How we built Atola TaskForce
It’s been a while since my previous blog post. Today I’m going to tell you about the reason of that. I have been 100% focused on the development of our new flagship product, Atola TaskForce. Now that we made the product launch happen, it’s really tempting to share the TaskForce story.
We always listen carefully to our customers’ needs and routine issues. Even though we already had a fast imager, Atola Insight Forensic in the market, we kept hearing from the community something like this:
Imaging of source drives takes more time year over year.
Dmitry Postrigan, Atola CEO, was the first in our company who reacted, brilliantly analysed, and came up with innovative ideas showing a true example of leadership.
The first intensive discussion regarding Atola TaskForce happened 2 years ago at TechnoSecurity in Myrtle Beach. We were incredibly inspired and felt that it may become a product that reinvents image acqusition experience. We did realize we could build a system that parallelizes workflow allowing multiple people to perform many tasks at the same time.
These discussions at TechnoSecurity helped us set our goals agreeing on the most important features and creating a development plan. Coming back to Kyiv and sharing the ideas with our teammates caused another strong wave of inspiration. As a result, we got:
- team being on the same page from the very beginning
- strong desire to create a new product
- vivid picture of the final product in mind
- more ideas about UX of the new product from the team
Prototype in action
The first pre-production prototype saw the world one year later. And again, it was presented to the public in Myrtle Beach, duringTechnoSecurity 2017. I would say Techno is a particularly remarkable show for Atola.
You can see the key design distinction from final production variant which is a touch screen. In the prototype, we used Samsung S2 Tab and then replaced it with the wider and faster Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
Yulia, John, Dmitry, and Andrey continued showing the pre-production prototype at more than 15 conferences ad exhibitions since June 2017. Those of you who visited our booth during that period saw the TaskForce demo unit. Our strategy was to show the product exclusively during conferences and gather some feedback to further improve the product.
Obstacles we had
I would be insincere if I said TaskForce development had been a walk in the park. There were numerous expected and unexpected issues along the way. Here are two most interesting of them.
1. Power management
Considering hardware development difficulty level, it’s quite a leap from our previous product — Atola Insight Forensic. Since it has 18 ports, one can plug 18 various devices into it. Powering up all of them at the same time is simply impossible because of a high peak power consumption exceeding power supply capabilities.
We added a subsystem to handle this kind of obstacle. What it does:
- tracks overall power consumpation
- carefully manages all drive spinups
- optimizes work by powering off unused devices
2. Product name
It may sound ridiculous but for a while we were hesitant as to what the product name should be. Knowing what we know from the previous product creation experience, name matters. Therefore we were careful and spent more than six months discussing various name options. Among them were:
- Atola Beast
- Atola Big
- Atola ForensicLab
- Atola FIRE
- Atola Forensic Station
- Atola Cyber Forensic Station
Finally, it became Atola TaskForce. The name conveys the product’s merits: it’s a force that copes with many tasks. It’s something highly effective and efficient at the same time. When all said and done, I like saying:
May the TaskForce be with you :)
Agile and productive newcomers
Moving on to my wonderful team, I’d like to mention 3 new software engineers who joined us in September. Despite the lack of extensive work background, they all had the courage to learn new languages and frameworks used in TaskForce development: Kotlin and EmberJS.
Thank you Galya, Gleb and Artem!
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change
© Charles Darwin
In fact, adaptivity is an essence of agile product development.
Fuel of innovations
The innovations in TaskForce became one of driving forces for the whole Atola R&D team. And there is no wonder it keeps us motivated: when you realize you are creating a powerful forensic hardware for the industry that solves existing mission-critical problems of people, it’s a magic feeling. I would name it as a mix of epic meaning, calling and accomplishment.
We are particularly proud of the following innovative TaskForce features:
- Hardware platform to run virtually unlimited quantity of imaging tasks simultenously
- Source switch with embedded write-protection for every port and every device. One can configure TaskForce according to work requirements.
- Simple and highly intuitive user experience based on Google Material Design
- Three browser-based ways to interact: 1) from any device using IP address shown on the little front-side display; 2) touchscreen; 3) built-in Wi-Fi
Wrapping up, I can’t thank my teammates enough for building Atola TaskForce and helping us get where we are today. It’s a tremendous pleasure to witness and enjoy a brand new phase in our company’s evolving story!