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.
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.
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!
The next hybris labs prototype is coming soon. You might have read about the idea already here on our blog, but there have been a couple of developments. Funky Retail’s the name, in-store analytics is the game. With the Smart Wine Shelf we aimed to improve the customer experience by the use of an recommendation system based on IoT technology. But we also realised that the Internet of Things offers ways to enhance in-store analytics. This is exactly what we focused on while designing Funky Retail.
On any standard shopping website, retailers know exactly when a customer visits, know how long he stays, which products he looks at, for how long he looks at them, can recommend upsells and sees if the customer makes a purchase. Why should this not be possible in the physical retail world? That’s what we evaluate with Funky Retail. We identify the presence of a customer in front of a Funky Box; we count the product lift-ups; we measure how long a product is being lifted; and we even combined the individual product lift-up with the playback of an engaging product video.
To spice the whole thing up a little, we collaborated with the hybris customer Mammut. Mammut equipped us with some cool products that help us to put some more life into this prototype and round the story off. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we’ll give you a hint: A video shoot is scheduled with the hybris media team, and those guys have got a bit of climbing experience…