Project X-Ray

Two of our Hybris Labs prototypes need a tag-to-YaaS mapping. Infinite Cart  uses NFC (Near field communication) where the Tag ID is mapped as product code (SKU number). For the Changing Room prototype we are using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags. When we started with this prototype you had to hold a RFID tag near an RFID scanner and then had to check the log files to find its ID.

With the RFID Action Reader, which we’re also using for our Expose prototype, you can read the RFID ID on a Raspberry Pi. But I also built a custom made Arduino Shield with an Indy RS500 chip (from Impinj), which sends the the RFID value via USB port. This made life much easier and gave me the idea for Project X-Ray.

X-Ray Vision

The idea of the X-Ray Project: you can use any scanner (Barcode, NFC or RFID) to automatically add the scanned product code. The name of the Project: Tom Brady can scan the defense of an American Football team, but Superman has X-Ray Vision.

YaaS Builder Module

The X-Ray YaaS Builder Module lists all products (or variants, if you use them) with its image, product name and an editable product code.

X-Ray Demo Screenshot

X-Ray Demo Screenshot

The selected product will be saved when the user hits Return or a scanner sends a Return ‘\n’. This allows you to use a simple barcode scanner, or a NFC/RFID scanner with an Arduino Leonardo which uses the HID protocol. The HID (Human Interface Device) protocol simulates a keyboard. In this case my RFID or NFC scanner works like a keyboard and I could use it here (RFID: E28011606000020507B259A0).

An alternative is WebUSB. In this case the scan result will be only available in the browser. Another effect is that it is independent of the keyboard layout (HID shows other characters, if you’re using Dvorak as keyboard layout).

Subscribe Module

If you’re interested in this Builder Module you can subscribe it as Private Package with the Version ID 58a310e5b11af50013e341af.

Some technical stuff

The YaaS Builder Module is a static web module using RESTangular. The module runs on Cloud Foundry. For the X-Ray demo I’ve been using some images from the RetroPie project. You may have heard about our Arcade Machine here at Hybris? We are all ‘retro‘ now 🙂

And because I’m lazy, I’ve built a tool which adds products via YAML file into YaaS. The name of this tool: Megablast … yes, from the retro game Xenon 2 Megablast.

 
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General Update & Final Architecture Diagram for Expose

It’s been a while since I wrote about expose, but finally I am sitting at the Munich airport again, which is my favorite time to write blog posts. From a technical point of view, expose is in the final phase of being polished. We’ve worked with the designers at SNK to create great user interfaces, ironed out a few bugs here and there and are currently thinking of two showrooms (Munich and New York) to install this prototype. While these discussions and the details will need a few more weeks, I think technically this prototype is locked-down and done. So it’s time to take a final look at it and wrap it all up.

So again, what is it all about? 

There’s two perspectives that we can take. The technical and the business perspective.

From a technical point of view, expose is a Hybris Labs Experiment that combines RFID and IoT technology together YaaS. The location subsystem constantly scans for registered RFID labels and tries to determine the best possible location. The data is analyzed and yields an individual journey per user of the system as well as overall location analyticsThe action subsystem allows individual participants of this experiment to interact on a 1:1 basis with the system. Current action stations include the signup station, the bar station, the journey station and the party booth – all four offer personalized interactions based on the customer’s previous behavior.

Business-wise, such a system can for example be used at events and showrooms. Via the technical means described above, we can track the location of RFID labels, which could be attached to a visitor’s event badge. From an event-coordinator’s perspective, real-time analytics where people are, where people are likely to go and what they do (action subsystem) can be offered. While the backend-users of such a system gain insights into their event and the flow of users, there’s something in for the visitors that carry the RFID labels, too. They can interact at various action points on a one-to-one basis. This means the barkeeper will remember your name and favorite drink, the event host might be able recommend people to meet based on your interests or location history, etc.

As I am a technical guy, let’s concentrate on the technical a architecture diagram first- have a look:

expose :: technical architecture

expose :: technical architecture

From bottom to top, you can see these layers of the expose system:

  • The very basis of the system are micro-services powered by YaaS – Hybris as a Service. This prototype uses quite a lot, so after registering a user, we’ve got a new customer account via the customer service, the products at the bar of course are maintained via the product service. A purchase / order results in a cart being checked out for the customer.
  • Once again, we’ve extended YaaS with custom micro-services for expose. Our RFID readers send HTTP Post requests in regular 3s intervals and the endpoint for those are part of the expose service – part of the expose package. To be brutally honest with you, at this point the configuration is rather static within this service, but at a later stage we could manage it on a tenant-by-tenant basis via a builder module. Totally accurate though in the above diagram are the user interfaces which are rendered by the expose service.
  • We’re now touching the physical world, with RFID readers installed at various locations of a showroom and at the action stations where users can interact on a 1:1 basis. Our default setup will use 5 locations (Impinj Speedway Connect readers) and 4 action points. The latter are Raspberry Pis which my colleague Lars Gregori extended with a custom shield. We attach a small antenna to them so users can put their RFID label on top to have it read. The location readers are constantly sending the scanned RFID labels to our service, where we process the location information with some self-made algorithm and store the data in the YaaS document storage.

 

The map and dashboard

 

 

 

The 4 action point UIs – signup, bar, journey and party booth.

Signup

   

Bar

 

Journey

 

 

An extra paragraph on the party booth

The party booth will be an awesome action point of the expose system and it’s a bit crazy, I agree. I have to think of a nice way of showing you the UI’s, so give me a few days after my current trip to get that done. It shows how we can interact with visitors on a 1:1 basis with the help of YaaS. It will load the data that a visitor left at signup and create a personalized party experience. At the moment, we’ve specified how the party booth will roughly look like and a local artist, Andreas Kraeftner from Munich is working on the physical fabrication. We use metal, glass, wood and it all will be combined with the electronics like Raspberry PIs, LEDs, loudspeakers, a disco ball and a fog machine. The booth will take pictures via a camera connected to the raspberry pi within the booth and it will create an animated GIF in the end that users can post on twitter.

So yes, it’s crazy. And different to many showcases you’ve seen before. It’s okay to be different!

 

 
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Bullseye-Mania in South America

Even though a Bullseye-Tour of South America does sound quite appealing,  we saw more sense in enabling our colleagues to build, configure, set up, and conduct the demo themselves. So while Georg and Nick were in Mexico City they took the opportunity to share some Bullseye and also Infinite Cart expertise. There was only one minor drawback. The main component of the Bullseye platforms, a microcontroller called “Teensy-LC USB Board”, is a slightly exotic piece of equipment and therefore not easily purchasable in all countries. Our Colombian colleagues were faced with exactly this problem. Them being under some time pressure, we decided to try our luck in the electronic stores of downtown Mexico City.

Now don’t get us wrong, they had A LOT of stuff there! But unfortunately not what we were looking for, so after the fifth of these “mini electronic malls” we had to admit defeat. Luckily the previously placed order from the US arrived just in time for the SAP Forum in Colombia, resulting in another version of a Bullseye powered wine shelf. And this isn’t the end. The SAP Forums in Cali, Bogotá, Guatemala City, and Puerto Rico will also be showing the demo.

 
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Spicy times for Infinite Cart

After having accomplished their mission at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Scottsdale, Georg and Nick’s next stop was Mexico City to support the local SAP Forum. Our Mexican colleagues are so fond of Hybris Labs, they even adopted the original version of our very first IoT prototype, the Smart Wine Shelf. It looks quite happy in its new home.

Another thing that made us very happy in the Mexico City office, was to see that we’re not the only ones playing with Lego and Raspberry PIs. Without having any sort of solid evidence to support such a statement (apart from Augmented Commerce), Hybris Labs will of course claim to be the trendsetter in this field.

But the actual reason for traveling to Mexico was to train some colleagues in the art of Infinite Cart. Not only were they going to show it at their SAP Forum, they’re also going to be taking Infinite Cart to various events across Latin America and will then add it to their showroom as a new attraction.

The actual show went just as well as the rehearsal and, thanks to a lovely booth design, attracted quite some attention.

That was the end of Georg and Nick’s trip, but stay tuned if you want to know how things went in Colombia.

What?! Were you expecting some kind of cliché statement or photo in reference to the term “spicy” in the title? Well what can we say…

 
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Bullseye at the FMI Midwinter Gala Dinner

This year’s FMI Midwinter Executive Conference took place in Scottsdale, Arizona. And what’s the first thing you do when you travel to an event in the desert? Correct, you mess around with cacti.

After sufficiently making yourself familiar with the local flora, you then move on to the fun part: checking the network at the venue. It turns out the best way to do that is kneeling in a hall with your head upside down. (Only applicable when testing Ethernet. For wireless connections you will need to assume a position dangling from the chandelier.)

A vital step that is much to frequently forgotten, is hiding and watching while others do the physical work, i. e. booth setup.

Then it’s finally time to admire your work and wait for the event to start.

At the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference Gala Dinner guests, could use our Hybris Labs Bullseye prototype to find the matching beverage to their meal. And if even the mascot got excited it doubtlessly must have been a success.

From Scottsdale, Georg and Nick flew on to the next event in Mexico City.

To be continued…

 
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yaas.js examples

Do you remember our blog post about yaas.js?

In the meanwhile YaaS is also available in Germany and therefore the screenshots are a little bit outdated. An always up-to-date documentation you can find on the YaaS Builder page.

Another thing we’ve changed, was to add some tests. Therefore the example we mentioned in our previous blog post is now a test case which needs a testing framework (mocha). But don’t worry, I’ve add some examples to yaas.js. Just copy and adjust the test-config-TEMPLATE.json to test-config.json and run an example.

 
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Bullseye partially open-sourced – have a look!

Since we introduced Bullseye, a Hybris-as-a-Service (YaaS) based prototype around in-store customer engagement & commerce, the first time at the Hybris Summit ’16 in Munich, we’ve been showing and replicating it across the globe like crazy. We’ve even had companies like BASF do public trials in their stores and just as I write these sentences, we’ve signed up showrooms in Singapore and Thailand. It’s a truly global prototype, highly flexible in terms of the configuration and running on our beloved YaaS infrastructure in the cloud.

While the software-parts of this prototype (below is an architecture to help you remember) are easy to scale, we’ve had quite some challenges to scale the hardware. Our platforms – containing a small microcontroller, a light sensor and a LED ring – are hand-made, hand-soldered, each with a 3D-printed case which alone takes about 4 hours to print in a decent quality. We’ve created many of these platforms ourselves, spending days and weeks making new platforms for new prototype installations somewhere on this globe.

candy-shop-90x60While we’ve been successful in finding a local electronics engineering company that produced these platforms for several projects already, the platforms still needed to come to our desks to be flashed with the correct firmware and initialized. We’ve so far not been able to outsource these parts, as there’s software involved that we could not easily just hand over to them.

That’s changed now! We’ve successfully  open-sourced all the hardware-facing parts of ourBullseye prototype: take a look at the plat GitHub page! This will greatly facilitate the production of platforms in the future, as the hardware & software of the platforms is now completely available for others. It would also be cool to see variations – we’ve used a light sensor and an LED ring in our platform, but you could easily swap that for other sensors and actuators!

In the end, our new open source project is a great blueprint for connected devices. It will not fit for all use cases of course, but I could well imagine that it works for a lot ideas that people have. Here are a few ideas what you can do/learn with this project:

  • Figure out how we reliably connect a Raspberry PIs to the cloud via MQTT and node.js, upon booting the device
  • Figure out how to send data from the Raspberry PI to connected/wired platforms via USB, potentially with USB hubs in between to scale the number of platforms connected
  • Figure out how to write a serial protocol to collect events from the platforms or send commands to them

Have a look, clone the repo, try it out! After all: Have Fun!

 

 
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Changing Room on YaaS

We now have another Hybris Labs prototype running entirely on YaaS – The Changing Room.

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 09.51.33 (2)

After Bullseye and Infinite Cart this is now the third of our prototypes we have integrated with YaaS. Again, the biggest benefit lies in the flexibility to configure the demo to specific needs. “Product content management with YaaS Builder” we call it. In less fancy words: we can easily exchange the products.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 14.51.34

There is of course a bit more to it than that. At the end, one of our main goals is to demonstrate the possibilities of combining innovative ideas with SAP Hybris software. It also allowed us to add some new features:

  • Customer loyalty card detection on customer opt-in
  • Transfer of products currently in changing room to customers shopping cart on mobile device via QR code

IMG_7571 1

This nicely rounds off the Changing Room story. If we wanted to, we now could speak of a ‘customer journey’…

 
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