Augment this - a journey into SAP HANA and beyond

23 September 2017

Cal Loudon

Cal Loudon

Consultant

With TechEd upon us again, it’s time to check out the latest innovations from the best of the best and, of course, this year Bluefin are no exception. We’ve blended Augmented Reality and SAP HANA to provide a unique vacation recommendation service to a device near you!

Guess who’s back and not writing about SAP BW 7.5? I know, right! I’m as surprised as you! Today I’ve been given the all clear to write about the secret app we’ve been developing to provide the SAP HANA AR Showcase – known affectionately around the office as SAP WOW, but publicly as “A Data Journey in AR” … I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty exciting.
 
If you still don’t know about AR because you’ve been living under a rock or you still believe that it only stands for Account Receivable (it’s an SAP related blog, so I’ll forgive you) or perhaps you’ve been avoiding the internet whilst waiting for the last book in the Game of Thrones series; AR or Augmented Reality is “a view of a physical world onto an electronic device where it combines the real-world environment and augments it with computer generated graphics”. It’s been around for so long that I blatantly stole that description from my colleague Dan Wilde’s superb insight on the very subject – and that went live in August 2016!

What? It’s still around?

So, what am I doing writing about old technology when everyone knows that Bluefin is all about the very latest and greatest in cutting edge technology? Great question friend, and the answer is because while you’ve been thinking that AR quietly died off when the last Pokémon player walked into a wall chasing down a squirrel with wings; SAP, IBM and Bluefin have been working together to create an AR app which shows off the awesome power of SAP HANA – to be released just in time for this year’s TechEd!
 

So, what's the app?

The mission directive from SAP was clear: demonstrate the inner workings and power of HANA on a personal device using AR. Simple, right? Sure, but the first thing we needed was an app idea. Since we planned on using AR which shows how data traverses HANA’s different engines, we thought why not adapt data traversing into a theme and decided on a travel application which suggests vacation spots for users derived from data from a multitude of sources. Based on just a few user inputs, namely month of travel, maximum flight duration and the type of holiday (beach, winter sports or urban adventures) – our application will find destinations within range, with favourable weather and then rank them by popularity based on Twitter sentiment.
 

Smarter than your average bear app

Clearly making a travel app on its own isn’t breaking any new ground, however aside from the super funky AR experience, it’s what’s happening behind the scenes – within HANA (d’uh!) – that makes this app pretty darn cool. I won’t bore you with all the details but some of the highlights included developing a linear regression algorithm within SQLScript to help our weather-based suggestions, engaging the geospatial engine to identify cities within a spatial intersection matrix and I’d be remiss to not mention performing sentiment analysis on tweets which are streamed into HANA from Twitter using the Data Provisioning agent component of Smart Data Integration. Some seriously impressive initiative went into this.
 

Welcome to the HANA City

Speaking of the AR experience, as seen in the screenshot below, this consists of a digital mini HANA City which is presented onto the user’s table / desk / you-name-it. This HANA City represents the HANA database – hosted by IBM, with each building corresponding to the different engines of HANA that provide unique and unparalleled functionality. While running, we see data flowing through the different buildings as it gets processed and finally ascending into the sky as the vacation recommendations are presented to the user. This amazing experience was developed using the Apple’s new ARKit framework which comes with iOS 11 and the business screens were created using the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS.
 

A bit of turbulence

As with any project it’s had its challenges. HANA superhero and previous TechEd contributor, Elliot Bajema assisted us with the geospatial component and encountered (then solved) the curious problem of antipodal cities. He detailed his findings in a great blog which I can’t recommend highly enough. We also discovered that the background process which kicks-off the load of tweet sentiment data via the Text Analysis Index won’t begin until the stored procedure from which its triggered is complete – this could be a bug, we’re still investigating. In any case, fun stuff like this is common and part of the process, a process which I’m proud to say we at Bluefin manage very well.

Okay, I know you’ve heard enough about the app and you want to get your hands on it. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait, because initially this is going to be a TechEd exclusive. Don’t fret though, because it is planned for a future GA release (aiming at early 2018). For those lucky enough to be attending TechEd in Vegas this year, come say hi and we’ll let you experience the SAP HANA AR Showcase for yourself.


 

About the author

Cal Loudon

Consultant