Interview with François Dupayrat, Technical Director, Auticiel
Published: 06 October 2023
François Dupayrat has been Auticiel’s Technical Director since the startup’s inception. He loves cats, coffee with lots of sugar, geek sites, and above all coding and thinking! His job? Build and maintain the technology behind Auticiel’s applications.
What's the point of a CTO?
In a small start-up like Auticiel, a CTO is first and foremost an experienced developer, who will provide solutions to technical problems, and ensure that the entire IT system runs smoothly. Having a site and server constantly online, planning the infrastructure to add features in a reasonable time, or investigating the reasons for an app crash.
On top of this, the CTO has to anticipate the future, having answers to questions before they are asked, foreseeing technological features and developments, and avoiding poor technological choices at all costs, while remaining open to the state of the art.
Last but not least, a CTO remains a developer who will drive forward the solutions developed by the company, while developing new features based on user feedback.
What's behind the AUTICIEL applications? How is development going?
Behind Auticiel applications, there’s first and foremost a
This team specifies the functionalities to be developed, and after development ensures that they meet the specifications, without any bugs. We have a graphic designer in charge of creating the interfaces, as well as all the necessary resources (illustrations, computer graphics, videos ….). And finally, two developers (Pierre Bertinet and I) who bring these ideas and graphics to life in the
the applications you know
We operate in an agile way: that is, rather than having a detailed vision of an entire application before even starting development, we have a general specification with a large list of non-detailed features, which we develop as we go along, prioritizing the most important each sprint (the sprint is our unit of working time, which lasts two weeks): at the start of a sprint, we choose which features will be developed during that sprint, and nothing else will be done, except for emergencies, for example, bugs that affect you.
Each feature is developed in several stages: first, it is specified by the product manager. The graphic designer then creates the illustrations needed to realize this functionality. Then a developer develops the functionality. Once the functionality has been developed, the other developer will carry out a code review, to ensure that the code follows the development guidelines and doesn’t contain any obvious bugs. Finally, the product manager tests the functionality to make sure it meets the specifications.
Following this, the functionality was developed, and will be available in the next version of the app (which is why you should remember to update your applications regularly). We put a new version online as soon as a batch of features is completed. This can range from a simple bug fix to a major evolution of the app.
On what devices and technologies do they work?
Our applications run on hardware with IOS operating systems (Apple brands such as iPhone and iPad) as well as Android operating systems (Samsung, Acer, Archos, etc.).
We optimize the interface and the fluidity of navigation mainly on tablets because from the very beginning of Auticiel we realized that
that the tactile tablet is an exceptional tool for people with autism
and other cognitive and/or mental disabilities.
We use a technology called Cocos2D-X, which is designed to make multi-platform video games, mainly for mobile devices. This allows us to have exactly the same graphical rendering on iOS and Android (and potentially, in the future, on other mobile operating systems, if there is a consequent demand), while bringing an experience closer to a video game than to a standard application. What’s more, this allows us to customize the interface to suit individual sensibilities.
What technological challenges will you face in the coming years?
Our main challenge at Auticiel is to continue to maintain our existing apps, make them evolve, while developing new ones, and all this with a small team. To achieve this, we have developed a set of Auticiel-specific functionalities that are consolidated into a common base (proprietary framework) for easy reuse from one application to another. For example, you’ve probably noticed that the interface for taking and cropping photos is exactly the same in all our applications: we’re continuing to extend this principle, little by little.
What are you currently working on?
For the past year or so, I’ve had very little involvement in the development of the applications themselves, as Pierre takes care of that almost entirely. I concentrated on several Web and server missions: first, to make a new site that was clean, fast and easy to modify. We make small changes almost every week, and recently we added the possibility of ordering
tablets directly from our site via
Besides that, I spend most of my time on server development, which we call the back-end in our jargon: it’s a part that’s invisible to users, but extremely important, where a lot of Auticiel’s own logic resides: it’s this back-end that lets us know which customers have subscribed, who’s authorized to use which applications over what period of time, which will also take care of sending you your usage statistics every month, creating your invoices etc…
In the coming weeks, I’ll be working on sharing content between tablets, but I won’t tell you more about that for now 😉
Thank you François!