Tesco CIO Mike McNamara has introduced a new innovation lab at the company with a blog about how the supermarket is exploring wearable technology like Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy smart watch.
The UK's largest supermarket is looking for ways to reverse its fortunes after reporting a significant profit fall earlier this year.
Writing on Tesco’s corporate website, McNamara revealed that Tesco has created Tesco Labs, a new team set up to work on new technologies and customer experiences to help the company stay ahead of the curve.
“Tesco Labs, a new team we’ve created, has an important part to play in the future of the company,” he wrote.
“We’re made up of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, designers and developers who are all focused on identifying future trends in retail that make life easier for customers and colleagues.”
McNamara said that the innovation lab will experiment with innovative ideas like wearable technology, and said that Tesco Labs has already developed a “concept app” for Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Smart watch.
“We think wearables will be used in more contextual situations, and have developed the app accordingly,” he wrote.
“For example, if you’re at home and see that you’ve run out of milk, you can use Glass to scan the product barcode and add it to your online grocery basket for home delivery.”
He does not believe that wearable technology will fully replace established mobile devices, however.
“We think it’s unlikely that customers will do their entire online grocery shop using wearable tech because it’s primarily been designed for ‘micro interactions’, so we don’t think it will replace the smartphone or tablet,” said McNamara.
IoT and 3D printing
Other technology that the Tesco Labs is looking at includes the Internet of Things.
“This enables seemingly ordinary devices in your home, such as your fridge, oven or microwave, to connect with each other so they can tell you when you’re running out of certain products and order it online. While it seems very futuristic, we believe that this kind of technology could be as liberating as the invention of the internet and we’re already working on bringing that to life for customers,” McNamara said.
The retailer is also looking at 3D printing for producing things like spare parts.
According to Tesco Labs’ website, which states that it works in a “perpetual start-up phase”, the innovation team comprises 26 members of staff based in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire and Bangalore, India. Their roles range from developers to UX (user experience) designers, business analysts and engineers.
A demo video of the Tesco Google Glass app can be viewed here.
Retailers seem to be investing in more clearly defined research and development teams to explore how new technology can transform the traditional business and take it beyond online shopping. For example, John Lewis has recently set up JLabs, which aims to foster technology start-ups with innovative ideas for retail.