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4.11 (Optional) Software Engineering Case Study: Identifying Class Attributes in the ATM System

In Section 3.11, we began the first stage of an object-oriented design (OOD) for our ATM system—analyzing the requirements specification and identifying the classes needed to implement the system. We listed the nouns and noun phrases in the requirements specification and identified a separate class for each one that plays a significant role in the ATM system. We then modeled the classes and their relationships in a UML class diagram (Fig. 3.23). Classes have attributes (data) and operations (behaviors). Class attributes are implemented in C++ programs as data members, and class operations are implemented as member functions. In this section, we determine many of the attributes needed in the ATM system. In Chapter 5, we examine how these attributes represent an object's state. In Chapter 6, we determine class operations.

Identifying Attributes

Consider the attributes of some real-world objects: A person's attributes include height, weight and whether the person is left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous. A radio's attributes include its station setting, its volume setting and its AM or FM setting. A car's attributes include its speedometer and odometer readings, the amount of gas in its tank and what gear it is in. A personal computer's attributes include its manufacturer (e.g., Dell, Sun, Apple or IBM), type of screen (e.g., LCD or CRT), main memory size and hard disk size.

We can identify many attributes of the classes in our system by looking for descriptive words and phrases in the requirements specification. For each one we find that plays a significant role in the ATM system, we create an attribute and assign it to one or more of the classes identified in Section 3.11. We also create attributes to represent any additional data that a class may need, as such needs become apparent throughout the design process.

Figure 4.19 lists the words or phrases from the requirements specification that describe each class. We formed this list by reading the requirements specification and identifying any words or phrases that refer to characteristics of the classes in the system. For example, the requirements specification describes the steps taken to obtain a "withdrawal amount," so we list "amount" next to class Withdrawal.

Fig. 4.19 Descriptive words and phrases from the ATM requirements.


Descriptive words and phrases


user is authenticated


account number


account number amount


account number amount


[no descriptive words or phrases]


account number




[no descriptive words or phrases]


[no descriptive words or phrases]


begins each day loaded with 500 $20 bills


[no descriptive words or phrases]

Figure 4.19 leads us to create one attribute of class ATM. Class ATM maintains information about the state of the ATM. The phrase "user is authenticated" describes a state of the ATM (we introduce states in Section 5.10), so we include userAuthenticated as a Boolean attribute (i.e., an attribute that has a value of either true or false). The UML Boolean type is equivalent to the bool type in C++. This attribute indicates whether the ATM has successfully authenticated the current user—userAuthenticated must be true for the system to allow the user to perform transactions and access account information. This attribute helps ensure the security of the data in the system.

Classes BalanceInquiry, Withdrawal and Deposit share one attribute. Each transaction involves an "account number" that corresponds to the account of the user making the transaction. We assign an integer attribute accountNumber to each transaction class to identify the account to which an object of the class applies.

Descriptive words and phrases in the requirements specification also suggest some differences in the attributes required by each transaction class. The requirements specification indicates that to withdraw cash or deposit funds, users must enter a specific "amount" of money to be withdrawn or deposited, respectively. Thus, we assign to classes Withdrawal and Deposit an attribute amount to store the value supplied by the user. The amounts of money related to a withdrawal and a deposit are defining characteristics of these transactions that the system requires for them to take place. Class BalanceInquiry, however, needs no additional data to perform its task—it requires only an account number to indicate the account whose balance should be retrieved.

Class Account has several attributes. The requirements specification states that each bank account has an "account number" and "PIN," which the system uses for identifying accounts and authenticating users. We assign to class Account two integer attributes: accountNumber and pin. The requirements specification also specifies that an account maintains a "balance" of the amount of money in the account and that money the user deposits does not become available for a withdrawal until the bank verifies the amount of cash in the deposit envelope, and any checks in the envelope clear. An account must still record the amount of money that a user deposits, however. Therefore, we decide that an account should represent a balance using two attributes of UML type Double: available-Balance and totalBalance. Attribute availableBalance tracks the amount of money that a user can withdraw from the account. Attribute totalBalance refers to the total amount of money that the user has "on deposit" (i.e., the amount of money available, plus the amount waiting to be verified or cleared). For example, suppose an ATM user deposits $50.00 into an empty account. The totalBalance attribute would increase to $50.00 to record the deposit, but the availableBalance would remain at $0. [Note: We assume that the bank updates the availableBalance attribute of an Account soon after the ATM transaction occurs, in response to confirming that $50 worth of cash or checks was found in the deposit envelope. We assume that this update occurs through a transaction that a bank employee performs using some piece of bank software other than the ATM. Thus, we do not discuss this transaction in our case study.]

Class CashDispenser has one attribute. The requirements specification states that the cash dispenser "begins each day loaded with 500 $20 bills." The cash dispenser must keep track of the number of bills it contains to determine whether enough cash is on hand to satisfy withdrawal requests. We assign to class CashDispenser an integer attribute count, which is initially set to 500.

For real problems in industry, there is no guarantee that requirements specifications will be rich enough and precise enough for the object-oriented systems designer to determine all the attributes or even all the classes. The need for additional (or fewer) classes, attributes and behaviors may become clear as the design process proceeds. As we progress through this case study, we too will continue to add, modify and delete information about the classes in our system.

Modeling Attributes

The class diagram in Fig. 4.20 lists some of the attributes for the classes in our system— the descriptive words and phrases in Fig. 4.19 helped us identify these attributes. For simplicity, Fig. 4.20 does not show the associations among classes—we showed these in Fig. 3.23. This is a common practice of systems designers when designs are being developed. Recall from Section 3.11 that in the UML, a class's attributes are placed in the middle compartment of the class's rectangle. We list each attribute's name and type separated by a colon (:), followed in some cases by an equal sign (=) and an initial value.

Consider the userAuthenticated attribute of class ATM:

userAuthenticated : Boolean = false

This attribute declaration contains three pieces of information about the attribute. The attribute name is userAuthenticated. The attribute type is Boolean. In C++, an attribute can be represented by a fundamental type, such as bool, int or double, or a class type— as discussed in Chapter 3. We have chosen to model only primitive-type attributes in Fig. 4.20—we discuss the reasoning behind this decision shortly. [Note: Figure 4.20 lists UML data types for the attributes. When we implement the system, we'll associate the UML types Boolean, Integer and Double with the C++ fundamental types bool, int and double, respectively.]

We can also indicate an initial value for an attribute. The userAuthenticated attribute in class ATM has an initial value of false. This indicates that the system initially does not consider the user to be authenticated. If an attribute has no initial value specified, only its name and type (separated by a colon) are shown. For example, the accountNumber attribute of class BalanceInquiry is an Integer. Here we show no initial value, because the value of this attribute is a number that we do not yet know—it will be determined at execution time based on the account number entered by the current ATM user.


Fig. 4.20 Classes with attributes.

Figure 4.20 does not include any attributes for classes Screen, Keypad and DepositSlot. These are important components of our system, for which our design process simply has not yet revealed any attributes. We may still discover some, however, in the remaining design phases or when we implement these classes in C++. This is perfectly normal for the iterative process of software engineering.

Note that Fig. 4.20 also does not include attributes for class BankDatabase. Recall from Chapter 3 that in C++, attributes can be represented by either fundamental types or class types. We have chosen to include only fundamental-type attributes in the class diagram in Fig. 4.20 (and in similar class diagrams throughout the case study). A class-type attribute is modeled more clearly as an association (in particular, a composition) between the class with the attribute and the class of the object of which the attribute is an instance. For example, the class diagram in Fig. 3.23 indicates that class BankDatabase participates in a composition relationship with zero or more Account objects. From this composition, we can determine that when we implement the ATM system in C++, we'll be required to create an attribute of class BankDatabase to hold zero or more Account objects. Similarly, we'll assign attributes to class ATM that correspond to its composition relationships with classes Screen, Keypad, CashDispenser and DepositSlot. These composition-based attributes would be redundant if modeled in Fig. 4.20, because the compositions modeled in Fig. 3.23 already convey the fact that the database contains information about zero or more accounts and that an ATM is composed of a screen, keypad, cash dispenser and deposit slot. Software developers typically model these whole/part relationships as compositions rather than as attributes required to implement the relationships.

The class diagram in Fig. 4.20 provides a solid basis for the structure of our model, but the diagram is not complete. In Section 5.10, we identify the states and activities of the objects in the model, and in Section 6.22 we identify the operations that the objects perform. As we present more of the UML and object-oriented design, we'll continue to strengthen the structure of our model.

Software Engineering Case Study Self-Review Exercises

  1. We typically identify the attributes of the classes in our system by analyzing the __________ in the requirements specification.

    1. nouns and noun phrases
    2. descriptive words and phrases
    3. verbs and verb phrases
    4. All of the above.
  2. Which of the following is not an attribute of an airplane?

    1. length
    2. wingspan
    3. fly
    4. number of seats
  3. Describe the meaning of the following attribute declaration of class CashDispenser in the class diagram in Fig. 4.20:

    count : Integer = 500

Answers to Software Engineering Case Study Self-Review Exercises

  1. b.

  2. c. Fly is an operation or behavior of an airplane, not an attribute.

  3. This indicates that count is an Integer with an initial value of 500. This attribute keeps track of the number of bills available in the CashDispenser at any given time.

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