Video: Everybody’s Happy

We’re proud of our brand at hybris. The logo, the blue and we thought it would be cool to put our technology outside on a sunny day. Blue sky, hybris, this seems like a good fit we thought. It follows that once you start thinking of sunny days and blue skies you start thinking of drinking a cold beer outside. So one lunchtime we set to work imagining ways in which we could take our technology to a beer garden and solve a business problem.

It didn’t take us long but to be clear, we’re not moving into the hospitality software business but it was surprising how many similarities we found.

Combining hybris commerce basics with NFC and Facebook we created a prototype order-taking and fulfilment application with the goal of showing how hybris can empower the offline customer just as if he were online.

Dynamically changing the URL on a NFC tag via a local webserver

When you use your Android / Windows Smartphone to write to a NFC tag, you end up with a static, non-dynamic content on the tag. Let’s assume you have written a URL to the tag – that URL is on a passive tag and will not change until you overwrite the tag. If you use an active NFC Reader/Writer, you can change the content typically via some low-level APDU-based protocol, which is horrible to program against. Until recently, there was really no easy way to dynamically change the content.

One workaround that I have used in the past is to use the NFC tag with static content simply as a trigger to look up the dynamic value from a HTTP server. In this case the NFC tag loads a URL that then redirects to the dynamically set URL. This is a pretty good solution, the only problem can be that the information is out of sync. You now have a roundtrip to the server, receive a redirect and then fianlly load the redirect content.

Since late last year, a new product is available, that I already used a bit and finally blog about it. It’s the DTAG100 – a little USB device that appears as a file system and allows you to change the content of the NFC tag via a simple text file that you overwrite. Right now it can be used to write simple URLs (SmartPosters to be exact, but on my Android phone it never shows the SmartPoster’s Text content, just opens the URL) and also RAW content. RAW could be any NDEF mesage, but you have to come up with the HEX representation of the content.

Here’s a little Groovy class that I used to wrap the updateSmartPoster functionality:

As you can see, I just implemented the setting of the current time by overwriting the timeset.txt file on the USB storage of the device and the updating of the URL stored on the device via the updateSmartPoster Method. Both features can easily be implemented by simply deleting the old file, then writing the new content out to the file via a FileWriter:

As I often use a web browser to build full-screen demos, I then went a bit further and added this logic to a tiny local webserver. This allows me to call a URL like http://localhost:8000/update/ to update the URL to For this, I used the built-in Java HttpServer. A call to /kill will kill the running server so you can make changes to the script and run the server again.

For this local server, that communicates via the DTAG100, I could now write a simple HTML page which communicates with the local server via AJAX. This is very simple and versatile. For example, it could be easily used to write a dynamic product display, that changes the URL based on the currently seen product on the screen. Think of an in-store display or an in-store info terminal.



Video: Guerrilla Shopping

After we demonstrated a prototype NFC powered shopping wall (think Tesco in South Korea on steroids) at the 2012 hybris customer and partner events we wondered what the reaction of normal, off-the-street, consumers would be to the technology.

So we built a portable, roll-up version and ventured out to our nearest beer garden and set up camp. One by one we asked passers by if they’d like to try out a new way of shopping and recorded their reactions to four use cases.

Touch to Install

The NFC tags are encoded with a link to the Android Play store to mitigate the search-for-app/installation process.

Touch to View

Tapping an NFC tag on a product retrieves the product details

Touch to Share

Tapping two phones together users can share products via Android beam.

Touch to Pay

We mocked up a contact-less payment process with a NFC enabled ID tag.

The reaction of our customers, as you can see in the video, was very positive and led us to pursue other NFC use cases.