CASE STUDY

AutoPets

Building a Robust Infrastructure for an Enhanced IoT User Experience

Bringing Pet Care into the Future with IoT

AutoPets is an innovative pet care company looking to make pet care more enjoyable and convenient through the development of highly functional, connected pet products. Internationally known for the Litter-Robot, an automatic self-cleaning litter box for cats, AutoPets continues to develop creative IoT product solutions for its customers to reimagine petcare.

Industry

Consumer Goods

Challenge

Improve mobile application’s speed and reliability

Services & Tech

IoT, Cloud Infrastructure, Cloud Native Application Development

Improving App Speed & Reliability on AWS

While AutoPets leveraged AWS for their Litter-Robot product, the system did not use any managed services such as AWS IoT, which meant they weren’t getting the full benefits of a cloud native solution. The product’s software limitations also created a less-than-desirable app speed and unreliable system with performance inconsistencies and little room for scalability.

Creating a Better User Experience

Onboarding new units to the system was difficult for users, with only about 25 percent of people succeeding on the first try. Action response time also varied greatly between instantaneous and up to 45 seconds. AutoPets had already completed its iOS application and was preparing to launch its Android application. However, due to the user experience and onboarding issues they faced with the iOS application, the team was nervous about adding new Android users to the current application backend infrastructure. 

Because of these reliability concerns and the upcoming deadlines around the new Android application, it was determined that they needed to engage an experienced AWS integrator. After looking to AWS for a recommendation, they got in touch with Premier Consulting Partner Onica. 

“Launching the Android app compared to launching the iOS app was like night and day. With far fewer users at the time of our iOS launch, the iOS application fell flat twice, with both server outages and failures. By the time we launched the Android app, we had many more users coming online – 10,000+, and it was much more successful thanks to the changes we made with Onica.”
Jason Weihman
Research & Development Manager

Improving Stability and Cost Savings on AWS

The Onica team came aboard and delivered within a tight timeline for AutoPets. The first priority was completing IoT firmware for the new generation of the Litter-Robot, which needed to go through various hardware certifications. The second priority was a successful Android application launch. The approach was aggressive, with the team needing to meet their firmware deadline within 45 days from the start date.

The AutoPets team’s number one goal was stabilizing their AWS infrastructure in order to ensure the Android app could launch without experiencing the onboarding issues they had with their iOS launch. In addition, some updates to the hardware were necessary so the AWS IoT service could be used natively. This included designing the provisioning and onboarding process, implementing the communications firmware, building the cloud infrastructure for native use, and updating the existing iOS application, as well as the initial work on the Android application to ensure interfacing with the new device was successful. The results were instant.

Accounting for Legacy While Planning for the Future

The biggest challenge the AutoPets team faced was around its legacy devices. Since the Litter-Robot is already in the customers’ homes and can’t be updated (there are no over-the-air-updates in V1.0 of Litter-Robot Connect), there were major challenges around what could be done to improve and update legacy hardware. This was described by the team as “changing the wheel of a car while it’s driving 60 mph,” as it was important that changes to the infrastructure were made incrementally without disrupting service to existing customers.

The existing infrastructure was built with Amazon EC2 instances that supported the legacy devices, and therefore had to remain. However, the team was able to add automation to improve scalability and modernize and streamline infrastructure for existing devices to create a more efficient use of AWS services; this improved costs by storing messages in Amazon DynamoDB and provisioning with Amazon API Gateway.

For everything built new, the focus was on managed services and serverless development. The process began with AWS IoT Core and rules engine for basic data ingestion. Amazon Kinesis streams were used to buffer data and AWS Lambda was used to process data. As with the old infrastructure, data was stored in Amazon DynamoDB for long-term storage. Short of the requirements for legacy devices, there are no servers involved in the new process.

OUTCOMES

Greater Reliability & Scalability with Lower Costs

AutoPets’ infrastructure changes have greatly improved reliability. With so many Litter-Robot units sending messages every few seconds, the previous infrastructure was unable to handle the rate of messaging. Using Amazon Kinesis for buffering allows for the batching of messages rather than individual processing, preventing the kind of overload the infrastructure was previously facing. The native use of AWS IoT services has also greatly decreased server costs compared to the previous infrastructure setup, while allowing for greater scalability as new Litter-Robot units are released.
“We view Onica as our software technology partner. Onica is helping to develop our software technology and mobile products that are used by people all over the world. Six months into the partnership and we’re increasingly satisfied!”
Jacob Zuppke
Executive Vice President

Why Us

Why Onica

Onica is one of the largest and fastest-growing Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partners in the world, helping companies enable, operate, and innovate in the cloud. From migration strategy to operational excellence and immersive transformation, Onica is a full spectrum AWS integrator. Learn more at www.onica.com.  

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