INTEGRATED Solutions Ltd (ISL,) one of Hong Kong's few home-grown software companies, has launched an update of one of its remote production management programmes. X-Connect 96 is an update of a product first released in 1992 as an addition to the company's remote production package, MIS. In its original version, X-Connect focused on inventory and production control from the central site to the remote factory location. The latest version has been widened to cover purchasing, sales and other financial data and the software allows mutual updating of both master and transactional files. The result is 'virtually transparent' flow of master records within the organisation, according to the company. X-Connect is an off-line data exchange product, designed to run in conjunction with MIS. The company says it offers big communications savings to companies by allowing data transfer in batches. Time spent preparing data is off-line, eliminating much of the IDD charges otherwise involved. Remote sites using X-Connect, usually factory locations, would send in their data on a daily or weekly basis, depending on head office policy. According to ISL managing director Ricky Leung, on-line time can be reduced to 15 minutes per day using X-Connect's batch data transfer system. The system was designed with Hong Kong companies' China operations in mind. 'The telecommunications service to China is not only prohibitively expensive but unreliable as well,' Mr Leung said. 'The cost, availability and reliability of phone lines to China have made it infeasible for small to middle-sized companies to use in daily operations.' The only alternative to using IDD in China is to rent a leased line but they are out of reach to all but bigger companies because of their cost, about HK$50,000 to $80,000 per month. So far, ISL has installed about 200 of its MIS packages, with each customer running several remote sites, mostly in China, with the software. ISL, based at the Hong Kong Industrial Technology Centre (HKITC) in Kowloon Tong, was one of the first companies involved in the HKITC's business incubation programme, graduating this year. 'ISL provides a good example of how a local software firm could succeed with a market vision and the right technology,' said HKITC chief executive James Liu. Describing the launch of X-Connect as a milestone, he said the lack of a success precedent had been a main constraint to the development of Hong Kong's software industry.