My First Day or: How Software Is Eating the Backflow World

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On my first day I deployed to production, received a thank-you email from our client, held a backflow device in my hand, and oh yes, met our fantastic team. Hello! I’m Philip, the newest Lead Developer for Syncta’s Ruby on Rails app.

“So, what’s backflow?” I remember saying as I walked into my interview in June. Historically, preventing backflow has been a mechanical engineering problem. In 2018, it’s also becoming a software problem. That’s where I come in.

The saying “Software is eating the world,” popularized by Marc Andreessen in 2011, means that what’s done manually today will be done more efficiently with software in the future. All the backflow devices in the country that keep our drinking water clean have to be tested yearly — a time-consuming, manual process — and Syncta’s software makes it so much faster for our testers. We record tests, submit tests, and store past tests, all from an iPhone or Android phone in the field. Paper is becoming software.

So, what happens behind the curtain? Let’s go through my Zero-day production deploy. Our testers love our devices map as they plan their daily routes, and I updated the colors to distinguish between devices that need testing and devices that have already been tested. That evening, a tester emailed us saying, “Thank you!!! That is a huge help.” Wow, that was fast!

It’s because of our Continuous Delivery pipeline (in programming parlance) that we can move so quickly. Every developer gets their own staging server to test with, and every code change is automatically analyzed, tested, and given a pass/fail. Bugs are caught ahead of time, and new developers can confidently push code that has passed our tests.

We give this validation to our testers as well. Every test report they fill out is automatically verified as complete and accurate. Records are kept of device repairs and replacements. Every step of the way, our software is eating up old inefficiencies.

Where do we go from here? This is just the beginning 😉 Right now, I’m working on our API. It will make our mobile app better and help us communicate data back and forth to water purveyors.

It was nice meeting all of you, and stay tuned to our blog for updates in the future!

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