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Buzr: Building secure software for consumer IoT device

Buzr is an award-winning, consumer-facing company with one goal: to turn old access control systems, such as intercoms and shared gates, into IoT, app-controlled devices. The Buzr device replaces existing wall units, allowing users to answer the door, grant access, and more via mobile phones.

Greenfield project

Buzr approached Bluefruit at a very early stage of development. As a small team of Cornell Tech graduates, the company had a strong product idea and a basic, non-IoT prototype. However, their primary expertise was in Electrical Engineering and Business Management. They needed an expert embedded software team to create a product that fulfilled their vision.

Our software teams have extensive experience with audio, security, and IoT projects, so we were well-suited to the task. Bluefruit was hired to develop the device’s embedded software. However, our depth of expertise meant we could also provide crucial input on hardware requirements and product development.

Safe and sound

The device needed to control building access and communication between the front door and mobile device, so security was a top priority. Our team set up Amazon Web Services (AWS) and encrypted all data passing between an intercom and its paired mobile. However, allowing verbal communication between a building’s front door and the user’s mobile device had its challenges.

Buzr’s USP is that their device uses a building’s existing intercom hardware—often not the highest quality. Bluefruit’s engineers created a VoIP system that preserves audio fidelity and performed functional testing.

Using Bluefruit’s in-house bootloader, our developers implemented firmware-over-air to ensure ongoing security through in-field updates.

Lean-Agile producing real value

Bluefruit’s software teams quickly produced working, testable versions using a Lean-Agile approach. Subsequent iterations would improve each version. This approach proved its value for Buzr.

As a small start-up, securing ongoing investment was crucial. Through structured work with rapid feedback in the first three sprints, Bluefruit could deliver on what mattered to the client, derisking the existing hardware and then implementing VoIP. This was a key feature to show investors in order to raise further funding.

Efficient by design

Running on just four 1.5V batteries, Buzr had strict power requirements for its device.

On the software side, our engineers made sure that the System on Chip (SoC) was dropping down to the lowest possible power state as often as possible without losing the Wi-Fi connection. They also advised on the trade-offs between responsiveness and how often the device would poll AWS for messages.

Bluefruit also conducted a hardware assessment, identifying and reporting on critical issues with the hardware design, including the microcontroller. Our team was able to help Buzr optimise the design, liaise with the microcontroller manufacturer, and provide regular testing of subsequent iterations

"Starting out, we knew that embedded software represented one of the most critical pieces of our development roadmap. We needed to quickly find a way to build out a secure and robust solution that would not require us to go back and rework most of the software.

Buzr met with over 30 software development companies/contractors in order to find the right partner to help us on our journey. Bluefruit was an easy choice due to their expertise and working style.

Using an Agile approach, we were able to structure our work with Bluefruit into individual sprints with well-defined goals. This allowed us to iterate on the embedded firmware with the Bluefruit team while also iterating on other aspects of the company, such as the hardware design & funding stages. As an early stage start-up, this was critical."
- Jeremy Walker, CoFounder & Chief Product Officer, Buzr

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