How we dealt with the challenges of IoT

Coding, Technology
IoT

It’s a wonderfully exciting time to be working in the technology industry. There’s something really invigorating about waking in the morning and knowing that a staggeringly talented individual from a far-off country might contact you with strange ideas and problems you could never imagine.

One such client led to our first exposure in IoT, a technology we had been watching endlessly from afar but never quite had the chance to indulge ourselves in. Until now.

The Food Recognition Device

The client, who due to marketing reasons, wishes to remain unnamed for now, had created the hardware for a ‘Food Recognition Device’. Without divulging too many details, we can tell you the hardware doubles up as a simple, everyday object that everybody uses. The ‘Food Recognition Device’ recognizes any food object that is placed on it within a second, and will send the calorific and nutritional data to a mobile app that will help you manage your dietary goals.

There is no such mobile app yet and that’s where we came in.

But the problem was, the ‘Food Recognition Device’ didn’t actually exist at that time. We were being roped in to create an app for a hardware that didn’t exist. Yet. 

Despite the obvious difficulties, the challenge was far too compelling for us to say no.

IoT without the ‘T’

All we had to go on in the beginning was that the ‘Food Recognition Device’ would be using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) Technology to establish the connection between itself and the android phone.

BLE gave us our first clue. We had to find a substitute for the ‘Food Recognition Device’, one that could send data via BLE to an android phone.

Luckily, we didn’t have to look too far. iPhones were an ideal substitution. God Bless Steve Jobs.

With this arrived a major challenge, the data, called UUID, was sent in bytes, and by themselves were junk characters. We needed to convert them into a code that made sense to a human, while in the process, retaining the message the UUID carried.

Fortunately, we have excellent developers, who love writing code. The rest of us looked on while they typed away on their keyboards in what was greek to us, via a method totally incomprehensible to both myself and the average reader. (For the more technology-oriented reader, drop us a line and I’ll get my technology team to share additional details)

Thus we solved our first major problem. We simulated the hardware and created a program that would allow communication between itself and the android phone.

Of Image Recognition and Nutritional Data

This is the part we were most dreading, as anyone who has ever written a line of code knows, Image Recognition is a nightmarishly tough issue to solve.

However, just as we were preparing for a lengthy battle, our lives were made much simpler as we found a third-party API that could do the job for us.

With the help of the API, we could have effectively outsourced the critical part of our application, but we were’nt sure. There was relief and yet there was a sense of disappointment. After all, there’s something intoxicating about meeting challenges head-on, especially with a new field comes immense satisfaction!

Ultimately, the time we would save by using the third party API was just too much to be ignored. So we moved on and created a program to communicate with the API, integrated to reduce processing time at each turn.

We got the results in the form of JSON and communicated with another third party API for the nutritional facts of each food.

The rest of the story is fairly standard – Training and Testing.

Conclusion

One of the reasons Rishi and Dhawal founded Dignitas Digital was they wanted to build their capability in building hardcore technology so that one day we could launch our own, game-changing products.

The trick was to do all this without relying on external funding. A full-service digital agency was the obvious solution, and it has been a breathless mixture of using previously acquired skills and learning on the job that has brought us this far. And finally, in 2014, we reached the point where we began developing our own projects.

With this exposure to IoT, another exciting domain has opened its doors to us. While there are areas our expertise would be challenged, we are hoping that we are well on the way to meet our self-thrown challenge, the first step has been taken, and that’s always the hardest one.

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