Proof of Concept: Real Case from the Soft Industry Alliance’s Experience

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  In the previous article, our Delivery Manager helped to define basic principles of the Proof of Concept procedure. Today we are going to share a real case from our experience, which underwent the PoC stage and became a successful product.

Initial request and estimate

  A client came to Soft Industry Alliance with the idea to create multimedia classes in public schools . He understood that the available technical base for studying is far behind technical progress. Meanwhile, modern children got used to visual and interactive content and it’s hard to get them involved with just listening and writing activities.

  Our client was curious if it is possible to organize a quality education process with digitalization elements not using the internet. The standard “connection to server” model doesn’t work in most cases. High-speed internet in school classes is quite a rare thing in big cities, not to mention the situation in villages. The option of laying a broadband communication channel was declined since the cost of the work is excessive for state financing.

  After studying the project details, Soft Industry Alliance specialists came to the understanding that it requires the Proof of Concept procedure.

Testing hypotheses

 The implementation plan wasn’t clear at the beginning, and we wanted the client to save time and money, so we agreed to provide PoC for this project as the first step. We needed to prove that the idea could work successfully in the real world. As with any investigation, several hypotheses were formed and each of them was checked. We had several brainstorming sessions, studied different sources, and an experimental base was prepared according to one of the hypotheses, which we considered as the most working (reliable). 

  Going through all sorts of options, we discarded the one where a student receives content from a remote server. The option of downloading educational material from the school’s server was also rejected (in most cases, public schools cannot afford such expensive equipment). It was clear that we needed to find something simpler.

  It became clear that the easiest way to find information for modern people is by using their personal devices. Students’ individual devices could serve as  access points (ifa student hasn’t got any – it is easy to get some spare devices for the class or school).

Experiment

  With this idea it was clear which way to move forward. An access point should be connected to the device which distributes the content. Thus, we came up with the idea of a wireless local network. We assumed that the teacher’s laptop will become the content distributing device since it has a Wi-Fi module.

  There are 15-30 pupils in an average class. Our task was now clear to put the Wi-Fi module into router mode and connect all devices in the class to it. Soft Industry Alliance team conducted an experiment without content. The result was encouraging and all the devices kept the connection steadily. 

  The next limitation for us was the bandwidth of the Wi-Fi router. According to one of the key requirements of the project, all users at the same time, without delay and advertising, should be able to receive the necessary lesson material.

  In our office, we collected 30 different devices, connected it to the local network and from each device we began to request a video stream in HD quality from our makeshift server (laptop). After conducting several experiments with formats, content size, bit rate, the optimal variant was selected that worked stable and met the technical requirements. Thus, we moved one step further to the actual realization of this project. 

  The next stage was to ensure the security of “the laptop + 30 devices” network since in the neighboring class there could be exactly the same network. In other words, so that students in the  5-A class could not connect to students in the 5-B class and cause confusion. We came up with a simple and effective thing: to allow connection to the network only from the teacher’s laptop by scanning a QR code, which would contain all the necessary information to connect to the class’s local network (as in WhatsApp desktop version).

So, as a result, we got:

  1. a special local network for students in a school;
  2. guaranteed ability to receive high-quality content;
  3. independence from an external server/internet.

  Additional investigation revealed that we did not take into account students who for some reason cannot be in the class (due to sick leave, quarantine). Therefore, we suggested to create a special web resource for them (in this case, the internet is required) so that the teacher could send the task and the necessary video materials to remote students. It was assumed that only the teacher’s laptop has a connection with the outside world, so through it, the teacher can synchronize the learning process in the classroom and online.

  The Proof of Concept procedure was almost completed and we only needed to solve the issue of updating the content. For this, we developed a calendar with scheduled nightly loading.

Project implementation

  After theoretical and experimental stages, our team started implementing the project. We created an MVP, tested in real conditions (we visited real schools), expanded the functionality, prepared it for commercial operation, we also wrote documentation and spent hours on development. Finally, we have implemented a highly demanded product Enlightenment tool 

  This is a successful example of how PoC helps to understand the opportunities for your idea and make the most of it without wasting time and money. Moreover, the PoC procedure forms a final vision on how the product should look, and not in theory but with the actual experimental base.

  The Enlightenment tool is one of the many successful cases of Soft Industry Alliance, where PoC helped the author of the idea to turn the doubts of the project into its strengths, safely avoid all the “pitfalls”.

Let’s work on it together!

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