Learn how Vice Software delivered on their affordable, predictable business model to build out an API that anyone will be able to utilize.
The Internet of Things, also known as IoT, refers to the (approximately) 21.5 billion interconnected devices that are now connected to the Internet all over the world. When you connect all these different objects together and add sensors to them, it enables them to communicate real-time data without involving a human being. For businesses working in industries such as environmental monitoring, air quality testing or energy auditing, the ability to securely and reliably collect and analyze IoT data is central to their profit model. That’s where Vice Software’s newest client, Engineering Design Group, LLC, comes in.
EDG makes it easier than ever for their customers to monitor distributed sensors and gather that data into one accessible place, but they wanted to take it one step further. By developing an application programming interface (API), which allows software applications to communicate with each other, any business will be able to harness the technology for their own endeavors. To do that, they needed to find a world class team of developers that understood their vision and had the expertise to make it a reality.
With Vice Software’s commitment to providing affordable, predictable software development, EDG’s decision to partner with them was a no-brainer. This was their experience.
EDG was founded in January of 2020 as a complete field-to-cloud system for monitoring distributed sensors around the world. Their hardware and software work in tandem to give customers a secure, scalable and robust Internet of Things (IoT) solution. This is how their end-to-end system breaks down:
The Hardware: At the core of every EDG system is an Environmental Monitoring Unit (EMU). These are wireless cellular and Wi-Fi based data-loggers which can monitor temperature, humidity and CO2, and have a stackable bus for EDG’s growing line of peripheral components.
The Software: EDG’s Client Portal allows customers to monitor data from one or more EMUs. It also allows users to send commands to multiple EMUs.
The API: EDG provides an API for customer hardware to interface with. When a piece of hardware boots up, it sends the sensor data to EDG’s platform through the API. Because they don’t want malicious systems dumping data into EDG’s system, the API allows the hardware to securely authenticate to EDG’s system.
The Mobile Apps: EDG creates highly customized mobile apps for their customers that allow them to monitor and control thousands of devices from their fingertips.
There are bits and pieces of this system — the custom mobile apps, the EDG Client Portal and hardware — that are reusable for companies to suit their specific needs. For instance, the University of Wyoming (UW) leveraged EDG’s IoT platform to remotely monitor CO2 measurements across a synchronized set of distributed systems. To accomplish this, EDG helped them create a fully automated and wireless network complete with a smart-battery charger which sources power from a solar panel and lithium ion battery. Other customers in a range of industries including renewable energy, mining or manufacturing have found their own unique applications, too.
“Part of our platform’s nature is scalability. We want our customers to look at EDG’s solution as an alternative to reinventing their own cloud infrastructure,” says Ryan Alford, Founder and CEO of EDG. “This will allow them to focus on their core competencies, whether that is designing IoT devices or developing apps. EDG’s cloud infrastructure will support our customers as they grow from just five devices, to several thousand.”
To make their system reusable to others, though, EDG needed a remastered API that would be up to the challenge.
The API is a small but key piece of the puzzle for EDG. With it, their software can connect with any hardware, even if it’s not their own. Devices designed by different manufacturers communicate using different protocols, which results in a major embedded learning curve for app developers. The API addresses that issue. By opening EDG’s API to third-party hardware developers, companies will be able to share device data and controls in such a way that allows app developers to access all devices in a single fashion.
In the past, the API was only used by EDG, though, so it was a bit specific for their needs. As they planned to open up usage of it to third parties, important questions arose. Namely, what kind of expectations would a third party developer have when forced to use EDG’s platform? And, how does EDG ensure that their API will behave for everyone rather than only their particular use cases?
“When developing our hardware and customer mobile apps, we wanted to standardize how the app retrieves data,” explains Alford. “We didn’t want our system to work in a way that only made sense to us. We wanted it to make sense for other developers, too.”
EDG had already defined what the API looked like at the top level; they just needed good developers to build out the backend, and crank it out in a short amount of time.
On top of that, they also wanted to be able to provide documentation for their API, allowing other developers to use EDG’s platform without heavy tech support.
EDG ultimately landed on Vice Software to help them build out their API due to their commitment to project visibility and maintaining open lines of communication. After all, EDG’s system is very complex, and it’s important to them that whoever they work with understands the intricacies of the code. In order for them to feel confident the team they work with stayed on track, they prioritized strong communication skills during the search.
“We immediately recognized they were a capable group that valued open communication and regular feedback,” Alford explains.
Vice Software took on the responsibility of coding the previously-defined API, a key component to EDG’s future business plans, and they did it in about four to six weeks. From the very beginning, EDG’s team was impressed with Vice Software’s methodology as they worked to set expectations from the get-go.
“A bunch of us sat down on a Zoom call to discuss expectations,” Alford remembers, “and on the fly, Ryan [Vice] wrote a roadmap for his team.”
Throughout the rest of the project, Vice Software followed this roadmap laid out in the kick-off call, and the process was able to unfold smoothly.
“It was nice to enter that relationship and see that level of professionalism,” says Alford.
Communication was at the core of the day-to-day process. Each morning began by going over what was completed and what was being worked on. Vice Software’s developers gave a summary of tasks they finished to EDG, and their stakeholders were able to review the kanban board in GitHub to see what tasks were on the horizon.
“As a CEO, it was easy to glance at the kanban board on a daily basis to get a quick visual and see how far along the project was,” explains Alford.
In a nutshell, this is how Vice Software and EDG worked together: EDG was responsible for defining and architecting each piece of the API, and Vice Software’s team read that definition to interpret what they needed and built it. Then, EDG followed up with testing to ensure it was interpreted correctly. Overall, the definition of the API involved somewhere between fifteen and twenty different pieces of functionality, all of which needed to be rigorously tested.
“We are probably not traditional in the software sense,” Alford explains. “We have a very stringent set of testing standards. Quality is everything.”
Because of the nature of this process — trading off the responsibility of interpreting functionality followed by testing the accuracy of that interpretation — the time difference between the US and Vice Software’s team in India was advantageous.
Right as the development team was finishing up their days in India and sharing their progress, the architects from EDG were just beginning their days in the US and were able to pick up where they left off.
When all is said and done, EDG is able to walk away with an API they’ll be able to share with third parties moving forward, and they were able to get it done on budget and on time. In fact, they’re already using it. Several custom mobile and web apps were built in tandem with EDG’s efforts with Vice software; these apps are slated to be released in the near future. The API itself will be released for public use in the fall of 2021.
In addition to developing the technology that will be central to this business model moving forward, EDG also learned that working with a software development team doesn’t have to be a frustrating, hair-pulling experience. It can even be quite enlightening.
“They didn’t just tell us how they worked; they showed us,” says Alford. “One of the things my co-founder and I talk about is that we learned processes from the Vice Software team that we can apply to our own business.”
Vice Software has been offering custom application development services for the better part of a decade. Cofounders Ryan Vice and Prashanth Tondapu are on a mission to improve software development by utilizing modern toolkits, a globally distributed team and a uniquely agile project structure that prioritizes their clients above all else.
The result? Vice Software is able to keep costs from skyrocketing while leveraging phenomenal talent. Their accurate estimates keep your project on budget while their lean development style allows them to move quickly and efficiently to produce the most valuable assets. With this formula, they are able to offer high-quality custom application development at an affordable price point.
Every industry faces unique challenges, but the flexibility and innovative problem solving inherent in custom development make it a viable solution for any business dilemma. If you’re ready to work with a team that embraces new technology in all its forms, request a quote from Vice Software today to get started.