DevOps: the tech behind Pokemon Go!

  • Pokemon Go is more than just catching cute yellow characters. It has deep technology that powers it from behind the scenes. Say hello to a new buzzword: DevOps

After the initial frenzy, the Pokemon Go has settled down with a slightly smaller but still significant global following of loyal players. It still outnumbers all comparable global social media waves and remains the most popular mobile game in history. Not surprisingly the corporate world is soberly sizing up the phenomenon for any profitable offshoots.

Among the early learnings is this: For the first time, we have an example of a ‘virtual world meets real world’ scenario where users are actually searching for virtual objects in physical environments. While this is helping humans burn calories (people reportedly burn around 2000 calories a week playing this game), it is also presenting huge challenges and opportunities in technology just by the sheer scale the game has reached.

The game, on the face of it, requires you to search, capture and train Pokemon characters. The more Pokemon characters you capture, the better you are ranked. While this may seem like a simple, straightforward activity, there is a lot happening behind the scenes. Technologies like Augmented Reality power the game in the back-end, generating humongous volumes of data, running into zetabytes every single day. Such volumes pose a huge technology challenge. Makers of the game—Niantic—are processing huge quantities of data in real-time. But more importantly, the manner in which Niantic ensures smooth functioning of its app, despite an unprecedented surge in users, reveals the processes and best-practices that have been deployed across its maintenance cycle.

Pokemon Go is an ideal example of a streamlined process that uses an approach called DevOps, which stands for Development and Operations. It is an ideology that companies use to ensure that their technology projects keep improving with every development and release cycle.

Unlike other mobile apps, the idea was not to do the same thing differently (such as Uber that gave people the option of booking a cab in a different way). Rather, Pokemon Go is making people do something entirely different. When you’re doing something new, you by definition don’t know exactly what you’re doing. So you have to keep going through multiple cycles of software and application testing to get it right. If these cycles are slow and you don’t test all probable scanarios, it takes too long to make changes.

Vineet Chaturvedi, Chief Technologist at Edureka, a Bangalore-based edu-tech startup, has been closely following the growing popularity of Pokemon Go from a technology standpoint. He says, “For an app as addinew users are signed-up every second, around the globe. It not only has a data angle i.e. to process all this raw information and retrieve the right data to continually improve the game, but also the need of scale and continuous changes, centered around user experience. This is possible only if you use an approach like DevOps to sustain and grow the game.”

Pokemon is currently a gaming phenomenon, but it is all set to spread its wings to a more commercial future in the days to follow—solely powered by its underlying tech. Till then, all the best finding that Pikachu at your neighbourhood mall.

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