Firmware Development for Asset Tracking Startup
- Custom Software Development
- $10,000 to $49,999
- Jan. 2016 - Ongoing
- Willing to Refer
“Integra is willing to seek out solutions to problems that are not cookie cutter and are important to what we do.”
- IT Services
- Germantown, Maryland
- 1-10 Employees
- Phone Interview
Integra was hired for their firmware development expertise in order to do embedded programming, design, and development. Having already proven their capabilities, the engagement is ongoing.
Integra's creative engineers have innovative problem-solving skills and in-depth expertise which make this team a strong partner in their field; their flexibility and affordability allow the relationship to remain sustainable in the long term.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
I’m the founder and CEO of a startup that makes an Internet of Things solution for businesses to track physical goods: vehicles, pallets, and people. We make a connected hardware solution that has both hardware components that are connected to the cloud and then we have a cloud component as well.
OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE
What challenge were you trying to address with Integra Sources?
Since half of our product portfolio is hardware, which almost always implies firmware, we were looking for firmware development expertise. And that's not easy to come by, especially not at reasonable price points. You can get app and cloud developers across the board, and there are a lot of choices there. We were looking for a company that had the ability to work on specific microcontrollers from different companies. Integra, although located in the middle of Russia, had the exact kind of expertise we were looking for. I think we’ve gotten over the geography challenges during the last 18 months we’ve been working with Integra, and they’ve been doing pretty good work for us. They’ve mainly done embedded programming for us, as well as some design and development.
What was the scope of their involvement?
We make Bluetooth beacons that are different from other Bluetooth beacons because they are deployed in enterprise assets, so there’s a high level of reliability, monitoring, security, etc. Integra wrote the firmware for four or five models of Bluetooth asset beacons. We also have a little gateway device that scans for these beacons and talks to the cloud. Integra's engineers also developed the front-end portion of the firmware.
We give Integra the hardware design, and then they do the firmware on top of that, even though I think they have some expertise on the hardware side as well. I have firmware engineering expertise, but I don't have the time to do that anymore. I would say we depend almost entirely on Integra for firmware work.
How did you come to work with Integra Sources?
I use Upwork a lot, so that’s where I found Integra. My usual practice with Upwork is to create a mini-project — something that’s not expensive or time-consuming — and then have two or three companies or freelancers work on it and then I pick one out of that list. I remember doing this project about 18 months ago. I had a firmware developer in India, another one in the United States, and then Integra. Right now I work mainly with one developer, but over the last year I've worked with at least four people. They all have been able to solve some fairly complex challenges that go beyond just reading the documentation and reading the code and that’s always impressive.
Price was one of the most important aspects in choosing Integra. We did some firmware work with companies here that were north of $140 and $150 an hour, and that was incredibly expensive. I wasn't necessarily looking for the cheapest provider out there, and Integra isn’t, but I think they offer a pretty good balance. In addition to being closer to our point of affordability, Integra's skills are even better than some of the companies I've seen here.
How much have you invested with Integra Source?
I think we spent about $20,000 with Integra last year, and this year we might do at least that, if not more.
What is the status of this engagement?
We probably started working with Integra in January 2016, and the project is ongoing. Right now, I'm waiting for some folks to come back from vacation, so we can kick off the next phase.
RESULTS & FEEDBACK
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
We are a small startup, so we don't keep many metrics. If a solution works, we’re happy. There has been more than one occasion where, especially when we work with fairly new products and/or chip sets, that the lead documentation is insufficient. I have told the Integra engineer to do whatever it takes to solve a problem — go onto public forums or the discussion forums related to that product and post their questions to get the right answer. They have done all of that. I’ve gone to forums, and I’ve seen questions that looks remarkably like what we’ve been asking, only to later find out that our engineer posted it. I think that’s good initiative. Integra is willing to seek out solutions to problems that are not cookie cutter and are important to what we do. We have fairly important clients today for whom we would not have had a solution without the Integra engineer’s creativity.
How did Integra Sources perform from a project management standpoint?
I usually prefer to work with only one developer on a project, but there’s usually another person who fills a project management role. I don't know if that’s what they do as a matter of course, but I always ask for one developer for a certain period of time, so we can get totally immersed and get the job done. I haven't had any problems with Integra’s project management. I usually just tell the project manager to stay out of the way. I’ll say, “I need the engineer for this broad task that may take a couple of weeks.” That way, the project manager knows that, for two weeks, it’s full-time. Toward the end of that period, I might get a message from the project manager saying, “Do you think this is going to go on for another week, or are you ramping down?” and I provide some guidance. We have to shift products back and forth often, and the project manager has taken care of that fairly efficiently. Sometimes the shipment aspect of our work is frustrating, but Integra certainly is not responsible for those political boundaries.
What did you find most impressive about Integra Sources?
I can only speak for the other companies I looked at insofar as them being competitors. I looked at a couple of companies in India, and I think they just wanted to check the box and run. I also worked with another fairly specialized embedded design and programming shop in Portland, but they were extremely expensive, and I'm not sure they would have been comfortable with going out of the box. I think the larger firms tend to stick by their requirements and not stray from them too far. We sometimes don't know what the solution is going to look like, and I certainly think that flexibility is helpful.
Are there any areas Integra Sources could improve?
This isn't all Integra’s problem, but it was difficult getting packages to them in Russia. I think the shipping rules change quite frequently. There have been times when I have followed last month’s instructions only to find that the rules have changed again, and the shipment gets returned to me. That’s happened a few times, though I think we’re past that now.
As a startup, I am very happy with what I'm getting from Integra. If I were a much bigger company, I would probably be looking at a more structured firm, but I actually don't want that much structure. I want problem-solving rather than a straight engineering project.
Service & Deliverables
"I’ve done many projects with them, and they’ve always delivered more than what I expected."
On time / deadlines
"The schedule slipped because of the complexities of the project itself. Sometimes in what we do, we don't know which way to go and schedules get affected because of that."
Value / within estimates
"There are lower cost options available, but in terms of overall value, they are the best."
Willing to Refer5.0
"If potential customers are looking for embedded development, I would recommend Integra 100%. I don't know about the other services Integra provides.