Digitalisation is a crucial step in the development of many companies within the industrial sector. It facilitates the integration of various systems, devices and machines to create a connected ecosystem that can work collaboratively. Digitalisation enables companies to collect, process, and analyse data in real time, providing actionable insights for informed decision-making. Additionally, it helps streamline operations by automating certain processes.

No wonder digitalisation is a fundamental driver of competitiveness and sustainability in the Industry 4.0 landscape. It may seem like a challenging undertaking for some companies, though. There are many challenges and strategic decisions to make along the way. This is where IT consulting comes in.

The role of an IT consulting company is to support organisations that want to effectively implement technology to meet their growing business needs and fulfil their goals. Apart from software delivery services, at Spyrosoft, we also offer IT consulting services for companies across various industries. In this article, we would like to share one of the examples of such a partnership – the story of our collaboration with Corab.

We’ve asked Piotr Beling, Director of Industry 4.0 – Digital Solutions, to tell us more about how the cooperation started, what the IT consulting services included, and what the outcomes are.

What does the company Corab specialise in?

Corab is a leading manufacturer of photovoltaic systems and a distributor of comprehensive solutions in the renewable energy sector for both businesses and individual clients.

With over 30 years of experience designing structures and manufacturing products from aluminium and steel, Corab’s annual production capacity exceeds 4GW of solar energy.

Currently, in addition to photovoltaic panels, Corab also specialises in producing solar inverters, microinverters, heat pumps, and batteries. The company exports its systems to 14 countries.

Corab’s portfolio diversification strategy involves creating digital products aimed at end customers and monitoring devices for internal analytics purposes. The system consists of:

• a cloud-based IoT platform,
• an internal web application for company use,
• a mobile application for end users.

How did Spyrosoft become a consulting partner for Corab?

To keep up with the company’s fast development, it’s important to adapt internal infrastructure to handle increasingly complex processes. The digital transformation that covers various areas is essential for production management and maintaining the enterprise’s maturity. This challenge requires comprehensive knowledge of enterprise digitalisation processes, cloud solutions, and IoT platform building. Corab sought a consulting partner with expertise and experience to assist in its digital transformation journey.

Our partnership with Corab began with a connection made during the CIO Net conference, where Konrad Weiske, CEO of Spyrosoft, spoke on behalf of the SoDA (an organisation that gathers Polish software development companies). Among the attendees was Tomasz Kopera, CIO of Corab, who recognised Spyrosoft’s potential as a consulting partner. The conversation during the event led to collaboration.

What is the scope of this collaboration?

Together, we identified actions to support the client in two areas: creating a modern IT infrastructure for the enterprise and a platform for digital products offered to external clients.

IT consulting in building enterprise architecture

Since Corab already had an IT infrastructure and internal processes, the first step was running an audit to determine which existing systems needed improvement and which parts should be updated or replaced. Spyrosoft’s experienced enterprise architecture specialist conducted an audit, helped the client select products, providers, licensing models, create software development and maintenance procedures, and developed information architecture.

At the end of this consulting stage, the client received in-depth documentation based on, amongst other things, the TOGAF internal systems architecture framework and a list of recommendations for further steps. We also prepared guidelines regarding vendor selection procedures, software development lifecycle, and digital product quality management procedures.

Assistance in designing system architecture

As part of our consulting services, our cloud solution architect collaborated with Corab’s R&D team responsible for designing devices. His expertise in architecture design and acquaintance with best practices and patterns, combined with domain knowledge and insights from the Corab team, resulted in a high-level solution design (HLSD) of the IoT platform architecture. The proposed solution was agnostic and could be implemented on top of any public cloud. The architecture was designed for long-term operations, effective development, and easy integration of new types of devices into the IoT platform.

Advice in choosing a cloud service provider

Many requirements should be taken into account when choosing a public cloud service provider. These include, for example, the maturity and capabilities of the offered cloud services in a given domain (e.g., services for IoT solutions), consistency with the client’s preferred tech stack, the support offered by the provider, or simply – the price.

We organised workshops where, together with the client, we defined the criteria for choosing a provider. We guided the Corab team through possible selection criteria, presented essential areas due to the type of solution, and advised on what to pay attention to. Then, together with the client, we created a scoring system based on the weights of individual criteria, and the client determined these priorities. The workshops resulted in the scoring of various providers according to these criteria, based on which a decision was made to select one of them.

Consequently, the consulting stage in choosing a cloud provider evolved into developing a dedicated solution, with our proposed architecture as its foundation.

IT consulting in selecting the technology stack

Choosing the right technology stack is essential not only in terms of selecting the right tools but also in terms of cost.

Ideally, a dedicated solution should be built using a consistent, not too broad technology stack – one language for the backend solution and one framework for the front end. This allows easier and cost-conscious maintenance and development. Moreover, it is important to select popular technologies, as there is greater availability of specialists on the market. Specialists in niche technologies usually have higher rates. Also, technology selection is correlated with the choice of cloud service provider. Therefore, the best option is a widely known technology many programmers use.

Many systems we build are intended to be available on the market for a long time – we develop IoT solutions that are expected to function for 20-30 years. Therefore, the stability and availability of technologies, frameworks and tools, as well as their support level, are also used as selection criteria. We want to ensure the client has the opportunity for continuous system development, which legacy technology will not hinder.

Advisory on building IoT solutions

Awareness of the challenges and costs associated with building digital products is essential before taking the first step in the development process. As IT consultants, we discuss with the client how to create IoT platforms that are cost-effective, scalable, and easily expandable to new device types and what problems should be addressed at the beginning to avoid additional costs later on. It is also important to design reusable components during the design and implementation phases, significantly reducing the time of delivery of new business value.

Developing communication standards between devices

The design of the IoT architecture is significantly influenced by whether it will support one or multiple types of devices. Each type has individual parameters, which will be part of the telemetry, i.e., data sent to the backend. It is worthwhile designing a communication standard between devices and the solution’s backend at an early stage.

The communication standard between the device and the backend may cover aspects such as:
• type of communication – wired or wireless: Wi-Fi, 4/5g, or others,
• communication protocol – like MQTT or HTTP,
• data format – JSON, Protobuf or other,
• supported metadata, like the temperature, its format (Celsius, Fahrenheit), and range,
• data semantics, e.g., room temperature, target room temperature, water temperature, etc.

With such a template, product teams responsible for devices know how to design them so that they can be added to the existing IoT system with minimal effort. Ideally, by adding a new device, the backend team only needs to handle new types of metadata and their semantics to translate raw data into information, which is then made available through APIs to mobile, web applications, or business intelligence tools.

IoT application development consulting

Speaking of end applications – mobile, web, or BI – it is worth noting that it is a good practice to provide a dedicated product for every user group. A home user of a heat pump will need different information from that of an installer or service technician. However, these digital products should communicate with one backend. The data or information transmitted through APIs to these applications differ (e.g., measurement value or notification) but come from one source – the previously discussed IoT platform.

Why is this so important? The answer is simple. We increase the efficiency of delivering new functionalities and business value to users. For example, a notification component written once is used to handle all types of devices; that reduces solution maintenance or cloud subscription costs while maintaining flexibility to adapt to changing market needs.

How does Corab evaluate our cooperation?

We have received positive feedback from our client, which speaks volumes about their confidence level in Spyrosoft as their consulting partner. Our specialists play a crucial role in important strategic areas, and their contributions to Corab’s decision-making processes are highly valued. Our knowledge and expertise enable us to set technological trends and implement the best practices and standards, making us a valuable asset to the company.

Are you looking for a partner to help you navigate the digital journey?

Embark on your digital transformation with a trusted expert on your side. Find out more about our consulting services, and contact us to discuss your needs.

About the author

Ida Ożarowska

Ida Ozarowska

Business Researcher