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”…

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.

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…

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!

 

It takes beer to make thirst worthwhile

Arriving on the other side of the planet without your luggage is a slightly annoying experience, to say the least. But you generally can survive for a day or two until you receive your personal belongings. Now, unlike a toothbrush and underwear, a Hybris Labs Bullseye demo is nothing you can buy in your local store…yet. This is exactly the problem Sven and Nick were confronted with when they arrived in Fort Lauderdale for the SAP Hybris Americas Summit.

Waiting for the suitcase containing the prototype without being able to do anything was painful enough, but the knowledge that it would need to make it through customs without a member of the Labs team present to charm the authorities was…worrying. We’re not saying Labs luggage is always suspicious, but…well…we didn’t want them to take our beer!

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Under other circumstances we’re always happy to share, but in this case it was special beer which we needed for our demo. For the Americas Summit we had planned to set up Bullseye in the HEINEKEN® Beer Selector version. And with basically no time to spare, we managed…

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It didn’t only look pretty though. After Infinite Cart, Bullseye is now the second prototype by Hybris Labs that runs on YaaS, shows products sponsored by an SAP Hybris customer, and is integrated with SAP Hybris Profile.

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Premiere Night

We’re using the term ‘premiere’ in it’s broadest possible sense here. Both Bullseye and Infinite Cart have been around for quite a while already. But we’ve only just installed the demos in our showroom, a.k.a. The Hybris Labs Innovation Space. The perfect cover to organise a nice little party. Buy some beer, invite all your colleagues and give the do a fancy name to make it an official occasion – “The Hybris Labs Premiere Night”.

We started the evening with an exclusive not-quite-premiere of our latest video. But then it was time for the real thing. Lots of our colleagues hadn’t had the opportunity to see a live demo of Infinite Cart before, so they were genuinely interested. Perhaps the beer also played a part…

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The second new big attraction in the showroom is Bullseye. Give ’em what they what they want…sweets, flashing lights and a beer in their hands…at the end: Everybody’s happy.

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That would make it one on each continent…

…Smart Wine Shelves, that is. It looks like the guys from SAP South Africa are planning to build one. Well, since the Smart Wine Shelf will no longer be supported by the end of this year, it’ll be Bullseye in the wine shelf version. But that count’s!

“‘The benefits for both retailers and consumers are enormous,'” commented Brett Parker, Managing Director, SAP Africa. “‘With so much online competition, in-store experiences now need to be fun and engaging. Not only do concepts such as SAP’s Smart Wine Shelf provide for this, upping the customer experience and ultimately customer satisfaction, but smart technology also provides the retailer with access to valuable analytics.'”

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