Hackathon 2019

On 13 and 14 June, Tesco colleagues and suppliers from the Czech Republic, India, Poland and the UK came together to compete in the eighth annual Tesco Global Hackathon.

The teams had 24 hours to come up with an innovative technology solution to one of these business challenges:

  • How can we use our customers’ data to serve them better?
  • How can we simplify in-store operations/routines?
  • How can we help our customers be more eco-friendly?
  • How can we optimise our transport either for distribution or for Grocery Home Shopping delivery?
  • Come up with an idea that will save the business over £10m in year one
  • Come up with an idea that will generate over £20m revenue in year one

Jo Hickson, Head of Tesco Labs said: “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.”

Lakshmi Madhavarao, a Software Development Engineer in the Search and Recommendations team 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.”

This year, two separate judging panels, which included Chief Technology Officer Guus Dekkers, CEO of Tesco Business Services Sumit Mitra and Managing Director in the Czech Republic Patrik Dojčinovič, had the tough task of selecting finalists from Europe and India.

Then on 9 July, the finalists took to the stage again where they pitched to a wider panel of Tesco leaders. The panel in India selected Team Double as their winners, who looked to tackle the challenge of simplifying instore operations with their paper and time saving app for colleagues.

In the UK, the winners, NutriScan took on the challenge of using our customers’ data to serve them better, and developed an app to help customers choose products based on dietary requirements.

Thank you to all competitors and everybody who came to support them during their pitches to the judges. There was a really great atmosphere throughout the event and we can’t wait to see some of the ideas come to fruition over the coming months. Congratulations to our winning teams!

Europe Winner

NutriScan – UK (William Powell, Mohamed Mamdouh, Lakshmi Madhavarao, Tim Volkov, George Sykes)

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.

Europe Finalists

Tesco Magic – UK (Matt Bennett, Lawrence Rayner, Carl Knibbs, Ross Arnone, Adam Cohen-Rose)

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 (Urszula Perry, Michał Nawilny, Michał Podskoczy, Artur Skowroński, Michał Fudała)

A system that enables our 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 (Zuzana Radicova, Milan Zelenka, Ondrej Basler, Jaroslav Havelik, Lukas Duris)

An augmented reality application designed to help reduce food waste by enabling colleagues to quickly and easily identify products that are about to expire.

India Winner

Double – (Suryanarayan Raju, Gopal Krushna Pattanaik, Narendra Allampatti, Archit Saxena)

Save paper and time by using both sides of the shelf-edge label to display the promotion price on one side and standard price on the other side. Store colleagues will be notified via app when and where to flip the label.

India Finalists

mBill (Hanumath Mahankali, Balachandar Ramalingam, Ajith Srinath, Sourabh Joshi, PraveenKumar Patil)

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 (Devika Awasthi, Anurag Mishra, Sreenivas T, Shubham Chaturvedi, Manjunathan Raman)

Providing a braille catalogue of products for visually impaired customers and enabling them to add items to the basket using a mobile barcode scanner.

TechHack (Dheeraj Kysetti, Prashant Pandey, Rupasmite Devi)

Providing a virtual store where customers navigate aisles, click items to find out more and add items to their basket virtually.

And the winners are…

It’s been quite the week for the Tesco Labs team: we’ve been heavily involved in Tech. powered by Retail Week and were delighted to be named as winners in last night’s awards.

The team were delighted to hear that we had been shortlisted not once, not twice, but three times at the Retail Week Tech awards. The Tesco Labs team was listed in the “Tech Team of the Year” category, whilst Kunal Ramkumar and Vidya Laxman were recognised in the “Digital Transformation Pioneer” and “Digital Native” categories respectively. The awards ceremony, held at London’s Hawker House, was an exciting take on the usual format, and brought together the leading names in retail technology to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the last year.

We’re pleased to share that we took home the award for Digital Transformation Pioneer. This award was well deserved by Software Development Engineer Kunal Ramkumar, who, having identified operational inefficiency issues within our solutions for planning in store displays, with scope for huge improvement. Through looking at the basic principles of merchandising, and applying technological solutions to a basic merchandising problem which affects all retailers, Kunal found a solution which is both cost and time effective, the impact of which could change the face of future retail merchandising.

The Labs team was also named silver award winners of Tech Team of the Year, recognising the continuing innovative work that the team produces. With the consistent aim of improving the retail experience for both Tesco customers and colleagues, and with our sights fixed firmly on emerging technology, the team strive to ensure that Tesco remains one step ahead of the curve. Work with trends such as voice activated assistants, connected home devices, and VR and AR particularly impressed the judges.

But that’s not all…

On Wednesday, Angela Maurer, Head of Tesco Labs, took to the stage to talk about our schools outreach activity, promoting STEM subjects in schools, and diversity in the technology industry. Her grand finale was the announcement that we are open sourcing all the materials needed to deliver the activity, enabling other companies all over the world to reach out to this important demographic and help to shift the needle on these key issues.

Thursday saw Paul Wilkinson, Head of Research, Tesco Labs, addressing the audience on our work with voice activated assistants, and what this could mean to the future of retail.

Throughout the 2 day event, Tesco Labs was also delighted to be the headline sponsor for the Retail Week Tech Sprint. Billed as a “technology battle royale”, the Tech. Sprint brought together leading visionaries in retail tech to generate new and innovative ideas. The Challenge: 24 hours to build the shopping experience of the future in a connected world, was set by the Retail Week team and Tesco Labs. The teams pitched their solutions to an expert judging panel (led by Paul Wilkinson) with the three best teams battling it out on the Discovery Stage.

Congratulations to all the awards winners, and thank you to Retail Week – we’re looking forward to next year already!

Innovation through Inspiration: open source announcement

Earlier this year, the Tesco Labs team began looking into how we could inspire primary school children to study STEM subjects – today, we’re delighted to share what we’ve developed.

Through our research into diversity in technology, we discovered that children as young as 4 years old form stereotypes around gender roles in various careers; with the result that many girls are less keen to study STEM subject than boys. As a result, we’ve tailored our outreach activities for primary school children to impress upon them that technology is not just “for boys” and that opportunities exist in a range of diverse roles within the technology industry. You may have read about our first activity, when we spent the day with Key Stage 1 students at Roundwood Primary School in Harpenden. (If you missed it, read the blog post here).

We used “Cubetto“, Primo Toys’ friendly wooden robot which teaches children the basics of programming through hands on play and adventure. In order to give the activity a retail technology slant, we worked with Ape Creative to produce customised accessories for the robot, giving it a simplified Tesco store layout to navigate around, whilst challenging the children to collect specific items from a bespoke shopping list; all to be gathered in their personalised shopping trolley.

The success of the activity, and the popularity amongst both schools and parents, has been overwhelming. We’ve connected with around 250 children so far, and intend to continue to grow this as much as we possibly can. So, we were delighted to be invited to talk about our work on stage at Retail Week’s Tech event this week.

The talk about our work, given by Head of Tesco Labs, Angela Maurer, not only covered the why, where and how of our work, but also the passion that the team have for continuing to address the gender imbalance in our industry, and the challenges that we face if we try to continue to do this as individuals. Which is why we are delighted to be able to open this activity up to other retailers, and look to give the opportunity to connect with schools in the same way to as many companies as possible.

From today, we are open sourcing all the materials we have used to bring this activity to life; from the tried and tested activity plan through to the bright and beautiful accessories created specifically with this in mind. If you would like to deliver this activity then all you will need to do is download the items and purchase the Cubetto kits that you need.

The links below allow you to download the pdf files of the original artwork. If you would like to download the indesign files, please email the Tesco Labs team who will be happy to share these.

Activity playbook

Print materials
Shop Layout Mat
Produce Cards
Shopping Lists

Primo Toys

Ape Creative

Finally, we’d love to hear your stories of the activities you lead using these tools! If you’d like to share them, please feel free to share them via email or twitter.

India Hackathon 2017

Hot on the heels of our 2017 UK Hackathon is the second instalment of the competition, this time running in our offices in Bengaluru, India.

We’re delighted to announce that the 24 hour event will be running on 21-22 September, and teams will be competing to harness the technology of the future and produce a working prototype to present to a panel of judges.

Working to the theme of ‘The Future is Now’, the teams will be encouraged to think big – and look to the current emerging technological trends for their inspiration. They’ll be following in the footsteps of teams (many of whom worked through the night) who have produced a wide range of very impressive solutions, from new delivery models through to collaborative shopping propositions, voice-activated assistants, and a two-factor authentication for online shoppers.

Each team will have a matter of minutes to pitch and demonstrate their idea to our panel of judges, who will be looking for a combination of an exciting use of new technology, a smooth and enjoyable user experience, and how applicable the solution is to the business.

If you’ve never been involved in a hackathon, now’s your chance! It’s a common opinion that you have to be a coder to compete, but that’s definitely not the case – we’re looking for teams with a range of skills, so whether you’re a comms specialist, a designer, security expert or product manager, we want you!

Tesco colleagues can register online today using the link circulated – please see communications for details!

(Please note that this competition is only open to Tesco colleagues, and that you must be able to get to the Bengaluru offices to participate – remote participation will not be available).


Hackathon Winners Announcement

With their sights set firmly on future technology, a total of 57 teams gathered last week to participate in our annual India Hackathon. Working on the theme “The Future is Now”, the hackers had 24 hours to produce a working prototype and pitch a solution to an existing problem to our panel of judges. There was a real buzz in the air as the teams got to work, with pressure and excitement building as they worked to the tight timeline.
48 teams completed the challenge, with 46 of those presenting to the judges – a very exciting event as each team had just minutes to persuade the panel of the winning attributes of their solution.

The winning teams were:
Winner: Gang of Four, with their hack to help customers choose the fastest queue for checkout.

1st Runner up: Robo Cards, whose solution was a robot which is able to use portable electronic devices, and complete transactions, as well as humans.

2nd Runner up: Smart Shoppers, with a solution to show ongoing deals and recommend shopping items with just a tap of your phone.

The winners of the “Most Ambitious” category were Grey Matter, who worked on a solution to crowdsource the Tesco delivery system, powered by Blockchain. And the “Most Creative” team were Cherry Pick, who presented a mobile app to radically simplify the in-store shopping experience. Congratulations!

A big thank you goes to Partha Roy and Bhavesh Kumar who led on the organisation of the event, and to all our participants, who made the event very special. We’re looking forward to the next event already!

Inventors flock to our annual Hackathon

When you’ve had that lightbulb moment it’s hard to switch it off, and for 70 budding inventors our seventh annual 24-hour Hackathon was the perfect place to turn bright ideas into reality.

We were thrilled to welcome 16 teams of hackers to our Welwyn Garden City campus this year where they had just 24 hours to turn their ideas for new technology to help our customers or colleagues, into a working prototype. Teams were a mix of office and store colleagues, and guests from companies such as IBM, O2, Oracle and Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH).

Working to the theme of ‘Future Trends’, the teams (many of whom worked through the night) produced a wide range of very impressive solutions, from new delivery models through to collaborative shopping propositions, voice-activated assistants, and the two-factor authentication for online shoppers.

Each team had three minutes to pitch and demonstrate their idea to our panel of judges: Chief Technology Officer Edmond Mesrobian, Technology Directory Mike Yorwerth, Chief Customer Officer Alessandra Bellini and BBC Click journalist Kate Russell. Together the judges chose their first, second and third prize winners, while an audience of colleagues from our Technology team voted for a ‘People’s Choice’ prize-winner. Event organisers from the Tesco Labs team also awarded a ‘Most Valuable Player’ prize to the person they thought had contributed the most to the event.

The winners

First prize: Tickets to attend Web Summit in Lisbon
Winners: James Davenport, Matthew Bennett, Oliver Joel and Lawrence Rayner (atHack of the Clones)
Hack: Multi-basket shopping. This extension to our Grocery Home Shopping site allows groups of people (e.g. in a house-share) to shop together – each adding their own products, but being notified of cost savings that they could take advantage of through multi-purchases. The customers are then able to shop in the most cost-effective way, but can also easily work out how much each has spent.

Second prize: Google Kitchen Sync cooking experience
Winners: BBH Stockholm
Hack: Collaborative shopping solution: an app that notifies customers when their friends, family and neighbours are planning to visit a store. This allows them to request items to be bought for them, and would reward the shopper with Clubcard points. An added benefit is that this would reduce the number of cars driven to stores, lessening the impact on the climate.

Third prize: Tickets to Tech. powered by Retail Week
Winners: Antony Turner and Roger Bowler – Clay Cross Extra
Hack: A McDonald’s-style drive-through delivery model for groceries. In the style of many fast food drive-throughs, customers would be able to drive directly to a tablet placed outside a store and select the items that they would like to purchase. This information would be relayed to colleagues via an app, picking would be done immediately, and the customer would have their items delivered directly to their car.

People’s Choice prize: Amazon Echo dot devices
Winners: Antony Turner and Roger Bowler – Clay Cross Extra
Hack: Drive-through delivery model

Most Valuable Player prize: Google Cardboard virtual reality device
Winner: Darren Gibson

Tesco Technology Grad Matthew Bennett was on the winning team and said: “I feel delighted about winning and so proud of what the team achieved in this time.” Meanwhile the third prize and coveted People’s Choice award went to Antony Turner and Roger Bowler of our Clay Cross Extra store. Antony commented: “Neither of us has much technical knowledge, and we don’t know how to code so it goes to show what you can achieve with a good idea!”

Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winners! It was fantastic to see teams from so many different disciplines come together to create such innovative solutions in such a short amount of time. Check out our photos of the event on Flikr.

T-Jam 2017 dates announced!

Large retailer WLTM exciting, driven and creative start-ups, for collaboration and maybe more: perhaps even to create the next big thing in the retail space.

We at Tesco Labs are dying to hear your start-up or company’s idea for the next big thing in retail innovation…and what better time to hold our next speed-dating event than during London Tech Week?

We’re bringing our 2017 T-Jam event to our London offices in the Lever Building, 85 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5AR on Wednesday 14th June; and we want you and any start-ups wanting to pitch their idea to join us for an exciting afternoon of food, drink, and tech speed-dating!

Come along and speed-date your idea with senior Tesco product owners, technologists, and members of our multichannel leadership team. We’ll provide you with the chance to have your idea heard by Tesco people from across the business; to hear which problems at the top of our ‘to-solve’ list at Tesco; and to meet lots of interesting people.

Numbers are limited because of time constraints (we want to give each speed-dater the chance to meet as many Tesco people as possible), so please apply for a place here.

You have until Friday 2nd June to apply – what are you waiting for?

Arcohol – a collaboration from Tesco Labs and ribot

An innovative experiment to help you pick a great bottle of wine, every time.

Tesco Labs and ribot are both passionate about driving change to improve the lives of customers. The customer is at the heart of everything we both do. ribot innovate through the use of technology, behavioural psychology and design to build great products. The Tesco Labs team are building a culture of innovation and focussing on serving their customers a little better every day. Wherever, whenever and however they want to shop with Tesco.

Together Tesco Labs and ribot have created an innovative experiment that will assist customers to choose a great bottle of wine, every time. The Internet of Things shelf concept lights up to help customers navigate the complex category of wine in the supermarket aisle. You can come and try the prototype at RBTE on 8th & 9th May 2017 with ribot at stand number 1107.

Tesco Labs is currently investigating ways in which the Internet of Things can help enhance its customers’ shopping journey; something which Paul Wilkinson, Head of Technology Research at Tesco Labs will be discussing  in his Keynote in Theatre 2 on the 9th May at 10.30. Tesco launched on web platform IFTTT [If This Then That] earlier this year as a significant step along the road to using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help automate certain elements of internet shopping in the UK. The creation of an IFTTT channel has allowed the retailer’s shoppers to devise shopping-related actions based on certain triggers, as well as expanding the channels through which they can shop, as IFTTT is now available through both Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.

Just how do you select a good bottle of wine?
ribot first started working with Tesco Labs back in 2009, when they designed and built the first Tesco grocery shopping app. During that time, they worked with the team at Tesco Labs, who had identified an area in which they wanted to improve the shopping experience for customers. How could we help customers navigate the complex category of wine, beers and spirits in the supermarket aisle? How could we simplify choice for Tesco customers?

As part of the ribot innovation process, they interview and observe customers and create personas based on core segment types. Their findings showed that wine, spirit and beer selection is still a mystery for many. They wanted to discover if there was a simple way to educate customers about wine and to encourage wine exploration.

ribot’s goals for this project were to educate customers about wine choice and make the whole experience more personalised, inspiring, engaging and fun. The solution should also help users discover the wider Beers, Wines and Spirits range and could create more engagement and dwell time in the Beers, Wines and Spirits department.

They looked at possible solutions to the problem and worked through a process of innovation in order to create a prototype.

In summary, the people they observed and interviewed in the study tended to choose whatever was on promotion, something they were already familiar with or what they saw or knew someone else had chosen.

So how could choosing the perfect bottle of wine be made both easier and more fun?
As part of the innovation process they looked at possible solutions to solve this and asked some key questions:
– How can we simplify wine choice and make it both simpler and more fun?
– Can we use the Internet of Things to help solve this problem?
– Can we encourage customers to explore more and make better wine choices?
The ribot team mapped the user experience and generated a number of ideas using different creative techniques, then chose a preferred solution to prototype and build as a proof of concept.

A key part of the proposed solution was to enable users to select wine by pairing it with food they plan to eat. Everyone eats! Using food first is a more approachable way of accessing wine (or beer, cocktails or spirits!). It felt like a natural platform on which a customer could base an exploration of wine and make an educated, inspired and confident choice. The proposed solution – Arcohol – was to build an interactive wine shelf, helping users discover a personalised range of wine options providing both inspiration and education.

The prototype itself is a simple shelf connected to an app launched on a tablet at the point of sale. Customers can use the prototype to select the type of food they plan to eat, using food icons in the prototype app. This simplifies choice.

The proposed solution also lets customers filter choices by region, colour, grape and price. The app includes handy tasting notes that use keywords customers can recognise and associate with. Suggestions are made based on flavours that will complement the food. Wine suggestions shown on the app correspond to LED lights on the shelf. These light up, guiding the customer to make their final selection.

The psychology behind the solution
The prototype allows the user to narrow down options available, based on what they plan to have for dinner. This both limits choice and provides an element of closure. The LED lights on the shelf help create a helpful contrast, displaying the products that suit you and those that don’t. Items that stand out from their peers are more memorable to customers.

The tasting notes in the app are brief and use keywords that will help users identify the types of wine they might like, the Speak-Easy effect. There is enough information given in each description to enable users to make a confident choice about the wine.

The prototype app works with the interactive shelf using LED lights to highlight the chosen wine. The LED lights bring a sense of fun and theatre to proceedings. The prototype could be extended to mobile and could be personalised to work with Tesco Clubcard. Both the tasting notes and LED lights on the shelf arouse the interest and curiosity for users. The whole concept is fun and users remember choosing their perfect bottle of wine this way.

What’s next
ribot are in the process of testing user reactions to the shelf and installing an improved prototype at the Tesco Labs HQ. For a chance to see the interactive wine shelf in action, visit stand number 1107 at RBTE, London Olympia on the 8th and 9th May.

To find out more about how Tesco Labs are working with the Internet of Things, join Paul Wilkinson, Head of Technology Research, for his keynote session on 9th May at 10.30 in Theatre 2.

Women in Technology network launch

A few topics seem to come up time and again in the technology industry – two of the most important being the skills gap, and the lack of diversity.

As separate as they may seem, they are inextricably linked.  Current research questions whether the UK has enough graduates coming through our universities with the right skills – the number of under graduates choosing a STEM subject-based degree course is decreasing, something which some experts have put down to the declining popularity of these subjects amongst girls. We’ve already started to make inroads into schools through our work with Cubetto, but this doesn’t encompass the struggle of retaining women skilled in these areas in key roles. But does this affect Tesco? And what can we do?

Currently, just over 20% of our Technology team is female. Our Technology recruitment team is working hard to ensure that diversity is a consideration in all their activities; but we also want to make sure that we retain the incredible talent we have in our female workforce! Feedback has shown time and again that women at Tesco want to feel inspired and empowered to drive their careers forward, and we want to be as proactive as we can be in supporting this, bringing us together to learn from, develop and support each other.

That’s exactly what the recently re-launched Women in Technology network aims to provide. It kicked off on 8th March (International Women’s’ Day), with almost 200 of our colleagues in both the UK and India signing up to be part of the network. Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” philosophy, our aim is to bring together the women in our technology organisation to learn with and from each other about issues which affect us; focus on our development, career goals and aspirations; build confidence and capability (in areas where research shows women would benefit from it most) and develop our internal network. The Women in Technology Group will provide access to role models, peer groups & other valuable career resources, to support the development of women in our function. Our plan is to hold bi-monthly small group sessions (“Circles”) alternating between education & exploration meetings. These will be tailored to our network’s needs and wants, and will include discussions, external speakers and workshops.

We’re really excited to see how our network will grow, and the opportunities it will present for our colleagues. It’s for Tesco employees only, so unfortunately we can’t include any of our partners, but if you’ve got experience of something similar then please feel free to share your stories with us via email.

Bringing retail technology to life in the classroom

On 9 February, Roundwood Primary School in Harpenden opened their doors to the Tesco Labs team.

Colleagues were visiting with the aim of engaging children from years 1 and 2 in a new activity, designed to promote an understanding of technology in retail, coding and creative thinking. The brief for the session was to design and execute an event for children aged 5-6 (KS1), to last ninety minutes. The event should promote technology, and preferably work around the theme of retail. Following research which showed that children develop gender-related stereotypes around careers as young as 5 years old, the aim was to enthuse children about technology, and to dispel any preconceptions that the children may have about careers in technology being male-oriented.

In order to achieve this, we chose to work with the “Cubetto”, a small robot controlled by basic coding principles. Although the children had some basic experience of Scratch, only a handful had used Cubetto before. With a range of specially designed accessories, including a playmat showing the layout of a store, a range of shopping lists, and a flatpack mini-trolley (thanks to Ape Creative), the team were well equipped to bring the activities to life!


Three groups of thirty children participated, with great success. Following a short introduction to Tesco’s Technology team, and technology in retail, each group was fully engaged in the challenges set, which included creating their mini-trolley, learning how to put together a string of instructions for the robot, and finally completing complex routes around the “shop” to collect pre-determined items.

We were delighted with the way that the day ran, and would like to thank Laura Fricker of Roundwood Primary for inviting us, and helping to facilitate the day. With initial feedback from the children including more than one request to join the team, we’re looking forward to working more with the technology specialists of the future!