Tiles in color, plus finalized arch poster

Now that we have all major events (except the hybris xmas party) behind us, we can finally focus on getting a few projects really finalized. Tiles  made huge progress over the last weeks and I just got the fully-colored tiles in, plus I have a finalized architecture poster that I want to share with you. Big kudos go out to Elke and DerGrueneFish, our booth building partners for this and most other projects. The tiles (21 in total, for 3 complete demo sets) are colored in 4 fresh colors for a change (no boring white!). I absolutely love the way they look.  Over one day, I was soldering the first 7 which are currently connected to one hub.

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For the poster, Kathi at SNK did an awesome job. I already ordered our poster which we’ll then present at the hybris summit 15 in Munich at our booth. Having a descriptive poster will greatly help us to explain the IoT setup for this prototype. Right now we expect to have cans on top of the tiles, so we made that part of the poster.

tiles-90x60

 

 

Just to recap the architecture, have a read:

  • “Tiles” are the wirelessly connected platforms. We use Punchthrough’s LightBlue Bean and remove the battery holder to make the platforms 8mm high. We still use CR2032 batteries, which gives us about 1 week battery life right now. We would get more, but I send our a MetaEvent every 10sec which is hard on the battery.
  • The “Hub” collects all data. It scans for tiles, continuously, and connects. The hub runs on the raspberry pi, uses a BLE dongle (choice is key here) and uses node.js for all programming. It sends on data to the server with CoAP – a UDP-based IoT protocol.
  • The “Server” collects all data for all hubs (yep, there can be many) and provides the necessary APIs for managing the User/Tile association, authentication and authorization (Oauth2 used here), etc.

 

One change over the last days was that we can now associate products with the tiles. That means a store manager can just scan a tile (NFC or QR) and then add this tile to his private analytics page. The UI of these web pages is currently being worked on and will feature a few cool features such as a heartbeat every 10 seconds or the color of the scanned tile, that gets pulled via some static, factory-decided data. This system is all up and running now, currently with one live hub and 7 tiles connected.

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What’s left is the callback mechanism plus the web ui. The callback mechanism will “call out” to external systems for each event reveived. So if a LiftEvent is received and a webhook is configured, we’ll send out a HTTP Post to the configured external service. I also plan to pull in the product details from YAAS, hybris’ on demand API offering.

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Tiles Update – we’ve added blinky blinky

Our project Tiles, little BLE-connected platforms for customer interaction tracking, is entering a project phase which allows me to blog and inform you a bit more. Since yesterday night, the Raspberry PI and Arduino in the hub uses one power source. This makes the overall design easier. We also have been working on a Raspberry PI B+ hat, using Eagle, to further optimize our design.

One visible change is also that it now blinks :-) The hub rotates an LED light to signal the BLE scanning process. It flashes once you liftup the product, well, the apple in this case.

IMG_20141126_204216

 

We’ve now also locked down the architecture and below is a rough sketch that should help understand it. Again, a quick summary below.

tiles technical architecture

  • “Tiles” are the wirelessly connected platforms. We use Punchthrough’s LightBlue Bean and remove the battery holder to make the platforms 8mm high. We still use CR2032 batteries, which gives us about 1 week battery life right now. We would get more, but I send our a MetaEvent every 10sec which is hard on the battery.
  • The “Hub” collects all data. It scans for tiles, continuously, and connects. The hub runs on the raspberry pi, uses a BLE dongle (choice is key here) and uses node.js for all programming. It sends on data to the server with CoAP – a UDP-based IoT protocol.
  • The “Server” collects all data for all hubs (yep, there can be many) and provides the necessary APIs for managing the User/Tile association, authentication and authorization (Oauth2 used here), etc.

One more thing – I’ve connected the server to Xively, a data logging platform. We collect mainly the battery rundown to estimate battery life and also the temperature values from the lightblue beans. At this point I just want to share some nice graphs to show you how much sense it makes to track that data. It will definitely help us to optimize the design / battery consumption further. Right now we stay optimized for demo purposes, but we can later reduce the events sent for example to get a better battery life.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.49.19 AM

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.49.13 AM

 

 

 
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Video

SAP Executive Keynote (Wine Shelf)

Just to clarify this right from the start: You are not reading ANOTHER article about the Smart Wine Shelf here! This is a post about the Keynote held by Bernd Leukert (Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE Products & Innovation) at SAP TechED last week, that just by pure chance happens to include some wine-shelfish content.

If this were an article focusing on the Smart Wine Shelf we’d probably emphasize that for the first time we did a demo around CEC (customer engagement and commerce), and that the shelf was integrated with the hybris platform this time. And of course we would thank Rupert O’Halloran ans Dariusz Malachowski for helping us to make it happen. We would also point out that if you started watching this video at 1h 14min 25sec, you’d jump to the bit about the Wine Shelf.

But this isn’t, so we’re not…

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IMG_20141111_102244

 
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Next up: Tiles

I started blogging bits and pieces about BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy – a few weeks ago. The research we’re doing right now will help us to connect little, battery-powered “tiles” (hence the name) to a hub that collects data from these sensors. This prototype is part of our vision for a connected retail space. We’ve now received a first CNC-milled hardware prototype for the housing, which is shown below.

IMG_20141104_175100

 

We’ll now start connecting the bits and pieces. Our overall architecture consists of 3 parts:

  • the satellites –  tiles – contain LightBlue Beans – little arduino/BLE microcontrollers that run on batteries. The tiles also contain a single pressure sensor that is used to detect if a product is on top (or lifted up). The event data contains information about the tiles ID, the event (up/down) and the battery level. The mechanism we seem to support in the end will use BLE notifications that originate from the LightBlue Bean and will be received by the hub.
  • The hub is also still under development, but some early node.js code works nicely on my Mac already. The hub scans for the tiles, which send BLE advertisements, and connects to them. It receives the events via BLE notfications and will have to manage the tiles and pass on the events. The protocol we would like to use for the first time is CoAP in this case. It is essentially a binary version of HTTP, runs on UDP and is – as the name suggests – made for constrained applications. We’ve then successfully used ZMQ, MQTT and CoAP when it comes to IoT protocols.
  • The server will receive all CoAP messages from the tiles, process and persist (or at least keep) the data and allow users for the system – customers, store managers – to manage the tiles. We intend to print a QR code or attach an NFC tag to each of them. Once you touch the tiles with the NFC tag and have passed the OAuth2-based authorization, you can add the tile to your personal analytics view. The goal is to make it really reasy for a store manager to add these ‘sensor elements’ (tiles) to his anayltics view. Once a tile is claimed, the analytics data will not be accessible to anybody else than the person that claimed it.

So… yes, it’s still quite a long way to go.  I’ll try to update you once we make some progress. But let me know what feedback you have. Just tweet me or leave a comment directly on this blog.

 
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Aren’t 3 enough?

We’ll start to drastically reduce the posts about the Smart Wine Shelf very soon, promise!! But the truth is, the Wine Shelf is currently very popular, and that does make us somewhat happy. Some of you might know by now that we have more than one shelf. There’s the fixed installment in the hybris labs Innovation Space at NY82, then we’ve got the very first version we built traveling across North America, and of course our “portable” Wine Shelf (still not exactly hand luggage) that we take to events in Europe. So while Sven was taking care of prototype no. 1 in Montreal, Christian and Max presented the portable version in Salzburg at the ICS TechUp 2014, an event presented by the hybris customer SPAR. “Every business is a digital business” was this event’s motto, a perfect fit us.
We’ve had more than only a few enquiries by now if, when, where, how the Wine Shelf will be implemented in stores around the globe. The thing is, at hybris labs we build prototypes. Having built the Wine Shelf three times now already is therefore actually quite unusual for us. But after all, we do have a patent pending on the technology behind it and understand the potential.
What do you think, will we see the Wine Shelf or similar applications of our idea in stores sometime soon? Please, share your thoughts! We’d love to hear them!

 

 
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New possibilities?

Last week Sven was at Jazoon, the International Conference for the Software Community in Zurich. We promised to reduce posts about the Wine Shelf, so I’ll just mention, sort of en passant, that it was there too. Smart Wine Shelf: check. Done. Now we can take a look at some of the other things that happened at the event in Switzerland.

Jazoon was a fairly small conference with SAP as a Gold Sponsor. This gave Sven the opportunity to dive into some networking action with a few of our SAP colleagues. And he made a connection that might be quite relevant for hybirs labs in future. Holger Seubert will visit the labs team in Munich to train us in mastering SAP Hana. And once we’ve figured that out… MUAHAHAHA!… Sorry, that was actually slightly unprofessional. But seriously, integrating SAP Hana widens the range of things we can do with our prototypes.

Sven also ‘played’ with Arno Speck who was at Jazoon to present the SAP API Management Platform. Together they built the platform around the Wine Shelf API, creating an integrated use case that enables rate limiting, security, transformations…and so on. Let’s wait and see what this means for some of our next prototypes.

jazoon

 
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