidents, recommend mitigating actions, respond to emergencies and develop strategies for the future.
In addition to beating its own roll-out schedule by six months, the SEMC has reduced alerts that require “desk-side action” by 96%. This has resulted in human resources savings in the order of $110,000 a year. More significantly, those IT skills and talents can now be re-deployed to focus on more creative and challenging security-related assignments.
Despite its laudable achievements, Rees recognizes that the SEMC is only as good as its last challenge. “It’s a lot easier to break trust than it is to get it back,” he says. “That means we have to be ‘on point’ all the time.”
Halifax Airport’s Self-Service Baggage Drop Shortens Lineups and Reduces Stress
In the airline industry, it takes a large number of steps between the time a passenger arrives at the airport and the time they assume their seat on the plane. With all those gates to pass through, a long line up at check-in, “is one of the worst things that can happen to you,” says, Mike Maxwell, Director of Business Solutions at Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA).
Since taking over operation of Halifax Stanfield International Airport in 2000, HIAA has steadily invested in new infrastructure and technologies that can help it efficiently handle 3.6 million passengers and two million pieces of checked luggage every year.
One of the biggest bottlenecks in the system was a baggage handling system that had reached its operating capacity and an out-dated check-in hall. “The more we could simplify that process, the better the overall experience would be.”
Leveraging many of the technologies that they’d already put in place, HIAA created the first fully automated, common use self-service bag-drop solution in North America. Today travellers checking in simply visit a kiosk, enter their booking information and follow the prompts to print their own bag-tag. Then they mosey over to the bag drop, where they need only scan their boarding pass and place their luggage in the self-serve bag drop device.
With no other systems like it in the industry, HIAA, working with Softchoice Corporation, needed to pursue a custom solution that – in the end – gave them greater control and ongoing management of the process. “We didn’t just go to a technology partner and say, ‘do this and let us know when it’s finished’. We were the glue to make it happen.”
As a result, average check-in times at the airport have plummeted – with some passengers breezing through the process in less than two minutes,This quick processing allows for passengers to have extra time; time that can be redeployed for business calls, e-mail or for shopping, purchasing food and beverages, or just sitting down to read a book. “It’s all about keeping people productive and feeling comfortable,” he says.
Although the system has exceeded HIAA’s expectations, “we still have to focus on making it better.” With most IT projects, “it’s typical for everyone to get their t-shirt and move on.” But if his team hears that even one customer was prevented from using the system efficiently, “then we’re going to try and find and fix that problem.”
Maxwell notes that one of the greatest endorsement of the system’s performance came when an executive from another airport visited the terminal building recently. “He came into the new check-in hall, but wasn’t sure where to go at first, because there weren’t any lineups.”