An update on expose: now adding a party booth

Finally an update on the latest developments around expose, our location / action tracking prototype that we develop on top of YaaS. You might remember that we track the location of RFID labels via the location readers. Besides locating the labels, we also have developed an “action reader” subsystem that is used to engage with the user of the RFID label on a 1:1 basis. For the action readers, the user has to actively place his RFID label close to a small matchbox antenna to be scanned. Below is the updated system architecture: Expose Technical Architecture (1)

While the architecture / framework for all action readers is the same (they send their scanned labels to a common backend API), we reference the correct screen that is intended to be shown in the tablet screens based on the specific MQTT topics that are used. The action readers post to the backend including the tenant/reader Id information which will forward the data to the appropriate screen, connected via Socket.IO.

Right now we have completed these action reader setups:

  • signup: a kiosk where new users with fresh RFID labels are onboarded or may change their data
  • bar: a kiosk where either an employee or a barkeeper can log some drink that he takes out of the fridge.
  • party: a party booth that allows you to have a personalized party based on the data that we know about the user.

For this post, I wanted to specifically pick the party action reader system. It consists of:

  • an action reader that is tied to the
  • tablet screen for the party booth and
  • the party booth itself

The action reader system looks like this:

Expose Action Reader - Technical (1)

The real fun comes in when you look at the party booth. It’s a pretty nice system with a raspberry PI at its core.

Expose Action Station - Party Booth Technical (1)

 

Right now, the booth looks rough 🙂 But we’re in discussions with a local artist to create some booth building/boxing around this. It’s already a lot of fun to use, believe me!

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The software of this system is running on node.js, starting automatically upon booth and so far quite stable. The sequence for using the booth is this:

  • a new user comes into  the booth and holds his RFID label close to the action scanner
  • the tablet screen (here: our TV screen) is showing a welcome message and the color and music choice of the customer. These data are left by the user during the onboarding/signup process
  • the party booth raspberry pi will start playing back the music according to the profile.
  • the dotstar LEDs are colored according to the profile – in combination with the rotating disco ball, this creates a nice atmosphere in the booth later
  • the fog machine turns on for a few seconds, so the bottom of the box will be filled with fog
  • while the user is in the booth and the music is playing, pictures are taken via the raspberry pi camera. These pics appear in real-time on the tablet screen.
  • once the party is over, all pics are aggregated into an animated gif and again shared to the tablet screen.
  • the user can now select one image an it will be shared to the ylabsparty twitter account. have a look it’s already pretty cool!

All right – good for now, ready for the weekend. I hope to update you soon again, till then follow us via the ylabsparty twitter account!

 
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The BASF and Hybris Labs Wine Shelf

Back in May 2014 we showed the original Smart Wine Shelf for the first time at the Hybris Americas Customer Days in Chicago. More than two years later, the SAP Hybris customer BASF is running a Bullseye version of the Wine Shelf based on YaaS (Hybris as a Service) as a pilot project at their Wine Cellar in Ludwigshafen. Take a look and tell us what you think!

 
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Changing Room conquers new region

After the Smart Wine Shelf in Mexico and Infinite Cart in Japan, we now had the Changing Room in the Middle East. In Dubai, a city well known for luxury shopping and modern architecture,  it was Lukas Kerschbaum, Director of Presales at SAP Hybris who had the pleasure of conducting the demo. Here’s what Lukas had to say:

“This year at GITEX it’s all about LIVE – construction, events, boardroom and of course LIVE Retail. What else is there to demonstrate this better than our very own Hybris Labs Changing Room. Together with other smart innovations that make people’s lives easier, we showcased our concept of an interactive shopping or dressing experience to the visitors at GITEX. Many big retailers love the idea of connecting a digital experience with a store visit. To attract even more attention we will move the Changing Room to the newly created Customer Experience Center in the new Dubai office after GITEX.”

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Leveraging Labs limitlessly

We might be regretting that headline pretty soon… ‘Limitlessly’ is slightly exaggerated. Those of you who know Hybris Labs better or have been following our blog will in fact debunk this statement as a blatant lie. ‘Leveraging’ is a bit dicey too actually. ‘Labs’ is fine though.

What we have been trying to do and are continuously succeeding with, is making it possible for SAP teams around the world to show and in some cases even rebuild our prototypes without our physical presence. The two latest examples of this sort of collaboration were presented by our colleagues in Mexico and Japan.

Wine Shelf Mexico

In Mexico it’s the original Smart Wine Shelf that’s creating a buzz. It was stored in the US for quite some time, so we’re happy to see it in action again. After all, it was the very first wine shelf we built and in a way marks the beginning of the Labs era as you know it today.

Our Japanese colleagues decided to go with Infinite Cart. Even if we need to invest some time to ‘leverage’ our demos and make sure they work, we think it’s definitely worth it. Because at the end: Everybody’s happy.

Japan_InfiniteCart

 
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It takes beer to make thirst worthwhile

Arriving on the other side of the planet without your luggage is a slightly annoying experience, to say the least. But you generally can survive for a day or two until you receive your personal belongings. Now, unlike a toothbrush and underwear, a Hybris Labs Bullseye demo is nothing you can buy in your local store…yet. This is exactly the problem Sven and Nick were confronted with when they arrived in Fort Lauderdale for the SAP Hybris Americas Summit.

Waiting for the suitcase containing the prototype without being able to do anything was painful enough, but the knowledge that it would need to make it through customs without a member of the Labs team present to charm the authorities was…worrying. We’re not saying Labs luggage is always suspicious, but…well…we didn’t want them to take our beer!

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Under other circumstances we’re always happy to share, but in this case it was special beer which we needed for our demo. For the Americas Summit we had planned to set up Bullseye in the HEINEKEN® Beer Selector version. And with basically no time to spare, we managed…

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It didn’t only look pretty though. After Infinite Cart, Bullseye is now the second prototype by Hybris Labs that runs on YaaS, shows products sponsored by an SAP Hybris customer, and is integrated with SAP Hybris Profile.

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Expose: RFID-based location tracking

Internally code-named “expose”, we’re working on a new Hybris Labs experiment that is finally big and good enough to be blogged about. While it has been maturing for a few weeks now, it’s still in it’s infancy and many parts will prosper over time. What is it about? It’s all about using RFID readers to track the physical location of RFID tags (associated to opt-in colleagues) at our office in Munich. The proximity to the YaaS (hYbris As A Service) teams allowed us to create the complete architecture based on this platform and I am really thrilled to give you an idea about it with this blog post.

The system is currently still small, but also big enough to make technical sense. We have a setup of up to 5 RFID readers which are mapped against 5 locations (POIs, point of interest). These are two meeting rooms and 3 “areas” in the Hybris Munich office.

rfid

Before I go into detail, I’d love to cover the topic of privacy/security/etc. Are we saying that we would like to equip future customers with RFID labels to track them? No, we are not. This is an experiment, yielding a general-purpose location tracking API and means to process these events. RFID is a technology that we’ll likely use at events to generate these location-events in a very quick fashion. It brings the demos to life, as we’ll be able to consume many, many events over a short time. So keep that in mind.

The big picture

Just for the purpose of this post, I created the first architecture diagram. Let me step through the architecture, so you get a good understanding.

Expose Technical Architecture

At the very top, we have the RFID tags (sometimes called RFID labels) that have tiny micro-controllers and larger antennas around them. Those are the items we track. Each of these have unique IDs in their memory. They are passive, meaning that they don’t have a power supply of their own – they are powered by the energy that the RFID antennas in the next layer supply to them.  Up to 4 antennas can connect to a RFID reader, which is the “edge computing” element if you like. The RFID reader constantly scans for tags via the antennas and sends HTTPS POST requests to our back end services every 3 seconds. The data that these requests include is pretty basic: the reader’s MAC address and essentially a list of tags and the antenna (the port of the reader) that scanned the tag. Our RFID readers are from Impinj, a partner of SAP Hybris that we have used in the past for prototypes such as the Changing Room. Our main REST endpoint, the expose service,  is a node.js based cloudfoundry web app which is “YaaS-ified” by registering it as a YaaS service. This will later allow us on to setup security via OAuth2, metering, billing, etc… Another part that is currently purely fictional (as it does not yet exist) is the expose builder. The builder component will later allow a business user to administrate the setup. We’ve designed the whole system to be tenant-aware, which makes it easier to reuse for other events and purposes. Below the custom components (the expose service and builder module) you’ll find many core YaaS services that we are currently using: OAuth2 for getting access tokens to tenant-specific services such as documents (location history), customers (each RFID tag is associated to a customer object) and so on.

In a nutshell, we created a RFID-based location tracking system, which tries to be as technology-independent as possible. We’ve worked hard on the algorithms that try to determine the location of the RFID tags even though multiple readers scan the tags and send these requests with a few seconds offset to the back end service.  Our system is based on the rules of simplicity and honesty. We acknowledge that RFID has its shortcomings when it comes to tracking locations, for example we simply cannot scan tags that are “hidden” behind bodies. Therefore, the location that we emit will have an quality indication such as being

  • “fresh, insecure, just one-time scanned”
  • “safe, constantly scanned for several seconds” and
  • “stale, no more updates for this tag for some time”

Some Screenshots

Here are some early screenshots before beautification by our artists in residence (SNK).

zones

The zones UI (above) is a real-time view into the location tracking system. Updated via a socket.io connection, every second it shows all tags with associated customer accounts and their location state. Looks like I’ve been at Labs some time (therefore “safe” location), Agnieszka was “freshly scanned” at the cafe in the 4th floor and Ulf also just walked into the kleve meeting room.

map

Another view option is the map view. Terribly ugly right now, but technically already showing the data. We’ll change the UI soon and the concept behind the map – probably it will have the character of a heat map.

analytics_locations

Our first analytics UI will show the safe locations over the last 24 hours. It gives you an idea which areas are most frequented.

journey

Probably the roughest of the UIs (but hey, we have nothing to hide, have we?) is the journey UI. Per user, you can see the safe locations in a journey view (and again just the last 24h).

 What’s next?

While we already have a few UIs, the main focus at this point has to be on the technical aspects and to make the core RFID system run really well. We need to properly test the system with our colleagues and continue to find and fix bugs. But when it comes to big features that are currently in our heads, these are:

  • support for so-called “action readers” that will be tied to a location, but also to a specific action. In terms of an event, this might mean actions performed at the reception (new user signup) or the bar (2 cappuccinos). These actions are part of the journey elements and will probably be visualized in such a UI. This will also bring up interesting integrations with other YaaS core services such as the cart. As we already have customer accounts, this should be easy.
  • integration with SAP Hybris Profile to be able to do things like: “customer’s similar to you also visited these locations”, etc.
  •  once we’re stable enough: optimized UI’s – kiosk-style location maps etc. for the events. Also: a builder module for easy configuration of the system per tenant.

Please help us! Carry the RFID tags, check the UI’s provided to see if it makes sense, talk to us if you have questions!

 
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Rubber ducks run Infinite Cart

Fact.

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An entire armada of them!

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At dmexco – Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference in Cologne.

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And they did an excellent job indeed! There was an overwhelming interest in our Infinite Cart demo. Initially out of curiosity why the SAP Hybris booth looked like a showroom for taps and sinks. But further inquisitiveness soon drove visitors into the hands of SAP Hybris Profile. This once again showed us how much sense it makes to integrate with other services. That way we can generate some buzz around the actual product and in return we have less difficulties explaining why we have taps and sinks at our booth.

So listen to the rubber duck and check out the SAP Hybris Profile Developer Portal.

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“big hit” in Singapore

That’s the reaction to the Hybris Labs Changing Room at the 4th Annual Customer Experience Management Summit, currently being held in Singapore – “a big hit!”. The internal reaction… but the general feedback can’t be far off, because the setup looks pretty cool.

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The local team did a great job putting the demo together with some remote support from us. Nice one!

 
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Premiere Night

We’re using the term ‘premiere’ in it’s broadest possible sense here. Both Bullseye and Infinite Cart have been around for quite a while already. But we’ve only just installed the demos in our showroom, a.k.a. The Hybris Labs Innovation Space. The perfect cover to organise a nice little party. Buy some beer, invite all your colleagues and give the do a fancy name to make it an official occasion – “The Hybris Labs Premiere Night”.

We started the evening with an exclusive not-quite-premiere of our latest video. But then it was time for the real thing. Lots of our colleagues hadn’t had the opportunity to see a live demo of Infinite Cart before, so they were genuinely interested. Perhaps the beer also played a part…

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The second new big attraction in the showroom is Bullseye. Give ’em what they what they want…sweets, flashing lights and a beer in their hands…at the end: Everybody’s happy.

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