Hello Mishamigos, in a week we will be the last day of October. The day where ghouls and demons will sprout and throw one more spell at us humble coding people. The day where until the last second you will look at your inbox petrified waiting for the next jump scare. As you guessed, in case you were oblivious to the post title, tomorrow is the first day of the last week of Hacktoberfest, 2018 edition.Continue reading “Hacktoberfest 2018: write 5 pull requests for a free t-shirt”
This is a revolution, or is it ?
Yesterday I was told about a revolutionary shop that Amazon will open in Seattle, Amazon Go. I love seeing innovations popping out in this world where it is harder to be amazed. This piece of news, despite interrupting me in the middle of some non-negligible amount of work, made me happy. As a developer, the less I deal with people, the happier I am. It does not make me asocial, it keeps me sane on the contrary. Obviously we need to have a certain balance but this is not the place for that kind of discussion. The main thing that made me happy despite that shop opening on another continent is in relation to a past event. If you are an attentive reader of this blog this should remind you from a certain hackathon a couple months ago.
Granted without salt
I loved being part of it, the few days before discussing about the topic trying to figure out what we should build. The brainstorms listing out what we hate and what we love in retail. All the ideas that came out of it. Even the harder bits where we had to weed out ideas to be able to focus on only one. One we could actually build in twenty-four hours. One idea to impress the judges, one idea to conquer them all. One idea was above others, we hate waiting. This is how it occurred to us. Scanning items using your phone, finding items within a store and checking out by walking out the store. Sounds familiar does it not ? Yes, Amazon Go in a nutshell some would say.
Obviously it is ludicrous to even think they would have inspired from us since presenting this idea was not worth of a podium. However, today we see it launched by a giant. In spite of not getting any recognition at this hackathon there is some comfort in seeing the world acknowledge that idea we had too as groundbreaking. We knew it back then, we know it now. It took us a night to implement a proof of that concept using an iOS app, beacons and GPS tech. From the ad I know they used much more than that for their test run. But then they are Amazon. They are giants, and it feels damn good to wake up, being confirmed that your mind is close to giants. It feels good to see it out before those ideas that beat us in a hackathon, that we may never hear about again.
Amazon Go is the future
When we presented that mobile self checkout idea we thought it was the future, god knows I shouted it everywhere. As I said first, I am happy to see Amazon Go out there and hope it will be successful and spread all around the world. I am looking forward to a world where you remove friction that can be generated by depending by how fast your cashier or other customers are. I am looking forward to take full control of my time when I pop in a shop to buy groceries. For those that have not seen it yet here is the ad they posted.
Retail week hackathon 2016 result
Last week at the same time I was at home playing League of Legends to break away from the frustration of losing at the Retail Week hackathon 2016. I was frustrated because I was, well I still am, convinced that our idea was good enough to win. Actually, I wanted to write a post immediately after to express the mixed feelings I felt that day. On one hand, I loved the experience and the excitement of suiting up as my schools days nerd self. On the other hand I hated losing in a way that did not feel fair. I discussed about the outcome of the hackathon around and people felt like we should have won.
I still cannot believe that a system to book an hour in-store discussing with an employee about an item you see online. An employee you whose job is to sell you the said item, especially in 2016. Nowadays we are only clicks away from users reviews from all around the world. You can even have video reviews at least on youtube. I guess it makes more sense to the judges otherwise the Retail Week hackathon 2016 winner trophy would be on Poq’s trophies shelf.
When we first got the idea of the self-checkout we thought that the hardest challenge was having a working prototype. We were so wrong. We had a working prototype 4 hours before the hackathon ended. From there, we spent the rest of the time testing and fixing bugs to ensure the presentation’s success. The presentation did not go perfectly but the idea and the product were there. To be fair, I think that pretty much all the teams had a much presentation for lesser ideas which could be what cost us the gold. When the judges are involved in retail during a fashion event I guess this is key.
The self-checkout idea
We built a self checkout app that allows customers in a store to find items they want to purchase with indoor location using estimotes and geolocation to handle both indoor and outdoor app behaviour. The most interesting part is that you can scan your items so they add to your basket and when you leave the store you get charged automatically. We even built a mini-backend displaying the last paid basket.
We built a solid proof of concept even though there is some security flows that are fixable on the operational side. For the security tags, just add a device connected to the store system against which you scan your order generated QR code to allow you unlocking the number of items you need to remove the tags from. Even further we can use security tags that would emit the value from the item barcode to enforce that someone is not unlocking something they did not buy. It is a 24 hour hackathon and still we thought about some corner cases.
We did focus on bringing people back to store. I think that we did show creativity and innovation using the latest technology. Maybe we did not manage to pass the idea to the judges but I know that this is the future of retail. Walk in a store pick what you need and go. No more queuing hassle. Basically shoplifting without the criminal aspect.
Learning and progressing
I may go next year if we put up a team again and learn from our mistake. Technical advancement is not the focus, presentation is. Coding the whole night to get a working prototype is not the focus, sugar coat is. Still it will remain a special moment to me because I did have fun. The self-checkout will be in your hands in a few years, I will do my best for it. I went, I saw, I learned, that is probably what I do best, learning. I learned things my whole life, both at school and out of it. Even now that I worked for a few years I still try to learn as many things as possible. Learning is key to evolution, it is the key to become a better version of one self.
A great way of learning is to take part in open source development, looking at other people’s code, taking on challenges. Since a few days now I am helping other developers on community based websites such as StackOverflow and Github. I had an account on both for some time but did not do much with them. The good part is that on one hand I can learn and sharpen my skills by taking on issues and at the same time I help others. Well, there is not much downside. On Tuesday I submitted my first (non-professional) pull request and it got approved and merged pretty much instantly. It was not much but it still feels nice, you can check it here. And yesterday I got my first upvotes on a few posts on StackOverflow showing that giving time is enough sometimes.
That’s where I will end today’s post before I start spreading on random stuff, thank you for reading.