Scoping the Engineering Effort to ZipKey-Enable a Connected Product

Published by Barbara Nelson February 28, 2017

As a product manager, it is your job to prioritize new product features. You may be looking at quality improvements, new features, cost reductions, and other projects.  Part of this prioritization includes looking at the quantitative ROI and cost/benefit analysis, qualitative competitive and market impact of the new feature, and estimating the scope of effort required so you can manage the engineering resources required. We’ve put together a few blog posts to make this easy, and this post provides some guidelines on how to estimate the engineering effort required.

Scope of Work

ZipKey-enabling your product includes five main components:

  1. Device. Running the Cirrent Agent on your hardware.
  2. App. Updating your app to take advantage of the ZipKey onboarding flow.
  3. Cloud. Issuing tokens from your cloud to authorize the App to talk with the Cirrent cloud.
  4. Supply-Chain Process. Registering products in the Cirrent cloud as they are manufactured.
  5. Testing. Validating the end-to-end functionality of your product in different situations.


Since we’ve done the heavy lifting, integrating the Cirrent Agent into your product is usually straightforward. If you are using Linux, the process involves running a compatibility checker to identify any required porting, then downloading the binary from Cirrent’s site. If you’re using RTOS, the code may already be included in the SDK from the chip company, or you can contact Cirrent to learn more.  

The work required varies depending on the complexity of your product, but in general this process takes 2-3 engineer weeks of effort.


Cirrent provides an SDK for iOS, Android, and web to make updating your app straightforward. To update your App to work with ZipKey, you’ll need to update the app flows (we provide a best-practices template), and design app pages consistent with your branding. The SDK does the API calls, error handling, etc., so you really just need to implement the screens.

This process typically takes 1-2 weeks of effort.


The cloud integration is the easiest piece. There is a small piece of code you’ll need at your API to issue a token to the App to grant it permission to talk to Cirrent’s cloud. This typically takes less than 1 week of effort.

Supply-Chain Process

You’ll need to register each unit on the manufacturing line with Cirrent, and this can be done through an API or through uploading a file. We support a variety of different formats so this process is usually straightforward, and takes less than 1 week of effort.


The last—and possibly most important—piece of the process is testing. You’ll want to validate the end-to-end onboarding process in a variety of different situations, including with and without a ZipKey hotspot, with different phone makes and models, and with different types of routers.

Cirrent has done extensive testing of our code in these different environments, and has built up a set of test cases that you can leverage to simplify your process. Cirrent can augment your testing capabilities, but in general you should allocate 1-2 weeks of engineering effort to this work.


The scope of work required to ZipKey-enable your product will typically take between 6 and 9 weeks of engineer time, broken down as:

  • 2-3 weeks of embedded software developer time
  • 1-2 weeks of user experience and app developer time
  • 1 week of cloud software developer time
  • 1 week of operations coordinator time
  • 1-2 weeks of QA time

Assuming a fully loaded engineer cost at $150k/year, that’s a total of $17-$26k of total cost, making the one-year return-on-investment (ROI) more than 70x!

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