Project: Health Hackathon

Our first ever external hackathon asks the question, “how can we help people make healthier choices?”

Background and Introduction

This September, we held our first ever external hackathon in the Rainmaking Loft, London.
Over 100 entrepreneurs from start-ups and external companies competed to come up with the best new consumer health-related app or service, in just 48 hours.

But no Lab is an island! Our friends at Intel, Motorola, Verizon, P&G, Johnson + Johnson, and The Food Doctor mentored the teams throughout the weekend, and the Rainmaking Loft crew helped with the facilitation of the event too.
We had real customers in to give brutally honest opinions on the teams’ ideas; sushi and lots of healthy goodies from The Food Doctor (as well as the obligatory pizza!), and lots of breakout sessions and checkpoints along the way, to make sure all teams were on track for the final pitches.

Around 130 entrepreneurs from start-ups and external companies will compete to come up with the best new consumer health-related app or service, and they’ll be given 48 hours to do so.

Our friends at the Rainmaking Loft, a space we own whose workspace we rent out to start-ups at a subsidised rate, are helping to facilitate on the day, and are letting us take over the venue for the competition.

This hackathon has generated a lot of interest, and many of our partners and suppliers are supporting in one way or another – be it providing mentors, judges, or donating prizes or delicious goodies for the hackers.

Improving health is one of the world’s biggest – and growing – challenges. Tesco, as one of the world’s largest food retailers, is super keen to create strategies that can improve health for the long term, and to play a major role in addressing this problem.

Goals and Objectives

Improving health is one of the world’s biggest – and growing – challenges. Most of us will say we know what it takes to be healthy, but there remains a yawning chasm between what we know to be important, and what we actually do. I for one have often fallen victim to the siren call of ‘just one more Jaffa Cake’.*

As a major retailer, we at Tesco have a responsibility to help people make healthier choices… so much so, that we have publicly pledged to help tackle the global obesity crisis by encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthily.

And it seems there’s the potential for us to make a massive difference: 54% of UK consumers say they want supermarkets to be doing more to improve the health of the nation, ahead of Government (51%), Doctors (47%) and local Councils (35%).

So that’s why we’ve decided that the focus of this hackathon will be on helping customers to easily make healthier food choices in store and online, and to feel inspired to change for the better.

Another key goal for us is to bring together lots of talented people, and give them an opportunity to meet new people, network, create something fantastic, and have fun!

So who won?

The overall winners were the Barcode Monsters. They came up with a tamagotchi-inspired app to encourage healthy eating in children. When the child is in a supermarket with his mother, he can scan products’ barcodes, and depending on the nutritional content of the product, the monster in the app gets happier or sadder, fatter or thinner…and maybe even more hyper! A simple yet brilliant idea, which lets children learn about nutrition and its impact on their health, rather than piling sweeties into the trolley.

* Disclaimer: other brands of cake (or is it a biscuit?) are available.

Project: Health Buddy

What role can Tesco play in promoting good health and wellbeing?

Background and Introduction

What we eat can contribute a huge amount to our general health and wellbeing. As the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco recognises the key role it can play in promoting good health and wellness.

The app and wearable tech market, in particular, has grown dramatically over the last 3-4 years. Health products from Nike, FitBit, JawBone and Pebble have emerged on the market as fantastic Health aids.

In the lab we wanted to see whether we could develop a product that would harness the excitement generated by this new app and wearables market, but put a Tesco spin on it.

Goals and Objectives

HealthBuddy is ostensibly research driven, we’ve had ‘fun’ exploring:

  • Alternative ways for customers to record their daily calorie consumption.
  • Utilising in-built android phone sensors to track customers daily activity.
  • Pairing an Android application with a wearable hear-rate monitoring device.
  • The latest Android UI patterns.
  • Activity based gamification mechanics.
  • How to build mobile apps using the Xamarin platform.

Our aim has not been to produce an application we would immediately give to customers.

Where We’re At Now

We have built and Android app that delivers on what we set out in our goals and objectives. Customers can use HealthBuddy to track their calorie consumption in multiple ways and monitor four variations of physical activity.

Customers can select an activity goal when they setup a profile. A simple overview screen is available to track progress. Rewards are released for achieving activity goals which can then be shared socially.

Our next step is to test HealthBuddy with a control group and gain feedback on potential uses for the prototype moving forward.

Wearables we’ll actually wear…

Will consumers every really wear wearables?

As the momentum behind wearable technology continues to build in 2014, I can’t help think that the devices and consumer products that will actually stick are those that get the correct balance of being both a ‘cool technology’ and a being ‘truly’ wearable ( and here I mean wearable in the sense that we actually desire and want these products about our person whilst we go about our normal lives.)

I think the Google Glass is the typical example here. You’d be a braver, more knowledgable man than I to predict the adoption of the Google Glass as a consumer product.

I’m deeeefinitely not going to do that.

However, as I’ve watched maiden voyages on the Glass product my experience has been that folk really need to digest the notion of having this new experience so vital, as it is, in relation to their head and physical person.

My point here with the Google Glass example – (and forgive me if it is relatively obvious) –  isn’t that Glass is not  a fantastically exciting consumer product, utilising some fascinating and compelling technology.

Of course it is.

It’s more the point that if consumers are going to adopt these devices as part of their daily routines and lives, it seems to me they really, really are  going to have to compliment our life’s – both practically and aesthetically – if they are to be taken to our consumer hearts.

My absolute favourite spot this year with regards a truly gorgeous looking consumer wearable is Todd Hamilton’s iWatch Concept.

If this Todd’s concept is a glimmer of the future of wearables, then I am all for it!


Silicon Valley Trip

We’ve been to Silicon Valley in California, in search of the latest innovations and best innovators.

As you’ll remember from my last post I was due to jet off to Silicon Valley in California, in search of the latest innovations and best innovators.

On my trip I was joined by some of our IT leadership team, who – like me – were keen to visit this huge and thriving area. The aim of the trip was to engage with some of the vast amounts of innovation going on and to figure out how we can best tap into it, in the future. Strategically it’s really important that Tesco is in the thick of it, meeting the right people so that we’re well placed to take advantage of innovations which can really develop how we do business.

What really impressed me was the sheer volume of start-ups and the amount of investment flowing into them, which is around $3bn a year. Many of them are working on retail issues or areas that are associated with retail and it left me with the feeling that it really can’t be long before we see that next big thing.

Whilst I didn’t spot anything this time around which is likely to be a game changer in the near future, there were a few companies which still really caught the eye.

One company organises rewards for customers based on their achievements. Say for example you have a running app and you go jogging every evening, it might be that one day you check your rewards account and find that you beat your personal best and that there’s a present waiting for you. They’ve flipped the typical model on its head and it has proved very successful. Rather than registering for incentives, people go about their normal lives and are given ‘presents’ for achieving certain things. People don’t expect the rewards but from time to time will be entitled to them. This has led to really high rates of engagement and people love the surprise.

The other concept I want to mention, is a way of measuring the world around us. We saw a couple of companies that could use existing technology to accurately measure an aspect of your life (like your home, or your body) to help you make better choices when buying items online. For example, using the Matterport scanner pictured below you could take these computer ‘models’ and dress them with furniture or clothes in order to see how they might look once they are delivered. These 3D models are interactive and allow you to remove, move and insert items so that you can build up a new outfit or room layout.


(Matterport Scanner)

I also spent a few days in San Francisco as ‘the valley’ is expanding its northern reaches into the city. I was lucky enough to meet with some really big players as well as those who are part of fast growing and exciting start-ups. The start-up industry is an interesting mix of venture capitalists, incubators, start-ups themselves and larger companies who still thrive there.

It was fantastic to be out there meeting some of these really interesting people and I’ve definitely built up my network of useful contacts! My trip reaffirmed to me the importance of having an open, creative and innovative working culture. As we look ahead to the changing retail landscape we know that innovation will be key to ensuring that we are successful and continue to deliver an outstanding customer experience.