Tesco is experimenting with an in-store 'satnav' system that helps shoppers find the products they want, using an app that runs on an Android mobile phone. It should also speed up shopping by showing customers the shortest route to pick up everything they need on a 3D store map. However, while Tesco is testing a prototype installation, it warns that the system may not turn out to be viable.
In a blog post at its T4T "tech for Tesco" site, the supermarket giant is appealing for people to test the system at its Tesco Extra, Romford (Gallows Corner) in north-east London. It says: "we need to recruit a large control group of customers (including staff) who would like to try it out on their Android smartphones."
Tesco is using Android v2.2 or later "because we don't want the app in its current state going into the public app stores. Only Android easily offers the ability to install apps from 'Unknown Sources'." However, it warns:
"Please note that we won't be rolling this out to customers in general for a while because we have to think about how useful it's going to be. The system involves a lot of infrastructure installation in the stores so we need to get all kinds of people involved in thinking about the customer experience. It would be awful if we did all this work but few customers really used it."
Tesco's system is not literally indoor "sat nav" navigation but uses Wi-Fi triangulation. Tesco stores already have Wi-Fi installed for staff use. It also knows about products and special offers because it has aisle and shelf location spatial data from software that is used by its merchandising teams. But it's not necessarily simple. Last year, Nick Lansley, Head of R&D for Tesco.com, pointed out that: "Tesco sells a diabolic mix of products that reflect, refract and absorb signals. As the phone moves around, these three corrupters of signal purity will be in full force wrecking the ability of the app to work out where it is."
Lansley has asked people who want to join the control group of product testers to write to R&D project manager Ben Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, SATNAV APP.