Tesco experiments with ‘sat-nav’ technology for iPhone and iPad

By Dawinderpal Sahota
21 Oct 2010 View Comments

Tesco will trial a scheme to allow customers to scan as they shop and navigate their way around stores using their iPad or iPhone.

The supermarket chain is already trialling scan-as-you-shop technology in a store in Romford, Essex, using handheld scanners developed internally.

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This is likely to be rolled out across all stores, according to Nick Lansley, Tesco’s head of research and development (R&D), from early next year.

However, Lansley’s department is now trialling similar technology using Apple’s iPads and iPhones.

“The R&D department set about deploying the same technology to an iPhone. We wanted to prove that we could do it without any real change to our checkout systems,” he said.

Lansley explained that the R&D team is also looking into implementing new technology using iPhones and iPads to map a customer's location in the store.

“We don’t know if it’s going to work – that’s what the R&D process is for,” he said.

He explained that Tesco stores each have several wireless access points in the ceiling, which staff use to communicate with one another.

“If you know where the access points are, and the application programming interface (API) also knows, it could download the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of those access points which are the basic identifier for a location within a store,” explained Lansley.

“The API could listen to the relative signals from the access points that it can sense, and from that, triangulate where you are.”

However, he added that reflections from liquids, metals, shelving and products within the store might disrupt the signal, but that R&D would look into this.

“[If this can be overcome] it might be possible to work out which zone the customer is in and direct them to the product like a sat nav.”

“This could allow relevant offers to be presented to the customer, if their buying behaviour suggests they've got a dog, and they're in the pet food aisle, they could get a message telling them about the special 2-for-1 offer on Iams two shelves away.”

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