The New Zealand Customs Service has started planning a major
upgrade of its internal data warehouse, which has already played a
crucial role in helping to identify and apprehend drug
The Customs data warehouse project, named Nexus, has been in
place in its present form since 2001, running on a Microsoft SQL
Server 2000 back-end with Cognos as its analysis and presentation
With 1,300 staff, the New Zealand Customs Service is responsible
for processing 9 million passengers each year.
The warehouse incorporated data from a variety of systems,
including passenger movements and goods import information, and
presented it in a series of standardised reports, explained chief customs
officer John Priest during a presentation at the Cognos
World user forum on the Gold Coast this week.
The current data warehouse was 800GB in size and growing at
around 20GB each month, with 500 staff regularly accessing the
The ability to quickly group information ranging from the volume
of incoming planes to the travel habits of individuals had proved
invaluable, Priest said: "We've given our analysts the ability to
make better decisions."
One recently developed warrant report allows Customs officers to
quickly generate the necessary paperwork to apply to courts for a
search or seizure warrant.
Reports drawn from Nexus had proved particularly useful in
countering the growing trade in methamphetamines, Priest said,
helping to identify possible drug mules and associates.
Customs upgraded from Cognos 7.1 to 8.2 in 2007,
but was already planning to update the system to the 8.4 release
this year, Priest said.
Further changes in the near future would include examining
whether an extranet-style environment could be developed to allow
other trusted government agencies to access relevant data.
Monthly reports were regularly distributed via email and fax, but
this was a relatively inefficient process. "Data mining is something the business wants to look at,"
Customs also wants to introduce Cognos' Go! Office software,
which provides access to reports using standard desktop tools such
as Microsoft Office or mobile devices such as the BlackBerry, and
enhance charting functions to make use of GPS data on vessel
movements which is already in the warehouse.
Nexus was a good demonstration of how data warehousing could be
useful even outside the traditional confines of fiscal planning and
prediction, Priest said. "Warehouses aren't always finance-based
or planning based."
Angus Kidman travelled to Queensland as a guest of