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Picture of Chris and Neil with the cup (which doesn't hold beer very well)

 (the one with less hair is me)

The Journey there – why a Demo Jam in Australia anyway?

Late in 2010, I was listening to an Enterprise Geeks podcast. Alisdair Templeton and Matt Harding had just won Demo Jam at Tech Ed Las Vegas. I’d been following the Twitter stream and live streaming shows with great envy from back in Melbourne, and was stoked that they had won.

In the post Demo Jam haze, there was much discussion (only takes a few seconds when you’re talking to Al Templeton) about how Demo Jam was getting too polished, too productised, and it needed to get back to its dirty hacker roots. Well, in that haze, it seemed that Matt couldn’t hold back, so he challenged Thomas Jung and Ed Herrmann to a show down. To bring it on down to the other side of the world and do a Demo Jam in Sydney in March 2011. They (Matt & Al) would take on the eGeeks (Ed & Thomas) in a no holds barred cage match of a Demo Jam.

This sounded really cool to me. I was looking forward to seeing what would come out of this, especially when I chatted to Al Templeton about it and he was completely confused about what on earth he could build that might rival something that Thomas could come up with. The ideas he discarded as “not good enough” were pretty cool already.

(I have been told that the idea of a Demo Jam at Mastering SAP Tech had been mooted before this, but I like my version better.)


Mastering SAP Technologies – a gathering of who’s who in SAP technical in AU/NZ.

Around this time (late Nov 2010) I heard from the guys at Mastering SAP Technologies that they were busy finalising their list of speakers for the event. I thought it might be a good idea to put forward a session, possibly a bit late, but as Graham “Robbo” Robinson once told me – the only way to learn how to speak confidently in front of a crowd of people is to do it, and get better next time. Well, for one reason or another (possibly because they had 10 SAP Mentors already filling most of the speaking slots!) my session was knocked back.  Sophie Sipsma, the Conference Producer for Mastering SAP Technologies, emailed me back the next week.

 


“I’ve been thinking…. Perhaps you should put something together for the Mastering SAP Technologies 2011 Demo Jam?!

Please see attached for details. What do you think?!

Let me know,

Sophie”


Well the attachment listed some of the details of what was expected and “The Rules”. The first rule was “Strictly no sales presentations allowed”. That got me hooked. I had this inkling of an idea for a demo that was so crazily mad it would be fun to even attempt it. Now just how on earth to do it?

 

It takes two baby!

I rarely get biblical – but this quote was too good to pass up:

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,

his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls

and has no one to help him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (New International Version (c) 2011 )


I really didn’t want to do this alone, I really needed someone to help out. I put out a shout to the guys I work with, but I think I may have scared them as I got no takers.

Again following the Twitter stream one evening, I saw that Neil Gardiner (aka @TonkaPome) was thinking about Demo Jam too. So I DM’ed him.

Twitter - the uberTxt

And thus it was started.

 

A tale of two cities

The first problem was to convince Neil I wasn’t complete insane. I don’t think I’ve managed that even almost 6 months later. That step having completely failed, the next problem was to convince him that even if I was insane, doing this build together (with him in Sydney and me in Melbourne) wouldn’t be that bad. For those of you that think a trip around Australia is something to squeeze in a week as part of your round-the-world ticket – it’s about 900km ( 550 miles) between the two cities and these are close by in Australian standards.

Melbourne and Sydney are not really close

This about the distance to go to Las Vegas from LA, and back again, or the distance from Washington DC to Indianapolis, or Paris to Genoa. It’s not really just around the corner.

But fortunately for me, Neil is:

  1. very tolerant of insane ideas;
  2. not completely against the idea of working at a distance.

 

So we managed to get Skype working on both our computers one evening and had a bit of chat about it. Neil mentioned that he had an SAP system running in the Amazon cloud (EC2) and the final piece of the puzzle came together.

 

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start.”

 Henry V Act 3 scene 1.

One last challenge was left before we could start, namely getting our idea submitted (and accepted). Sophie had sent out an application form that we were supposed to complete. It seemed to be full of very serious questions that didn’t sit too well with the idea we were working on. Nevertheless I gave it a darn good try – it’s worth noting that this was completely vapourware at this time, nothing built at all – the end result wasn’t quite like this, but perhaps better!:

 


Hi Sophie,

Here’s some details about the DemoJam that Neil Gardiner and I are proposing.

Mobile Advanced Detail Sensing Helicopter Integration Toolkit 

The demo will show a remotely controlled helicopter (Parrot AR.Drone) streaming video to an Android handset which will be used to control the helicopter. The UI will allow the user to focus on a barcode viewed by the helicopter, and take a snapshot. This snapshot is then processed and sent to SAP to retrieve details of the item. Details of the item are shown on screen overlaying the video feed and if correct an update can be sent to SAP with the current location/time and SAP record updated. This detail will then be viewed from inside SAP and finally visualised using BI on Demand.


An outline of the business problem it is trying to solve

Warehouse staff sometimes have to use very big ladders to reach up very high to scan barcodes on big boxes. They then have to enter details of the item into SAP. Holding a laptop on a ladder is very dangerous, they could fall off. And hurt themselves… and the laptop. Besides, using a laptop is very boring. And bored employees are less likely to take care, and may hurt themselves. (We’re very keen on OHS here 😉


What technologies – both SAP and non-SAP – the application uses

The solution uses Java, C,  Android, REST, JSON,  BI on Demand, Cloud, SAP, WiFi, GPS, video streaming, image recognition, barcodes, augmented reality,  SAP Web Dynpro ABAP, oh and a flying electric helicopter. 🙂 


What is unique and cool about it?

It is a helicopter controlled via an Android handset over WiFi, remotely connecting to an SAP cloud instance, streaming video to a SAP augmented reality display to control and expose SAP data….


 

On the strength that l mightbe able to explain to my wife that I was buying a remote controlled helicopter as part of a “work project”, I then put in the order to Amazon to buy the AR Drone.

 

“Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.”

Samuel Beckett – Waiting for Godot

5 weeks later (and a fair bit of fun just playing with the helicopter) we got a reply from Sophie.


Hi Neil and Chris,

I’m delighted to inform you that your submission for the Mastering SAP Technologies 2011 DEMO JAM entitled Mobile Advanced Detail Sensing Helicopter Integration Toolkit has been accepted as a finalist!


 

at which point I sent Neil a brief email…


Ok Dude – we’d better get building this thing!


reply:


Most definitely mate. 


 

In the next instalment – building an SAP augmented reality application that reads barcodes ,whilst flying, and being physically separated by 900km. Lessons learnt, mistakes made and the occasional success story, SAP Streamworks, Ubuntu, Xbox360,  Android, REST and ABAP.

 

Disclaimer: Many thanks to my teammate Neil Gardiner aka @TonkaPome – it’s his fault. If you’re offended, upset or otherwise confused by my ramblings, please note that they do not in any way represent the opinions of my employer, or any other sane person and should not be taken seriously or used to make investment decisions. I will attempt to get the next part of this out as soon as possible – but look how long it took me to write this – no promises!

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15 Comments

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  1. Martin English
    I’m still curious as to how many people picked up on the acronym, but let it slide… just to keep it in the demojam vibe….

    I won’t mention any of my favourite parts of the rehearsals and performance; that rightly belongs to you and Neill; after all, history IS written by the winners 🙂

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    1. Chris Paine
      Thanks Martin,
      Do’t worry – the huge shout outs to you getting us out of trouble coming in the next (or possibly one after that) blog. 🙂 Lots of interesting stuff to cover here.
      Cheers Mate!
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  2. Michelle Crapo
    Probably did. But is there a place where there is video of the demo jam. If so – could you post the link?

    Wow – you guys are amazing. It boggles my mind to think up an idea like that, and then get it working all while being so far away from each other. Simply amazing!

    “Genius is a step away from insanity.”

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    1. Chris Paine
      Sorry Michelle, no video 🙁
      I’m going to do a demo to my work mates in a few days and I’m going to get someone to video that. Not quite the same – but hopefully give some idea of how it all hangs together. Will be part of the final blog of the series.
      To that point – if anyone reading this has some photos of the real presentation, I’d really appreciate a copy!
      Stay tuned for the next installment for a little detail on the mind boggling bits.
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    1. Chris Paine
      Thanks Sue, Ed.
      Ed – as you know there’s a lot more behind a DemoYam than the 6 minutes can hold – I just wanted to set the scene for the next blog where I’ll discuss some of the bits that we built – and more importantly the things I learnt.
      Glad you liked it so far!
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  3. Susan Keohan
    That was some mad stuff that you and Neil showed.
    And I was really impressed with all the contestants! 
    Loving this blog series – so keep on posting, Chris.
    Cheers,
    Sue
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  4. John Moy
    Hi Chris,

    Really enjoyed that you shared some of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that eventuated in your demo jam win.  This blog also has your personality all over it – and I mean that in a nice way!  Looking forward to the next instalment.

    Great stuff!

    John

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  5. Christopher Solomon
    I was there at TechEd when the “Thunder from Down Under” team (not to be confused with the similarly named male dance revue of the same name in Vegas) threw down the challenge. I have been waiting to hear how it went. Looks like I gotta wait for the next exciting chapter to get more of the story. Thanks for the blog!
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    1. Chris Paine
      Many thanks for the strong words of support there Robbo 😉
      At least they weren’t “GET OFF THE STAGE!”

      Part Deux well under way – with some luck might get it done this weekend – will have to see, like leaving things until the last moment 😀

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