Tesco hackathon proposes tech ideas to solve retail pain points

The finalists from supermarket chain Tesco’s latest Global Hackathon event devised new retail technology concepts addressing some of consumers’ most pressing issues, it has emerged.

From an app aiding the online search process for people with special dietary requirements to a system helping shoppers choose environmentally-friendly delivery options, many hot topics were covered as part of the two-day idea generation event.

New concepts were mapped out by teams of Tesco staff and suppliers, who came together from the Czech Republic, India, Poland, and the UK to compete. It’s the eighth year in succession Tesco Labs – the tech research and development arm of the grocer – has run the event.

Jo Hickson, the recently appointed new head of Tesco Labs, remarked: “The hackathon is a great way for us to pull in brilliant ideas from people across the business.

“Last year’s winning idea is now being trialled in a store in the Czech Republic and we can’t wait to explore the ideas from this year too.”

The winning entry will be revealed in the coming weeks. CTO Guus Dekkers, CEO of Tesco Business Services Sumit Mitra, and Czech Republic managing director Patrik Dojcinovic were part of the judging panel.

The Europe finalists

NutriScan – UK: An application that helps in-store customers make the right choices based on dietary preference and shopping history. The app provides personalised recommendations if the original product selected is not suitable or is out of stock.

Tesco Magic – UK: A data visualisation tool that brings customer data to life so they can gain a better insight into their relationship with Tesco.

Wawel Dragons – Poland: A system that enables customers to choose an eco-friendly delivery option for online shopping or enables an eco-friendly option for click & collect customers.

Waste Hunters – Czech Republic: An augmented reality application designed to help reduce food waste by enabling staff to quickly and easily identify products that are about to expire.

The India finalists

Double: The concept promised to save paper and time by using both sides of the shelf-edge label, displaying the promotion price on one side and standard price on the other. Store colleagues would be notified via app when and where to flip the label.

mBill: This tool is designed to remove the need for a paper receipt at checkout by providing an option for customers to receive a digital receipt using QR code.

Bugs Slayers: A braille catalogue of products for visually impaired customers, which enables them to add items to the basket using a mobile barcode scanner.

TechHack: A virtual store concept, where customers navigate aisles, click items to find out more and add items to their basket virtually.

Lakshmi Madhavarao, a software development engineer in the search and recommendations team at Tesco, and one of those responsible for the NutriScan app concept, said: “I have participated two years in a row and happened to be a finalist both times.

“More than winning, it is really fun to work with different people on an idea and learn new skills in 24 hours. It is just amazing to see what can be done in such a short period of time.”

For the hackathon, the teams were given 24 hours to conceptualise an innovative technology solution to meet business challenges such as how to use customer data in more effective ways, how to improve in-store operations/routines, how to optimise transportation, and ways to make shopping more eco-friendly.

They were also tasked with generating ideas that would save the business over £10 million in year one, and which would generate over £20 million revenue in year one.