September 20, 2017Comments are off for this post.

BlueFox.io sponsors Retail Innovation Lounge at Shop.org 2017

BlueFox.io is a proud sponsor of the Retail Innovation Lounge at Shop.org 2017. Our team will be showing better and simpler mobile Engagement, and we hope to see you there!

The Retail Innovation Lounge is a lounge and learn experience at Shop.org where innovators and disruptors are connected in a cool space with a relaxed vibe.

You'll experience the next level of the future of retail by exploring convergent commerce with new solutions, concepts and authentic conversations. Topics include: retail, brand, technology, marketing, media and entertainment — all revolving around the mission of moving retail into the future. We hope to see you at our booth at Shop.org!

September 7, 2017Comments are off for this post.

InfluxDB: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Thomas Sandholm, Architect @BlueFox.IO


We discuss lessons learned from scaling our analytics backend using state-of-the-art time-series database technology. InfluxDB has a lot to offer, if used the right way. We take you through some of our observed sweet spots and pitfalls.


We were having some scalability challenges with our existing analytics backend, which comprised a wild combination of Cassandra, Elasticsearch, MySQL, and Redis.

There were issues with disks filling up, databases, and some of the most powerful AWS instance flavors were having performance issues. To add insult to injury, we also needed to scale fast to meet customer demand, without increasing the already astronomical AWS bill.

Cassandra and Elasticsearch are great tools, but for our particular use case they weren’t exactly right for the job. At the very least, they weren’t able to provide the full solution. A lot of time was spent sending data back and forth between the database and our application, so that we could do our custom analytics and then write data back to serve queries.

After a reevaluation of our core features, it became clear that a simple time-series database would get us almost all the functionality we needed, and while still keeping most of the processing within the database server. Enter InfluxDB.


The Good

We are generally very happy with InfluxDB, it’s run in production for six months without any issues. The main benefit is resource efficiency. We can achieve a lot with a very small resource footprint.

It comes as no surprise that time-slot aggregated data, i.e. sums of metrics in hourly and daily buckets, is where InfluxDB shines. This feature, to efficiently aggregate time series with a simple query, was well worth the migration alone.

At a close second comes InfluxDB’s retention policies. As your product matures and the infrastructure scales up with demand, it’s great to have an easy knob to adjust retention of data up or down to avoid the catastrophic disk-full crashes. In essence you create a retention policy, i.e. customer visit frequency, then set how long you want to keep data tagged with this policy. Sounds simple, and it is. Considering the alternative of fiddling with TTL configurations in application code, the usefulness of this feature cannot be overstated.

Another life-saver for us was the into clause feature. You can run a query and write the results directly back into the database without round-tripping to the application client. This used to be a common pattern for us, as I mentioned above. So this feature alone improved our processing pipeline time by an order of magnitude.

The final observed benefit of InfluxDB is what sits under the hood. All the data are sharded to allow for parallelism, and scale-out using the same core storage technology applied in most popular NoSQL databases today (Cassandra, LevelDB, MongoDB, RocksDB), i.e. log-structured merge trees(LSM trees). In InfluxDB, they are aptly called time-structured merge trees. This means that similar scalability designs work well, write speeds are fast, and access to data in the same shard is efficient. Combine this with a schema-less design of your data and you have a winning configuration. You add tables (called measurements) and columns as you go. You only need to create the database, which doesn’t require any schema.

So performance is generally great, but there are definitely lots of opportunities to mess things up along the way, which leads us to…


The Bad

If it’s not designed properly, your performance will at some point start to suffer. As I mentioned, InfluxDB shards all the data akin to other LSM-tree databases, but the default is that a new shard is created each week, and data are kept forever (infinite retention). Depending on your ingest load, the write times will eventually suffer with such a configuration, but being too aggressive in splitting the data in shards, which is done through time durations, could render queries astonishingly slow. So, it’s a tradeoff. The sweet spot is somewhere where the shard is small enough to both make writes fast and serve most queries.

Another concern is that shard configurations have an interesting dependency on retention periods. When data are discarded because of the retention date expiring, the entire shard is lost. Therefore, if shards are too large (let’s say one month), and you have a retention period of one month, it will mean that two months of data have to be kept on the disk.

Another drawback is that the open source version does not (in contrast to tools like Cassandra and Elasticsearch), come with support for distributed deployments (clustering), despite the fact that the underlying database was designed for it. You need to upgrade to the paid InfluxEnterprise or InfluxCloud versions to distribute your database across nodes.


The Ugly

This is a bit of a selfish item, because our use case depends heavily on it:lack of support for the histogram function. This is a great feature and it was available in v0.8 but has been dropped ever since, including the recently released v1.3. It would have saved us lots of headaches, but since we also wanted all the performance improvements of versions 0.9+, downgrading was not an option. We dabbled around a bit with percentiles, but it generated graphs that were hard to understand for our users, and doing a mathematical conversion is not feasible unless you have very smooth distributions and many data points, which in turn kills performance. We ended up doing a somewhat restricted custom solution, but we would still move back to the histogram feature in a heartbeat if it’s ever reintroduced.

The other gripe we have is that we’d like to use the Cloud offering, but it’s backup retention policies are too limited. We don’t want to keep all the data in the live InfluxDB database as it impairs performance (see discussion above on shards and retention policies), and forces us to buy the more expensive live clusters with increased disk space. Instead we want to keep backups of archived data in something like S3, which allows us to do one-off analysis of old data for R&D purposes. Again, we ended up implementing our own solution that does exactly that.

So What’s the Verdict

One of the main lessons learned when scaling our solution was to introduceNagling between our application and InfluxDB. Buffering measurement points on a per-sensor-stream basis, and then writing them in a single batch when the buffer fills up, allowed us to improve write throughput by up to 10x. Because our application containers (in AWS ECS) are stateless, we had to implement buffering with an external persistence service. Originally we used Memcached (appends), but we then switched to Redis (lists), as it was more reliable and had no impact on performance.

Another major performance breakthrough was when we started caching InfluxDB query results in our front-end database cache for semi-structured retrieval of sensor summary statistics. This architecture allowed our customer-facing application UI’s to be performance isolated from the data ingest and analytics processing services.

In summary, despite the tongue-in-cheek buildup towards the “ugly,” we are actually very happy with InfluxDB, for its design, features, performance, and reliability. That said, one can always wish for more!

This article was originally posted on Medium

August 2, 2017Comments are off for this post.

How Plug and Play Tech Center Cafe Engages with Employees [Case Study]

Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, California hosts more than 400 startups. Daily Specials, menus and events make every day a special day at the Cafeteria. How do we simply communicate all of these with people in the building? How do we improve planning?

As BlueFox is located in the same building, it became obvious to us that BlueFox Engage is the ideal solution for the Cafeteria to engage with the people in the facility.

How It Works

It can't be simpler! In a few seconds, people register,  following instructions that are displayed at the Cafeteria. After they give their consent to receive messages and promotions, they receive a text message daily when coming to the office, letting them in on what is happening that day.

 

Plug and Play Tech Center | BlueFox Engage

 

No apps to download, no Bluetooth required.

Customer Engagement can be as simple as a text message.

 

The Multiple Benefits and Possibilities BlueFox Engage Offers to Restaurants and Cafeterias

  • Know how many people are in your restaurants in real-time
  • Get all analytics per day, per week, per hour
  • Reduce food waste by getting accurate insights on traffic
  • Engage with people before, during, or after their visit
  • Push survey
  • Connect counting to traffic based content on Digital Signage
  • And more...

 

To learn more on how Engage can take your bar, restaurant or cafeteria to the next level, please contact us, we will be happy to assist!

 

Contact Us

August 2, 2017Comments are off for this post.

When Brands and Gas Stations Use BlueFox Engage to Bring Customers Back to Their Stores

Before today’s pumps, people used to fill up their tank, shop at the convenience store when paying for their gas, and then leave. Nowadays, customers usually just pay at the pump and leave. This evolution results in significant revenue loss for gas station grocery stores and for the brands that sell products there. Another common problem for gas stations is not knowing how many people come to their location.

Bring Customers Back Inside The Shop With BlueFox Engage

With BlueFox Engage, customers

  • Arrive at the pump,
  • See the current store promotion on a display,
  • Opt-in with their phone in seconds to be part of the promotional program,
  • Receive a coupon on their phone and redeem it at the store immediately,
  • Often purchase additional products once inside the store,
  • Get promotions on their phone when they come back next time.

All of this with no app to download, and in any gas station running the same promotional campaign.

 

Bring customers back to your store

Images used for illustration purposes only

 

How BlueFox Engage Is Setup

We setup one tiny Engage sensor per gas station. Our sensor does not even need to be connected to the location’s Wi-Fi. All we need is a power outlet!

The promotional campaign is setup using our easy-to-use Campaign Management portal, with parameters such as logos, images, messages, frequencies, etc. Our portal provides our clients (gas station chains or brands) with all the key analytics they need to measure the Marketing/Business efficiency of their campaigns and demonstrate ROI.

 

Results

Case studies have shown up to:

  • 3x more visits into the gas station store when equipped with BlueFox Engage
  • 96% program loyalty
  • 10x ROI (Revenue generated vs Cost of Engage)

To learn more, please contact us, we'll be thrilled to help!

 Contact Us

 

June 17, 2017Comments are off for this post.

BlueFox Count Launched at VivaTech 2017

VivaTechnology 2017 - Paris

We exhibited at the VivaTech event in Paris, with 50,000+ attendees and 7,000 CEOs

We presented at the CarreFour Retail Innovation Lab and were featured at the Sodexo and Pentalog booths. The opportunity was perfect for us to launch BlueFox Count.  The overall reaction was fantastic and uplifting. Thank you to those who invited us and to our visitors.

Here are some images of BlueFox Count on stage at VivaTech and our real live demo at our booth.

VivaTechnology Paris | BlueFox.io

 

VivaTechnology Paris | BlueFox.io

 

BlueFox Count now Available for Purchase

Whether you are in the retail, transportation or tourism vertical, BlueFox Count is the one solution you need to count foot traffic in real-time. With our mobile app, you can view historical data and trigger alerts and actions when traffic reaches the limit you set, all

 

With our API's, applications are limitless!

 

Explore BlueFox.io

June 14, 2017Comments are off for this post.

BlueFox.io Raises $7 Million in a Series A Financing Round

SUNNYVALE, CALIFORNIA

BlueFox.io, the company developing disruptive real-time customer engagement solutions for brands and brick & mortar retailers, today announced the closing of its $7 million Series A funding, with participation from Baseline Ventures, Panasonic, NewGen Capital and Pentalog.

We’re excited by the strength of our investors. The quality and depth of our sales pipeline illustrate the appetite for our technology from top tier brands and retailers who can now increase sales and manage premises better and cheaper than before,

said Guillaume de La Tour, BlueFox.io CEO and founder.

Steve Anderson, founder of Baseline Ventures, said,

Customers are excited about BlueFox.io's ability to offer a real-time mobile customer engagement solution with no apps or beacons. I am looking forward to partnering with the BlueFox.io team to further accelerate their growth.

"We are very pleased to join BlueFox.io’s journey with this financing round," said Patrick Suel, Senior Venture Partner at Panasonic.

BlueFox.io technology has a number of applications, not only in retail but also in numerous connected domains that we believe the market will soon adopt.

Homan Yuen, Managing Partner at NewGen Capital, said,

We are very happy to have Baseline Ventures and Panasonic join the Bluefox.io team. NewGen has been a proud supporter of the company’s vision and is excited to see the technology and business further validated by these strong partners.

 

Browse our site to know more

 

 Visit BlueFox.io

March 1, 2017Comments are off for this post.

BlueFox.io Receives 2017 Murphy Award

BlueFox.io is honored and thrilled to receive the 2017 Murphy Award by the Sunnyvale Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. This award recognizes the "Outstanding Statistical Retail Technology" offered by BlueFox.

Murphy Award | BlueFox.io