Team Proximarket Goes Live With IoT Retail Tracking
Editor note: This is the first in a series of interviews with leaders of the five international teams competing in the Intel® Ultimate Coder Challenge 2016.
Selected from among 180 worldwide entries, five global teams are competing in the Intel® Ultimate Coder Challenge for IoT, with a common goal – to use IoT to help solve real problems. Tackling challenges from transportation to healthcare, coders are using unique approaches with Intel® edge and gateway devices and common sensors, motors and switches that you would find within our standard Grove* Sensor Kit. Whichever team’s solution is judged to best address the problem in their vertical will be named winner of the challenge.
Team Proximarket – IoT Retail Shopping Carts
Proximarket is designing highly usable industrial network solutions using proximity technology into new configurations. By leveraging existing concepts like Google’s* Physical Web while complementing exciting technology like the Intel® Curie™ module, Intel® Edison module, and the Dell* IoT Gateway, Proximarket is turning existing proximity concepts on their heads by deploying beacon transmitters on consumer carried shopping carts while mounting receiver circuits on store shelves.
Team Proximarket is a two person partnership between leader Michael Schloh von Bennewitz and István Szmozsánszky. Based in Germany, this team is looking to change how we shop. Not only can a retail store understand shopping habits, but consumers can benefit from instant feedback of customer loyalty rewards as they pass products on the shelves.
Michael Schloh von Bennewitz is a computer scientist specializing in network engineering, embedded design, and mobile platform development. Responsible for research, development, and maintenance of packages in several community software repositories, he actively contributes to the Opensource development community. Michael speaks four languages fluently and presents or teaches at technical events every year, and has worked with groups including Cable & Wireless*, Nokia*, Mozilla*, Ubuntu*, ARIN*, Droidcon*, AstriCon*, Minix*, the Mobile World Congress*, and Dockercon*. Michael’s IoT knowlege profits from years of work at telecoms and relationships with industry leaders. He is a developer on the Smartcart project and Intel innovator with the mandate to promote IoT technology.
Q: What does this project mean to you and your team?
A: This project is the pilot service offering of a startup seeking investment and as such carries business interest and personal interest alike. We’re trying to serve store vendors trying to assist family run shops as well as large brick and mortar stores to compete with Internet warehouse operations. We’re also trying to give consumers tools in shopping wisely and avoiding invasive tracking while maintaining the benefits of customer loyalty programs.
Q: Describe the sensors you’re using and any challenges with them?
A: Our service is proximity based, so we’re programming the nRF51822 Bluetooth* Smart circuit in Intel® Curie™ modules to act as a proximity sensor. We’re also using identity tagging of products on shelves and reading them as they’re placed in shopping carts, so for that we use RFID or more likely NFC RF sensors. Lastly, we sense battery discharge and generator voltage to calculate device life of a Smartcart and alert management when individual carts can’t be used and must be recharged.
Q: What software, programming languages, and cloud services are you using and why?
A: We’re using NodeJS* as much as possible due to the stable nature and selection of NPM libraries, particularly good IoT relevant technology support, and rapid prototyping workflow. We’re also using C11 in order to take advantage of the Intel® Curie™ module libraries developed for Zephyr*, which will be our platform of choice when programming Intel® Curie™ module based devices like the Smartcart. We’ll avoid Cloud connectivity, but are definitely testing to see how much utility we’ll lose by this. Our cloud platform of choice is Microsoft Azure*.
Q: Share any challenges, funny stories and solutions that you’ve encountered so far.
A: We actually have not received any of the hardware parts needed to implement our design, so this has forced us to reallocate most our research and development time to searching for sponsors of parts. We have almost half of what is needed to create a Smartcart prototype now, as sponsors come forth and deliver their pledged hardware.
Teamwork while Traveling
We also overestimated the timeliness of the challenge. While it was delayed a few months, our obligations remained constant. This is rather funny, because our summertime obligations consisted of almost perpetual travel. We’ve been trying to work on the design at the same time and at the same place by meeting in random airports or nearby cities where we plan to land.
Regarding solutions, we’re sad to see the Intel® Curie™ modules packaged in Arduino* boards, but happy that they are finally on the market. A solution including the Intel-hosted Zephyr* RTOS is not included in what we received, but we were able to secure a pledge for a partially sponsored JTAG programmer. This device is due to arrive at the end of July and will allow us to finally implement our Smartcart prototype in C11 on Zephyr*. That will be an ultimate solution indeed.
Q: What data are you feeding to the cloud, and how are you using it in your solution?
A: We hope to integrate Smartcart in some niche situations as well as third world countries where little expertise exists relating to cloud logic. We also find problems in explaining data jurisdiction and keeping with data control laws. Lastly, we like the idea of allowing large shops like Costco* to maintain their own internal infrastructure with Redhat* Origin or Openstack, rather than dictate which cloud platform they use.
That being said, we are exploring both MQTT and AMQP interfaces to Microsoft Azure*. Microsoft* has acted in good faith lately, reversing their long term abuse of consumer liberty. On top of that, we’re fans of their cloud technology for technical reasons, and they offer a reasonably priced IoT Hub framework which supports the two protocols we like to use, namely MQTT and AMQP.
Challenge Winners Announced in August
The teams have been steadily coding, wiring and assembling their projects. In the final phase, teams will make final presentations, demonstration videos and display the prototypes that were produced. Follow the Ultimate Coder site showing current progress, pictures of their products, and comments from fans and judges. Judging begins in August with the winners announced soon after.