Hybris Labs in 2016 – The Year of IoT

Parallel to the SAP Hybris Digital Summit  2017 we want to take a look at the past year through the eyes of Hybris Labs. We decided to name our 2016 “The Year of IoT”. The very first Labs IoT prototype does of course date back to 2014 and came in the shape of the original Smart Wine Shelf. But what we like to refer to as the “mastery of IoT” involves achievements such as the replication and adaptation of our prototypes, enabled through YaaS, the distribution of our demos to events across the globe, and the very first Hybris Labs prototype with an SAP Hybris customer.

 

BASF & Hybris Wine Shelf

After showing Bullseye at the SAP Hybris Global Summit in Feb 2016 it was “HEINEKEN” who first approached us with a customisation request for an internal event. The result was the beer selector which we then later also showed at the Hybris Americas Customer Days in Fort Lauderdale.

“BASF”, a world leading chemistry company but also one of Germany’s largest wine distributors, decided to take the Bullseye prototype one step further. The BASF & Hybris Wine Shelf is the first pilot project Labs engaged in together with a customer and is currently in use in the BASF “Weinkeller” in Ludwigshafen.

 

Bottomless shopping carts and robots on trucks

There was more to the past year than just Bullseye. The close collaboration with the SAP Hybris customer “hansgrohe” allowed us to frequently present our Infinite Cart prototype in an eye-catching setup and produce a video that is equally stimulating to its viewers.

Without living up to the clichés that are commonly associated with this term, Hybris Labs are often referred to as rock stars. Reluctantly accepting those honours, we did manage to get one of our team members on a tour bus – the “Beyond CRM Truck”. His name… her… its name: Pepper.

Pepper was the only one of us tough enough to deal with life on the road. As an extension to Bullseye, Pepper handed out candy to truck-visitors all across Europe.

 

The golden age of computed artificiality

In the past our lay on the digitization of the physical retail space. In 2017 Hybris Labs will be exploring the potential of virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence in the shape of voice controlled digital assistants and conversational commerce. We’re hoping to present the first results of this research in spring. With other words: New Hybris Labs prototypes are coming soon!

“What the computer in virtual reality enables us to do is to recalibrate ourselves so that we can start seeing those pieces of information that are invisible to us but have become important for us to understand.” – Douglas Adams

Perhaps we’ll even find the question to the answer “42”…

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.

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!

 

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.

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…

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…

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.