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"We have been delivering world-class technology for much of our 70-year history. From the first self-service car parking system to a world first in medical injectors. From the original brushless servo motor to 'next generation' 4G wireless test equipment."

DAVE SMITH HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, PA CONSULTING GROUP

PA Technology Heritage - world-class innovations that have stood the test of time

We have been delivering world-class technology and innovation for much of our 70-year history. From the first self-service car parking system to a world first in medical injectors. From the original brushless servo motor to 'next generation' 4G wireless test equipment. 

Visit our Technology and Innovation Heritage tour to see more. 


2013 PA's Dynamic QR authentication system to prevent fraud

PA Consulting Group's new technology allows consumers to instantly confirm the authenticity of luxury goods, tickets and other items via their smartphone.PA has pioneered a new approach, whereby a continuously changing QR code is attached to a product, device or ticket; the code can then be read and verified by the consumer upon purchase using a smartphone application. Each incarnation of the code is only valid for a specific time frame – seconds, minutes or hours, depending on the use – making it virtually impossible for fraudsters to copy. Previously, QR codes were unsuitable for secure authentication purposes, as the codes are easy to copy and duplicate.


2013 Revolutionary new Ora kitchen towel: from concept to shelf in less than 12 months

PA Consulting Group, working closely with its client Better All Round Ltd (BAR), has helped to develop, manufacture and launch Ora, a revolutionary new kitchen towel, in record time. The product is now being produced at the PA technology centre, outside Cambridge using a completely newly developed manufacturing process. The PA team also helped to develop and ring fence the intellectual property around the unique form and stacking manufacturing process. They provided end-to-end support from developing the initial idea and business case to securing the finance. 

 

2013 Identifying potential cost savings of 21% to make wave energy converter commercially viable

Aquamarine Power realised that significant cost savings were required for its second generation wave energy converter to be commercially viable. By bringing together the right team – combining expertise in innovation with experience of value creation and cost analysis in manufacturing – we could work out costs for each stage of production from concept to operation. We used this analysis to propose design changes for three key components and identify opportunities to reduce expenditure associated with assembly and maintenance. Our work identified potential savings of 21% and additional design changes and improvement measures to close the remaining gap with the target of £1.1million. 

 

2013 How to shrink a base-station into a Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi, a $30 computer about the size of a credit card, is targeted at educating the next generation of software and hardware engineers in programming. Recognising its potential, we teamed up with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to launch a competition (now closed to new entrants) that challenged schoolchildren, students and programmers to use a Raspberry Pi to make the world a better place. Meanwhile, to evaluate what the platform was capable of, our wireless experts at the PA Technology Centre got hold of a Raspberry Pi to see if we could implement a mobile phone base-station that could run our own private mobile-phone network.

 

2012 Meet the Brusheads - a new PA concept for children's toothbrushes

PA Consulting Group's new concept for a range of fun and portable toothbrushes, which are designed to encourage children to develop positive brushing habits and make teeth-brushing an enjoyable and playful part of the day. The Brusheads also feature intelligent sensors that recognise brushing patterns and play audio messages to encourage better brushing.

 

2012 Realising the value of emerging technology start-ups

To create maximum long-term value, technology start-ups must build a technology development and commercialisation strategy which is fit for the future, focusing on five critical success factors: retaining control of core IP, extracting value from strategic partners, developing technology in an efficient and risk managed way, focusing on fast track commercialisation for early revenue generation and looking to consumers to validate product design and innovation decisions. PA's new survey supports emerging companies in their commercialisation journey.

 

2012 Technology Growth Report: How to unlock sustainable growth in the UK

PA Consulting Group and George Freeman MP have held a series of 'roundtable' meetings to draw on the insights and practical experiences of leading scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders in key technology and innovation sectors. Over 100 leaders have come together to explore the key drivers, opportunities and challenges facing their sectors and to identify where they see the greatest opportunities for growth and what they believe needs to be done in their sector to unlock it.

 

2012 Using innovative procurement techniques to deliver an explosive device detection system

To protect soldiers in Afghanistan, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) urgently needed a vehicle-based system to detect improvised explosive devices hidden below road surfaces. Off-the-shelf solutions existed but were considered unsatisfactory. Customising a solution, however, would extend the timescale and leave soldiers at risk for longer. Our work included assessing a wide range of candidate system and subsystems to help the MOD select the right solution. It took just 11 months to move from investment decision to operational use. The system has been saving lives since early 2011. The procurement approach saved an estimated £9 million of upfront costs plus projected lifetime costs of a further £8 million.

Winner of innovation category and top award for best overall project at the 2012 Management Consultancies Association (MCA) awards.

 

2012 Exacsys™ – Delivering a step change in blood glucose measurement and diabetes management

PA Consulting Group creates and develops its own IP. The latest example is Exacsys, a PA venture company, which is helping improve the accuracy of self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) systems for people with diabetes. Diabetes affects over 350 million people around the world and SMBG systems help them manage their condition.

The accuracy of current systems, however, has been called into question by patients as well as clinicians. Exacsys aims to substantially improve the self-monitoring of blood glucose, providing greater confidence in results and clinical management decisions. Exacsys has demonstrated a 'proof of concept' system and is developing the technology further to take it to market.


2012 Making the most of your Intellectual Property

PA has the expertise to help companies create, manage and exploit IP. Our patent evaluation skills helped Siemens strengthen its Essential IPR portfolio in WCDMA and WiMAX. We helped Burgopak on their innovative packaging design with both direct and ‘ring fencing’ IP to protect the manufacturing process.


2012 PA innovations feature in Design Icons exhibition

PA Consulting Group produced three of the 20 most important products to be designed in Cambridgeshire over the last 40 years, according to the city's Design Icons exhibition sponsored by the Design Council.

These are: Evian Action bottle developed to try and communicate Evian's values of purity and balance while targeting young consumers; Easi-Breathe® , the world's first breath-actuated metered-dose inhaler for Baker Norton (now part of Teva); and the Kenwood Juice Extractor , which represented a major new product category when launched at in the 1980s.

 

2011 Inhaler of the future

We are seeing a revolution in healthcare, enabled by technology, that provides individual patient information and, as a result, a far better understanding of disease states and the effectiveness of treatments. The drivers facilitating this change include evolving commercial models and new entrants into the healthcare arena. As an example of the future of healthcare, PA Consulting Group has developed a concept of the “inhaler of the future” and how the information age will ultimately deliver this exiting vision.


2011 Developing an innovative smart metering product

PA helped Landis+Gyr develop its latest 'ecoMeter' in-home display: part of the first smart metering system roll out in the UK. The smart meter helps consumers to reduce their demand for energy and lower their bills; and utilities to reduce costs and improve customer service. PA combined industrial and user experience design, behavioural science, electronics, mechanics, radio and software design to create an innovative product for reducing domestic energy use. First functional units were exhibited seven months after starting, with full software and delivery to production completed a few months later. In the UK the product will initially be seen by end customers as part of the British Gas pioneering smart meter roll out.


2011 Novel diagnostic instrument

PA Consulting Group helped Sphere Medical to develop an in vitro blood analyser in 9 months. Sphere Medical Ltd, one of the UK's leading medical device / diagnostic companies, needed to develop an in vitro blood analyser for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients in critical care. The instrument incorporated Sphere's novel sensing technology and, crucially, had to be developed in extremely tight timescales. The joint PA/Sphere team took the instrument from concept to regulatory submission in nine months – a process that, for an instrument of this complexity, might normally be expected to take at least double that time.


2011 Home energy device to help reduce carbon footprint

PA Consulting Group was instrumental in accelerating the development of an innovative home energy display device for Onzo, an in-home energy information provider. We worked on the energy display device – in effect 'technology in a box' – which forms the major part of Onzo's commercially-focused system. The device detects whole house electricity consumption and converts it to a real-time digital display, as well as providing expanded services via the Internet.

Studies demonstrate that providing data in this way changes consumer behaviour and reduces energy consumption. Our insight accelerated the development of the display device from initial concept to volume manufacture.


2010 New handset product

Sepura was developing a new hand-portable in a programme targeted at an ITT for a large European market. The development timeline was ambitious, aiming for a 40% improvement on previous benchmarks. PA Consulting Group assisted the Sepura team to meet the complex mechanical integration of components and systems by establishing a programme of rapid development of robust solutions. The combined Sepura and PA team had the depth of experience and breadth to resolve more than 100 complex technical issues in three months. Sepura has met its ambitious development programme for the STP8000 hand-portable which is now successfully launched and achieving sales in the global TETRA market place.


2010 Unique 'fresh air' technology to kill superbugs

Tri-Air Developments approached PA Consulting Group with some exciting product ideas in the area of air and surface decontamination. This unique 'fresh air' technology naturally and safely decontaminates indoor air and surfaces to protect against viruses, bacteria and superbugs, including MRSA, SARS and Influenza. PA took the engine of the demonstrator and developed a number of industrial designs for the target markets. This "works-like, looks-like" demonstrator helped Tri-Air Developments secure the orders and its initial revenue streams. PA undertook a rapid product and manufacturing development to reduce the cost and make the product manufacturable by standard contract electronic manufacturers. It achieved this in under 6 months. 
           
2010 Product development: new processes for a new world
 

Product development: new processes for a new world PA Consulting Group – in conjunction with the University of Cambridge Engineering Design Centre (EDC)’s – led a symposium that resulted in some key factors in improving product development processes: Good project leadership is rare and a differentiator in success – it means owning a holistic view of the outcome and rising above every day project management and monitoring; Different industries can learn a lot from each other but don’t often cross the sector boundaries to do this; In many highly regulated industries compliance is essential, and in others risks must be taken to stay ahead of nimble competition in increasingly rapid development cycles.
     
2010 PA Testing iPhone4's antenna performance 

Tests carried out by PA Consulting Group indicated that Apple’s iPhone 4 does indeed suffer from connectivity problems compared to other smartphones. In the majority of the tests PA found the iPhone 4’s performance was in the same range as the other smartphones tested (Blackberry 9700, HTC HD2), but it was consistently at the lower end of that range; and, when used in the “death grip”, the iPhone 4’s performance was significantly worse than other smartphones. This comes down to a trade-off between the great design of products such as the iPhone 4 and levels of performance in terms of call quality and speed of internet browsing.

 

2009 Defining a high speed manufacturing process 

Burgopak identified the opportunity to apply its unique design to pharmaceutical blister pack products but needed help to identify a high speed manufacturing process. PA Consulting Group helped the Burgopak team define the complete manufacturing process route. We also helped Burgopak protect their innovation with intellectual property (IP) to protect the manufacturing process. With the IP secured, Burgopak were able to form a partnership alliance with Bosch Sigpack and start to fully realise the commercial potential of their innovation. The company is now producing pharmaceutical packaging in Wales with a high speed machine capable of producing 20 million units a year.

 

2009 Developing test equipment for fourth generation (4G) mobile networks 

PA Consulting Group helped Catapult, now part of Ixia, to develop a piece of test equipment for the latest fourth generation (4G) mobile networks. In under 10 months, we helped Catapult develop a LTE PHY (a highly efficient means of conveying both data and control information). The requirements included fast development, high throughput, flexibility for performance and upgrade, and effective interfaces to the higher layers of the test system. The work has allowed Catapult to make a major move into a new and fast moving market sector 

 

2008 Manufacturing Advisory Service for the North East of England

Delivering the Manufacturing Advisory Service for the North East of England. In 2008, PA Consulting Group was selected to combine the existing Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) for the North East and North East Productivity Alliance (NEPA) to provide support for North East manufacturers. The Service – operated by PA– improves efficiency, resource efficiency, design and innovation and currently works with over 60 new firms every month. On average, MAS NE interventions in businesses result in 25% productivity improvements, 26% on time delivery improvements and increased stock turnover of 33%.

2008 Galileo – Europe’s new global satellite navigation system
 

PA Consulting Group led a European commission (FP6)-funded consortium of six European organisations, referred to as GREAT (Galileo receiver for the mass market). This has delivered a library of demonstrable core technology intellectual property with the aim of kick-starting future receiver developments. Within the Galileo environment, high-volume mass market receivers are key to opening up the market for precision location services and to increasing technology adoption. Galileo will therefore offer European companies opportunities in a growing sector with an annual market estimated to be over EUR 200 billion in 2020 with three billion receivers in service. 

 

2007 Developing an Innovative cardiovascular diagnostic system 

PA Consulting Group has helped Thermocore Medical develop a new diagnostic system to assess patients for the likelihood of a sudden heart attack. PA managed the coordination of a range of manufacturers, designers and suppliers across Europe and the US – and led the development of the core system component, a catheter that is doubly innovative. Firstly, it is smaller than previous versions of the device. Secondly, it incorporates specially designed technology to make the catheter easier and quicker to use.
 
2006 Development of a novel colonoscope 
    

PA Consulting Group developed a novel colonoscope for Ethicon Endo-Surgery from initial concept to clinical trial units in twelve months.

The device was smaller, lighter and more flexible than existing colonoscopes and used a guidewire to facilitate navigation through the colon. Risk to the programme was minimised through early prototype testing and regular design reviews. An extract from the published conclusions of the phase one study said: "…successful in over 90% of patients with previous failure of complete colonoscopy."
     
2004 Introducing new technology for London’s bus network 

Transport for London (TfL) manages bus services across London and provides core infrastructure for nearly 10,000 vehicles. PA Consulting Group was asked to review the current systems, used in communications, locating and routing buses, looking at the technology, delivery chain and the human interactions. A new set of systems needed to be provided, and PA was asked to demonstrate performance of a number of the underlying technologies, specifically GPRS for data communications, and GPS for location. As part of the strategy development, PA implemented a number of trials, using specially developed equipment placed onto operational buses running through London.

 

2003 Automating high-throughput inhaler testing for AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca's existing analytical test automation could not be efficiently upgraded or replicated to meet the future capacity requirements for product testing, so a new system was needed. PA Consulting Group was asked to prepare the user requirements specification and then to develop the new system. We used our in-house facilities to develop prototypes, including control software, for the key modules of the new system. The new machines matched up to the specification, generating test data four times faster than the previous systems.
        
2003 Aegate patient safety network
 

Aegate was founded by PA Consulting Group to provide a unique patient safety network that opens a direct, IT enabled communications channel between pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, regulators and professional organisations. The channel provides real-time medicine authentication and delivers up to the minute safety information, whilst the pharmacist is dispensing the medicine to the patient.

 

2002 Defining an approach for introducing a national GSM-R network 

The Federal Office of Transport needed to identify the most appropriate railway communication and signalling system in Switzerland where 50-60 railway companies operated. PA Consulting Group was engaged to analyse all the risks involved with a national implementation of the preferred technology – GSM-R (GSM for Railways). PA analysed different GSM-R operators and all existing GSM-R infrastructure and terminal vendors across Europe. PA investigated planning issues related to the Swiss terrain and also built a cost model accounting for infrastructure as well as terminal investment and operational cost. 
 

2001 Meridica - innovative drug delivery venture 

PA Consulting Group formed Meridica in May 2001 and it achieved excellence in the area of drug delivery. During two years of incubation within PA, it developed four key areas of IPR. Following a licensing and equity deal with Pfizer Inc. for Meridica’s Dry Powder Inhaler, Xcelovair™, PA subsequently sold the remainder of the shares in this successful venture for $125MM to Pfizer.


2001 Creating a new unique bottle design for Evian

Evian came to PA Consulting Group for help in stimulating the bottled water market.PA demonstrated skills in visual and technological creativity, together with an in-depth knowledge of manufacturing and production implementation issues. PA’s understanding of the complex interaction between market, consumer, brand and technical requirements produced a truly innovative product design with aspirational qualities and practical appeal. PA’s engineering and production experience enabled compliance with the technical and cost constraints stipulated by Evian. The unique design was pre-launched on target to the French retail trade in early 2000, as a result of which demand for Evian’s product tripled.

 

1999 First demonstration of ‘next generation’ 3G technology

Motorola pips competitors to the UMTS post with PA testing technology
With the support of an engineering team from PA Consulting Group, Motorola was able to demonstrate working UMTS technology ahead of the competition. The two companies produced a convincing demonstration of Motorola’s 3G (third generation) base station in time for one of the earliest trade shows in this field - a joint achievement that helped to assure Motorola a leading position in 3G infrastructure provision.

1999 UbiNetics – world leader in 3G mobile technology

In 1999 PA Consulting Group founded UbiNetics, a company which became a world leader in 3G test and measurement products. In May 2005 the Test and Measurement division of UbiNetics was sold to Aeroflex Incorporated for $84.5MM and in July 2005 PA agreed to sell the other half of the venture – Volume Product Technology – to CSR Plc for $48MM.

 

1998 Re-designing patient-monitoring equipment to reduce manufacturing cost 

PA Consulting Group was asked by Critikon to redesign the DINAMAP® Compact Monitor so that it was easier and less expensive to manufacture, without compromising performance or reliability. State-of-the-art CAD/CAM and development methodologies enabled Critikon and PA to evaluate design options in real time and find the optimum blend of technical and aesthetic qualities. The new design achieved high levels of performance and reliability, while delivering low manufacturing costs and retaining the essential form of the original monitor in an innovative new style. 

 

1995 Quality inspection without compromising manufacturing speed

To address the risk of glass particle contamination in filled bottles of beer, Heineken developed with PA Consulting Group an in-process 100% automatic inspection system. A demonstration system exploiting custom optics and mechanical handling was built and shown to be capable of speeds in excess of the then current line speeds.
                 

1994 Easi-Breathe – the first breath-actuated Meter Dose Inhaler (MDI) 

PA Consulting Group designed and developed the Easi-Breathe breath-actuated metered dose inhaler for Baker Norton (now part of IVAX), PA’s role included: industrial design, design and build of engineering models, production design, and pre-production tooling. PA also designed, built and installed a series of on-line production test modules which inspected 100% of devices as part of manufacturing quality assurance.
         
1994 Innovative packaging for drinks market.
 

IDV (now UDV Diageo) had conceived and tested a radically new two-part product in the international drinks market – Sheridan’s Perfect Pour. While the brand had stimulated market interest worldwide, customer feedback on pouring the drink from two separate but joined bottles was not good. PA Consulting Group was given the task of designing and developing a new ‘fool-proof’ one-step pouring system within a twelve month timescale to meet a launch date. The Sheridan’s Perfect Pour was introduced on time to a worldwide market, enabling IDV to build a substantial new drinks market and brand around the novel concept.

 

1994 Next generation food processor for Vorwerk 

Vorwerk, a leading German manufacturer of consumer appliances, approached PA Consulting Group to design and develop a next-generation version of one of its products. They were looking for a new product capable of taking them into the 21st century in terms of design specification and performance. 

PA developed a food processor which could knead bread dough, weigh and mix the ingredients for a delicate sauce, cook the sauce and boil a litre of water . The product exceeded predicted sales for every country in which it was launched.
         
1993 PowderJect - helping turn a small drug delivery technology company into a global vaccine leader

PA Consulting Group helped PowderJect Pharmaceuticals Plc become one of the world’s leading vaccine companies. PA wrote the Chapter 20 Experts’ Report for the listing of PowderJect, an Oxford University spin-out company, on the London Stock Exchange. PA subsequently made a major contribution to setting the commercialisation strategy and advancing the development of PowderJect's innovative technology and pipeline of products. Following its acquisition of the Medeva Vaccines business, assisted by PA, PowderJect became one of the top five vaccine companies in the world. 
 
1992 Courage ‘widget’ – from original concepts to full-scale manufacture 

To reassert its market leadership, Courage urgently needed a similar in-can head generation device to compete with competitors’ proprietary widget technology in time for the next peak sales period. Courage engaged PA Consulting Group to meet its objective to develop and introduce widget technology, and to implement a successful product launch in under a year. PA developed the widget design from initial technical concept generation, through bench testing and tooling development, to full-scale manufacture and introduction to the supplier.

1991 Automated analysis of Danish meat 

The Danish Meat Research institute (DMRI) had been developing a technique for the determination of ‘boar taint’ – an offensive odour which is released from pork when it is cooked. PA Consulting Group developed the first prototype automated analysis system for DMRI and, following extensive trials, it was decided to adopt the process throughout Denmark. In February 1990, PA was awarded the contract for the design, production, engineering, manufacture and delivery of 18 such systems to equip the entire Danish pig meat industry. Using its breadth of resources, PA provided the capability and infrastructure for all phases of the work from specification to small-scale manufacture. 

 

1990 Designing inhalers to monitor patient compliance 

As part of a post-launch surveillance programme, Glaxo Wellcome
commissioned the construction of a substantial number of inhalers with built-in computer data logging. These used microelectronics technology built inside metered dose and multi-dose dry powder inhalers which keep electronic records of inhaler use. 

PA Consulting Group’s role included the design of the modified inhalers, development of electronics and software, and support for Glaxo Wellcome during manufacture of the devices. 

 

1989 Automated manufacturing and testing processes for ‘Femidom’ - female condom

PA Consulting Group helped the Female Health Company with the design and development of bespoke assembly and test equipment to enable state-of-the-art, on-line, non-destructive leak detection of the product, at then unrivalled accuracies and speed. With PA's help, the Female Health Company was able to establish a world class 35,000 sq ft clean manufacturing facility on a greenfield site and achieve the launch of the female condom in Europe and the US. The Female Health Company won the 2002 Queen's Award for Enterprise
    

1987 New home pregnancy-testing kit for Unilever

Unilever had developed, to proof-of-principle stage, a new technique for pregnancy testing. This needed one simple sampling stage and produced a result in three minutes instead of the normal thirty. PA Consulting Group helped take the laboratory concept through scale up of the chemical process and development of manufacturing technology. This included developing the production equipment and manufacturing process, and producing prototype manufacturing equipment. PA helped take the product from laboratory concept to full manufacture in just 18 months. Within a year of launch, Clearblue One Step had achieved market leadership in many territories including the UK, USA, France and Italy.

1985 Applying moth eye research to the development of recordable CDs 

Understanding the non-reflective properties of the eye of the nocturnal moth – based on research undertaken jointly by PA Consulting Group and the University of Marseille – made it possible for PA to develop a non dye-based approach to recordable compact discs. Using interdisciplinary teams with experts in biology, optics, materials and electron beam science, PA developed the world’s largest interferometer to create a surface structure appropriate for the recordable CD master. Our technology continued to be used for applications such as document management until magnetic recording techniques achieved comparable density. The original microstructure technology developed by PA has proven to have a wide range of applications from pregnancy testing to non-reflective computer screens

 

1984 First hand-held portable tonometer 

PA Consulting Group developed the Keeler Pulsair – the first hand-held portable instrument for measuring the internal pressure of the eye gently and accurately. It can help to prevent blindness by detection of diseases such as glaucoma. This technology has been used extensively by opticians and optometrists to the present day.

 

1983 A world’s first in point-of-sale paint blenders 

PA Consulting Group developed this machine, the first of its kind in the world, which incorporated a custom flame-proofed electronic weighscale to dispense and mix different paint colours from tint components rapidly and accurately at the point of sale for customers. This allowed fast order turnaround with minimum inventory and revolutionised industrial paint distribution.
         
1982 One of the first speech recognition systems

PA Consulting Group developed one of the first speech recognition systems using a mathematical technique known as a hidden Markov model and this achieved 97% recognition accuracy.

This anechoic chamber at PA’s Cambridge Technology Centre was used on several development projects including loudspeaker development and noise minimisation in household products. This technology remains current and is an essential part of modern speech recognition systems.
 

1981 Low energy autonomous dwelling

PA Consulting Group commissioned Richard Rogers to develop this autonomous dwelling which is self-sufficient, ecologically integrated and non-polluting. With maximum utilisation of natural energy resources and waste re-cycling, the dwelling was designed to exist anywhere, free from costly service support infrastructure. Energy consumption during manufacturing and assembly processes was also minimised. The mobile dwelling could open and close like a flower in response to the day and night cycle, and turn towards the sun. It was the winner of “the house for today” competition at the Hanover Fair.
             
1980 Bosch Servodyn – original brushless servo motor 

PA Consulting Group first demonstrated this technology as a bicycle wheel motor that racing driver Graham Hill drove around our car park in 1975. The original brushless servo motor (called a double-ended claw) developed into three product lines: machine tool drives using ferrite magnets; high performance robot drives using rare earth magnets; and induction motor spindle drives with microprocessor controllers. Bosch achieved sales of around 10000 axles per year representing DM 30MM revenue and 30% of the German market. This technology is still used in today’s vehicles, machine tools and servo systems.
         
1979 World’s most ‘intelligent’ payphone

There was a wide range of innovation within this product developed by PA Consulting Group. It was the first use of CMOS semiconductors in a payphone, eliminating the need for high energy power supplies in kiosks. The coin-handling system was also innovative and was vandal resistant – alerting the police if someone interfered with it. When the payphone was launched in 1979, it established Plessey as the world's leading manufacturer of 'intelligent' payphones.

Plessey initially sold the range into 15 countries including the UK, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Spain, Eire, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. By 1986 it had accounted for around £160M worth of business and can still be seen in regular use today.

           

1978 Micrometer wins major design awards

The Duke of Edinburgh's designer's prize was awarded to PA Consulting Group for the world’s first micro digital micrometer. This precision measuring instrument was designed by PA’s John Fisher and earned PA, together with our client Moore & Wright, the Queen’s Award for Technological Innovation. It was the first time the award had been presented to a consulting company. In the same year, Moore & Wright won the UK Design council’s award (engineering products) for the micrometer. The instrument proved a successful product for Moore & Wright in subsequent years, selling 2500 instruments in 1986 and providing a business of around £1m per annum. 

 

1975 World’s first private digital telephone exchange

PA developed the first digital private telephone exchange, the Polygon, for Great Northern Telegraph in Denmark. It had a total capacity of 128 internal and 128 external lines, and a traffic capacity of 14 simultaneous conversations. The telephone units had direct pushbutton or keyboard selection. Special features included the establishment of a telephone conference between multiple units and one external line; loud speaking in-monitoring facility, application as a paging system; and metering of external traffic from individual units to enable settling of accounts. Similar technology is used in today’s exchanges.

 

1975 Duke of Edinburgh opens PA's Cambridge Technology Centre

His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the new Cambridge Technology Centre. Gordon Edge, who led PA’s technology business from 1970 to 1986, presents the Duke of Edinburgh with a compass made from rare earth magnet technology developed by PA. PA went on to develop innovations such as the brushless servo motor with this technology, which is still used today in vehicles, machine tools and servo systems.
 

1975 PA’s Cambridge Technology Centre wins design awards

PA Consulting Group commissioned Richard Rogers to create a prestige headquarters and laboratory complex. The floor space inside is divided into laboratories, which are enclosed at the centre of the building, and support space and all partitioning, which is made moveable to provide for changing requirements. This was one of the first ever open-plan offices, conceived that way to promote the interdisciplinary working that has enabled some of PA’s greatest breakthroughs. Awards: Financial Times Industrial Architecture Award; 1976 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Regional Award 1977         .
         
1971 One of the first electronic pump dispensers

PA developed an advanced electronic fuelling system for Dresser-Wayne. The heart of the dispenser was an early microprocessor-based computer. Electronic pulses transmitted directly from the meter to the computer. Advanced microprocessor electronic circuitry translated the pulses into useable data in the form of digital dollar and volume displays. Each pump or dispenser was designed to stand alone. No central computer or central power malfunction of a single dispenser could cause an entire installation to be shut down. 

 

1970 First self-service car parking system

PA developed an electronic car park control system for Godwin Warren. Drivers received a ticket with a unique 4-digit code which they tapped into the system to calculate the necessary payment on exit. It also incorporated innovations such as a new type of touch-button control – the first that could be used in the open air unaffected by rain. It was demonstrated successfully working under water.

 
1967 Developing advanced computer systems

Throughout the 1960s, PA Consulting Group helped companies maximise the value of computer systems in their businesses. Projects included the development of an advanced electronic data processing (EDP) system for the Sydney Stock Exchange. This was followed by the development of a similar system for the Australian racing industry’s Totalisator system. We also developed an integrated EDP management information system at ICI Plastics, which provided key financial information to managers in half the time of previous manual systems.   

 

1963 Improving the manufacturing process of Axminster carpets

In the manufacturing of Axminster carpets, the operator worked from a painted design and had to arrange bobbins of yarn on a frame in the correct colour sequence. This resulted in a considerable amount of time to make just one carpet. PA Consulting Group was involved in the development of a new type of frame and a computer-based system, which both tabulated the operating instructions and incorporated complex 'short cut' procedures. The new system also calculated the sequence in which the lines of carpet should be prepared to do the job with the minimum number of bobbin changes.

 

1958 PA launches computers and telecoms business

PA Consulting Group was at the forefront of assessing the impact of computers on the business world. PA was a leader in the development of electronic data processing (EDP) systems as a means of improving organisations' financial control systems. PA started its computer and telecoms business in 1958 and, during the 1960s, developed advanced computer-based systems for organisations such as ICI Plastics and the Sydney Stock Exchange.

 

1958 Accelerating inspection systems at the Bank of England

The Bank of England's policy was to examine all banknotes at the end of their life, as a security check on forgeries, ‘foreigners’ and mutilations. This time-consuming task was carried out by new recruits and the Bank was under significant pressure to carry out this key security function more efficiently. PA Consulting Group's assignment first involved complex statistical studies to support the creation of a complete inspection operation. New equipment was designed and developed which raised inspection speed threefold to 16 notes per second, creating the effect of a continuous image and considerably improving the detection rate.       
 
     

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Mark Humphries
Product development and manufacturing
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