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Every famous tech company—whether Google, Facebook, or AirBnB—started out small, with only several (or maybe even one) employees. And before that, there was an idea—the ground zero for every IT business.

So how do ideas for software or sites turn into minimum viable products (MVPs), and then into functioning businesses? It takes the right mix of tools and people. In this series of articles, we’ll look at what goes into bringing different projects to life for different areas of IT and development to help you get the perspective you need to start planning and building out the IT aspects of your business.

The Example: Indoor Bluetooth Navigation Systems

Since around the 18th century, we’ve developed large-scale buildings with multiple floors and complicated layouts. While many modern-day buildings have been specially designed to be user-friendly, safe, and intuitive, it’s still easy to get confused, lost, or not know where things are. Furthermore, pointing people where to go or where things are—for large retailers, for example—does more than help people find what they’re looking for, it can be a smart marketing ploy.

This has brought about the innovation of indoor navigation—a way to interactively guide people around and communicate with them based on their location, smartphones, and nearby devices that transmit signals. Outdoors, GPS is clearly the best solution to giving people directions, but for indoors wireless signals, this won’t work because signals can’t be transmitted through walls. Even with high-level signal deflection, the reach is only about 5-7 meters. For indoor signals to be accurate, we needed something more precise.

In 2013, Apple developed the new protocol iBeacon. This technology was based on Bluetooth low energy transmitters (beacons), which allow users to measure the distance from themselves to a beacon with signals from any modern smartphone. It started as Apple-only technology, but after a few years, Beacon technology was present on Android as Google Beacon Platform.

So what is a beacon? It’s a small, one-way BLE (Bluetooth low energy) transmitter. It has its own UUID (universally unique identifier) given by the manufacturer (similar to a MAC address for network cards) and two (for Apple) or three (for Google) parameters: major and minor, which allow you to group beacons together (e.g., based on what floors or rooms they are in).

The parameters work like this:

A beacon sends signals every 5 seconds with UUID, Major or Minor parameters. Even with this frequency, it’s able to work for 1-2 years on single tablet battery thanks to BLE technology.

Positioning-based beacons are similar to GPS. You must be connected to at least 3 beacons to resolve your current position—something called trilateration, which is the key to indoor navigation:

Beacon Technology Vendors

iBeacon first came on the market in 2013. Since then, a lot of vendors have started to manufacture beacon-based devices. One of the cheaper solutions is AliExpress, which costs about $5 per device. For large quantities, the price can even be reduced down to $1-2 per beacon (for 100+ beacons). Be prepared to put in some work, though, as these come as skinned microschemes without a body case.

If an interface is important for your business idea, look into beacons from companies like Estimote or Kontakt.io.

Getting Started With Your MVP

Who Are Your Clients?

For indoor navigation customers, right off the bat you’re looking at any large building as a potential client for an indoor navigation system. Many companies like to use it for new employees: “Where is building C? Where’s the nearest restroom? Where is Printer 1?”

Large markets may use indoor navigation to help their clients find goods or offer coupons based on their proximity to a certain display of items. And don’t forget about airports, hotels, resorts, etc.

Building an MVP of An Indoor Navigation System

Laying the groundwork for a new software project requires a few things: people, product, and infrastructure. In this section, we’ll cover the team you’ll need, app development specifics, and the backend infrastructure you’ll likely need to get it built.

Note: For indoor navigation systems, the standard is to build the beacon technology system based on a RESTful client-server architecture, as is the most common practice for any service-oriented application.

Aspect Technologies Description
Backend Architecture Language: PHP, Node.js, Java, ASP.NET, etc…Database: Relational or NoSQL As well as we use REST interface to connect with Client we can use any backend you like. A PHP backend will likely be the cheapest to build.
Clients Who are you developing for? Can depend on your idea, or you can start with one platform, iOS or Android
Beacons At least 3 beacons for trilateration Any development tools from vendors should contain 3 or more beacons .

Who to Hire

Who do you need to develop an indoor navigation software project? Depending on your size and requirements, you might need any or all of the following.

  • Business analyst. A business idea must be stated in a well-defined project specification.
  • Project manager. Ensure things are moving along and business goals are met.
  • Backend developers. At least two developers can help move your project along a little quicker. A senior developer can handle more critical tasks while a mid-level developer can take on more common tasks. For example, creating the structure of the database is a good project for a senior developer, but writing the code that queries the database is relatively easy and something a mid-level developer should be able to do. Delegating work like this to lower-level developers can save you both time and money.
  • UI/UX specialist. Need an interface created for your software? A UI/UX designer and specialist can help you create a user-friendly, nice looking and helpful experience for anyone using your app.
  • Designer. This pro will ensure everything is aesthetically well designed, from interfaces and logos to your promotional website.
  • Mobile developers. Depending on your business requirements, you may need at least one developer for both iOS and Android. Both operating systems are very popular, but you may defer to your Business Analyst to decide whether the apps should be developed one at a time or in parallel.
  • QA engineer. Ensure your code is bug-free before it’s deployed.

Sample MVP Project Workflow

A quick note about workflows: Prototypes are crucial for setting expectations for a team to begin development on a project. Once a prototype is created that gives all the experts an understanding of how the project’s requirements, functionality, and how it will look, those team members—development, UI/UX, design, etc.—can work in parallel without much dependency. Often, you’ll want to get the prototyping step done first to unblock parallel development of your MVP.

The minimum amount of time it takes to develop an MVP is anywhere from 4 to 6 months, with production delivery estimated about 1 year out. As with all businesses, the more clients you take on, the more you can expect your team to grow from there.

Basic MVP Cost

Business Analyst

Based on Upwork stats, the median hourly rates charged by skilled Business Analysts are between $10-30:

Important skills: Technical documentation for IT Projects (Project Description, Proposal for Development, Business Plan, Monetization Plan, etc.) and understanding of web development flow.

Project Manager

Similar to a Business Analyst, the median hourly rates charged by freelance Project Manager are between $10-30. You and the freelancer can also consider fixed-price on the project.

Backend developer

A backend developer may specialize in a particular stack: LAMP, MEAN etc., so you’ll want to align your development with your infrastructure. A skilled senior backend developer will likely charge more than a mid-level. For MVP you can try PHP as cheapest solution but production stage must include high load so think about Node.JS, Python, Ruby or Java.

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