Monitoring office air quality using a DIY air quality sensor

My colleague Andreas Brain recently approached me with an interesting project he heard of: monitoring the air quality using a DIY air quality sensor described at luftdaten.info. I could not resist and had to order all components. The arrived yesterday (fresh from China, thx aliexpress) and a few hours later (around 18 to be exact) we have 2 new air quality sensors online. One is at home, outside, and the other one is currently at our office, inside, on the 4th floor. It does not look very exciting, but works perfectly. Thx go out to the team of OKLab Stuttgart! Continue reading

yAlexa Technical Architecture & Update for our Alexa-based prototype

Besides cleaning up our new labs space, we’ve been pretty productive this week and I want to give you a quick update on the progress with Voice User Interfaces. yAlexa (see previous post), our prototype around Hybris as a Service and Amazon Alexa, is taking shape. This week was devoted to adding a demo UI for keeping track of the voice actions directed at alexa. In addition, I’ve created a technical architecture that I quickly wanted to share. Continue reading

Fun with Alexa & Hybris as a Service: yalexa

It’s a shame I’ve not written earlier about this. We’ve got Amazon’s Alexa and also Google Home available at Hybris Labs in Munich, but I’ve had so much other things going on, that I just could not concentrate a lot on this. Today,  I finally had a few hours play a bit more with Amazon’s Alexa. While I need to do more with Google Home, I’ve tried both to some degree now. I find the overall programming and configuration simpler, although Amazon is also trying to totally lock you in of course with the Lambda functions on EC2 – but you have a choice and my choice was to use my own Cloudfoundry based backend and YaaS APIs to implement the business logic. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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!