Artificial intelligence platform helps developers spend less time on unit tests, bug fixes, documentation

French startup Ponicode says its platform using JavaScript increases productivity by up to 10%.

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Developers spend around half of their time on tasks other than coding, and French startup Ponicode is looking to change that with a little help from artificial intelligence. The company, which was founded in June 2019, has created a platform embedded with AI that learns from millions of lines of code. The Ponicode platform allows developers to write unit tests directly in the editor to help decrease the number of bugs at the production stage, according to Ponicode CEO and co-founder Patrick Joubert.

Coding has not changed in the past 30 years and while developers might have more libraries and tools at their disposal, “In the end, the quality of our code still only depends on our personal judgment and experience,” Joubert said.

“Our goal is to help developers focus on what they like to do most: coding,” he said. “With Ponicode, developers are capable of generating unit tests in just a few clicks.”

This way, they can spend less time in areas such as unit testing, documentation and fixing potential bugs, said Joubert. The platform aims to speed time to market, enhance product quality, and help drive company innovation, he said.

Ponicode’s platform uses JavaScript and Joubert said they expect to eventually be able to generate tests for Java, C#, and Python.

“The JavaScript community is popular with young developers and it’s a trendy technology today,” he explained. “Java is for legacy apps, and Python is for data scientists.”

Ponicode is an extension of Microsoft’s development environment, Visual Studio Code, and it is also on GitHub.

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The platform has been tested with private developers and startups in the US and in France, Joubert said. So far, the feedback has been good with two suggested areas of improvement, he said. Testers said they want to see enhanced coverage so the platform can generic more specific unit tests, and they want to see an increase in the number of languages Ponicode is supporting, according to Joubert.

“We’re trying to make it very smooth and integrated for developers,” he said. “It’s really, really important that the developer keeps control.”

AI-generated unit testing

Generating unit tests is complex because developers need to first understand the function and what the intention is inside the code. Then they have to generate a test case and then give some values to tell the function what to do, he said. The third task is generating specific values to test properly.

“We created an algorithm that trains the AI to generate unit tests,” Joubert said.

With Ponicode, developers can run their app in VS Code because the platform will understand how it can be tested; choose easily among the suggestions generated by the platform, and increase coverage in a click, without writing a single line of code, he said.

This frees up developers to deliver more features for products, Joubert said. “Today, developers definitely are scarce resources. Ponicode increases productivity by up to 10%—but we are convinced we can increase that to 20% or 30% in the coming years.”

Joubert said they expect the public beta of the Ponicode platform to become available this summer.

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