hybris labs joins the high society

An event in Monaco… not that difficult to find voluntary travelers in this case. Anja and Scott had the pleasure of fulfilling this tormenting duty in the name of the labs team and we’d all very much like to see those expense reports.

However, there is clear evidence that they were actually there to present our prototypes Funky Retail and the Changing Room at ‘E-Commerce ONE TO ONE’, as Scott managed to generate coverage by the French media. There seems to be a big interest within some of France’s high class brands to leverage technologies that allow them to connect with their customers on a new level, an omni-channel approach that fits in well our vision of a connected retail space. These companies are developing a tendency towards “experimenting” in showrooms before deploying new interaction patterns in all of their stores. Sounds like a case for hybris labs…

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CeBit presents the solar eclipse

CeBit 2015 – “Fresh Impulses for Digital Business”, innovations everywhere, and in the middle of it our Smart Wine Shelf. A prototype we developed about a year ago… Of course we had some new things with us as well! Funky Retail and Tiles completed our little IoT family. Everything started well on the Monday. Ian Kimbell, SAP’s chief presenter and self-appointed ‘Demo Guy’, showed our Wine Shelf (with physical web beacon) on SAP’s own stage.

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But then on Friday, when Sven entered the stage, things looked like this…

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…empty spaces, abandoned places… but the show had to go on. Bravely Sven tried to attract more attention by letting the Wine Shelf flash, showing videos of Funky Retail, and even setting up the colourful Tiles demo live on stage, always thinking “Did everyone realise that I don’t really prepare these kind of presentations…?”. To be fair on Sven though, it’s not easy when you’re contending with a solar eclipse… Slightly unlucky timing. So unlucky that even your colleagues turn their backs on you…

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Sven took it with a big smile and now refers to the whole thing as #darkpresentation. And he did get his audience in the end…

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Moto: exploring the smartphone as an IoT hub for retail

At #hybrislabs, we’ve explored IoT quite a bit now. We’ve begun with the smart wine shelf, our first IoT experience for the retail spaces that used a unique idea and combination of technologies to provide both customer and retailer value. Next up was funky retail, where we focused on the analytics in the retail space with both distance and pressure sensors. With tiles, we went wireless for the first time – but still used a central hub where all Bluetooth LE messages are collected and forwarded to the cloud.

Finally, with moto, we’re now filling a gap. We would like to explore one missing IoT topology in our portfolio: using the smartphone as a hub for the connected devices around you. Below is a pic how the current prototype looks. In the end, it will be a glass-protected, spinning disk that is lighted up from below. It will feature an IR distance sensor to detect customers, be able to change rotation speed and direction as well as the color. It will require a power cable, but communication will again be bluetooth low energy.  Here’s also a video of moto from a recent G+ post.

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What is more important and sadly almost invisible is *how* we connect these IoT elements. We’ll not use a central hub. Instead, the plan is to have iOS/Android Apps installed on the sales assistants phones that automatically connect to the retailers smart objects. These apps on the smartphones connect via BLE and forward the data to/from the cloud to/from the the things. The idea is that a sales assistant can freely move in the retail space. The app will scan and connect, might loose the connection from time to time and leave one “moto” disconnected, later move back in range and reconnect. If another sales assistant with the same app and configuration moves in range, he will take over.  Here’s the architecture:

Moto Architecture Diagram

At this time, we’ve successfully connected to the moto’s and defined the rough BLE-based protocol that we’ll use. We’ve got some node.js based code that works on a Mac for experimenting and testing. Next up will be the task to write a good Android app (iOS welcome, too), that launches, finds IoT elements, connects and then proxies the communication to the cloud. For the cloud communication, we’ll again use MQTT but still need to find a good and easy MQTT solution for Android/iOS. So if you have any good ideas and are able to point into the right direction, let us know! (@hansamann or comment – we actually do read them!)

To wrap this up, here’s the raw PCB of moto with the neopixel RGB ring and IR distance sensor connected to the PCB. The board again uses a LightBlue Bean for the BLE connectivity. As it is running on 9V for the stepper motor (which is not shown here), we need to step down the voltage twice from 9V – one time to 5V for the neopixel RGB LEDs, another time to 3.3V for the ligthblue bean. We’re also using a stepper motor driver, DRV8834 on a breakout,  that allows us to control the direction and speed of the stepper motor.

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A new Alliance

San Francisco, USA… and we’re scrubbing labels off of wine bottles in the bathtub again. That’s part of the hybris labs job description by now. Fly half way round the planet, check in at hotel, buy cheap wine, re-label bottles in hotel room.

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(Downtown San Francisco, Parc 55 Hotel, Room 1511, bathroom)

This time we did it to show the Smart Wine Shelf at the local SAP d-kom event in San Mateo, Silicon Valley. Furthermore we also presented Tiles. No scrubbing or bathing needed for that prototype, just in case you were wondering….

For this event we formed an alliance with our fellow compatriots from the SAP d-shop in Palo Alto. After we had picked up our badges at the SAP Office in Building 1, we took a walk through the park (yes park, not bad…) to Building 9 and were quite impressed. A proper lab full of people doing nerdy things! Lovely! They had organised a hackathon as a buildup to d-kom and the house was full. Very cool!

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(Hackathon at SAP d-shop in Palo Alto)

Next day it was time for business. It turns out there actually are still quite a few people who haven’t heard about our Smart Wine Shelf yet. SAP d-kom being an internal event for developers, we took the opportunity to show the insides. Wires, Arduino, Raspberry PI, boom. It’s really nice to experience the interest in our prototypes, and bathe in positive feedback sometimes.

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But  connecting with our friends from SAP d-shop was perhaps the nicest part of the trip. Hopefully we’ll be working on some projects together soon! Great minds think a like, they say (= they seem to be similarly mad to us).

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(from left to right: Nick Wood, Rocky Ongkowidjojo, Max Schrupp)

 
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We are not alone…

Big support from overseas!

The hybris Montreal Tinker Team has joined forces with hybris labs and product manager Sebastian Mahr to create the Smart Wine Shelf powered by hybris and Customer Data Management. This new iteration of the hybris labs project connects the existing hardware to an actual hybris implementation, making it “hybris ready” using the upcoming Customer Data Management (CDM) module. This solution will allow for highly relevant product and cross-sell suggestions with a single view of the customer, collecting data from multiple sources: user questionnaires, activity on the wine shelf, and the user’s previous purchase and activity history.

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The Montreal Tinker Team is composed of developers, QA specialists, and architects from Professional Services, Project Delivery N-A. They implemented a hybris-based solution, built a prototype wine shelf board for realistic end-to-end testing, and designed an API for implementation in the CDM. With the help of Sebastian in Munich they were able to design and implement a mock CDM implementation and continue development while providing valuable feedback on the intended use and behavior of the CDM module.

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Initial testing of the hybris solution versus a real working CDM has begun between the two offices. A couple of “war room” sessions have allowed for useful testing and debugging of the platform, and some new features were live-coded to ensure that a working solution will be available for demonstration. Through this testing the CDM generated some exciting graphs of user data and their journeys.

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Technologically, the project is an exciting mix of technology:

  • hybris platform with websockets (using Atmosphere)
  • Arduino hardware interface
  • nodejs client on Raspberry PI
  • responsive user interface
  • CDM and the “Unified Customer Repository”

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An initial version of the solution was presented at the hybris Global Customer Days & Partner Summit in Munich on February 9th-13th, 2015. This was an exciting opportunity to see the working wine shelf and meet with members of hybris labs, plus members of the CDM and Tinker teams, to learn more about how it all works together.

Article by Benjamin Bignell

 
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The Physical Web, Connected Retail and IoT. Some thoughts.

The hybris Summit is just over and the hybris labs team presented many IoT-related prototypes to the customers and partners visiting. If you are following this blog, then that’s no news :-) Today, #google was kind enough to send me a few “physical web” beacons and also two extra Intel Edison boards, for all more fancy ideas I might have. After some wine and wild thinking, here are some thoughts.

IMG_20150216_203005The Physical Web
If you’ve never heard this: it’s basically an Apple iBeacon but instead a crazy, cryptic, UUID which is essentially a long number, it sends around a URL to a website. The key thing here is to understand that an iBeacon only makes sense with a special app, that scans and *interprets* the UUID. This could be Estimote’s SDK that tells your APP that Beacon 124123412341324 should right now, actually, mean show a coupon for the white sneakers in the showroom. We stopped believing that every customer would have the retailers app installed that enables commerce-centric use cases with iBeacons a while ago. But scanning QR-codes for URLs, tapping NFC tags, or even typing URLs directly… really? How backwards :-)

If only every thing would publish a URL
So now, the physical web tries to solve that problem. There will not be an app for everything. In the end, native apps won’t scale. They might be prettier and for some time looked like the only way to do mobile, but it just does not scale to the Internet of Things, where we talk about billions of smart devices. Broken down to commerce, we have not so many unique retailers around the globe compared to the complete IoT. Still, it is unrealistic that every customer walks into the retail space and has the suitable app installed to unlock the next smart wine shelf. The physical web replaces the cryptic data sent via Apple iBeacon with URLs. Only problem: the BLE advertisements are small, so some compression similar to the NFC NDEF URL Records is required. Combined with link shorteners, which are anyways great for built-in analytics, that seems like a solveable problem.

Damn, the physical web needs an app :-)
Dammit, did I just say it’s unrealistic our customers will each have a dedicated app installed for every single store and the “Things” therein. Right now, the physical web needs an app, that scans and interprets the physical web beacons. The promise is: there will be one app. Ideally, at some point, integrated into the operating systems. Like: your browser. That would be the natural place for such a web scanning feature.

So where will our physical web beacons go?
I’ll touch the Intel Edison “dynamic physical web beacons” over the next days, but first I will attach the 10 web beacons to some objects around the office. We have a few prototypes in the hybris labs space, which each will get one. Like in a museum, each beacon will forward to a unique blog post giving you some context and additional information about the prototype. I wish our fridge, filled with beer, had a beacon so we could track the takeout of a beer and track usage per employee. Oh, one beacon should link to the Swarm (that was Foursquare, remember?) URL for our office, so people can check in easily. Maybe I should carry a web beacon, so whoever is close to me can scan the link to my G+ profile or twitter account, so he can follow me. Next time I give a presentation, I will first update a beacon with the URL to my #prezi presentation and distribute the share links like that.

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For the Intel-Edison based beacons, I need some constantly updating source so a dynamic beacon makes sense. The latest blog post on the hybris labs blog might make sense on first sight. But after a few extra sips of wine, a simple HTTP redirect – aka the WEB – solves that issue. The lab.hybris.com RSS feed already will redirect you to the latest blog post. So why waste an expensive Intel Edison on this? Reporting a sensor value makes way more sense. If you want to report a sensor reading, to load it directly off the web your sensor needs to share it with the web. Using a smart web beacon, I can send the browser to a local web address, then read the value. My local web address might be a retailer’s analytics system, having beautiful links to all the sensor data in my store. I’ll do that tomorrow or so…. please send us some comments or tweet me directly!

 
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[y] SUMMIT – recap

The days were long at last week’s hybris Global Customer Days & Partner Summit 2015. And they were busy too! So many of our hybris customers and partners were curious to find out what had been going on in the labs over the past year. On top of that our colleagues from around the world took the opportunity to enjoy some live demonstrations of our latest prototypes. The feedback we got was very positive so it should be fair to say: everybody’s happy.

This year we showed five of our innovations: Augmented Commerce, The Changing Room, Tiles, Oktoberfest of Things, The Smart Wine Shelf, and Funky Retail. As mentioned it was busy, so we were very happy to be supported by the Tinker Team from Montreal. If you have not heard about these guys yet, you should keep following our blog… Judging by the photo, they had a good time here.

Find out more about the Tinker Team joining forces with labs…

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