Monday, 23 May 2011

In-store 'Sat-nav' up and working now in a Tesco branch - come and try it!

We now have a comprehensive 'sat-nav' system working INSIDE one of our Tesco stores!

The new service is able to show you where all your wanted products are on a store map, show you where you are on that map, and guide you round the store to pick up your products using the shortest route.

The prototype system is installed at the Tesco Extra, Romford (Gallows Corner) in north-east London, and we need to recruit a large control group of customers (including staff) who would like to try it out on their Android smart-phones.

Would you like to give it a go? If so apply to join our control group (info below) which will assess the accuracy and reliability of the service from a technical perspective.. If you're accepted, here is what you'll experience:
  1. Install our prototype app on your Android smart phone (it's not in the Android Marketplace, you'll be sent a link to download it directly and you'll need to change a setting temporarily to allow non-marketplace apps on your phone to install it).
  2. Build up a shopping list on it (just like you can with Tesco Finder).
  3. Send that shopping list to another customer with the same app on their phone so they can go shopping on your behalf (so I'm happy for members of a household to be in the control group).
  4. Head to Tesco Extra Romford (click for map link).
  5. Start the app as you walk through the front door.
  6. See a comprehensive store map with all the items in the shopping laid out on it.
  7. Press a button and the app will find the shortest distance between the products and create a route for you.
  8. Show you where you are on the map with a blue dot with an accuracy of within 3 metres.
  9. Walk the store following the route. The blue dot will move around the map as you move around.
  10. If you want to find any product 'adhoc', we'll find it in the store and show you where it is on the map. 

So now we need your help. If…
  1. You live or work near Tesco Extra, Romford, and
  2. You have an android phone with Android OS v2.2 or later installed on it, and 
  3. You're prepared to change your phone's application settings temporarily to allow installation of apps from 'Unknown Sources' just while you install our app, and
  4. You are prepared to run an R&D app and accept no liability from us if we cause your phone problems (although it doesn't do anything more than require access to your wifi and location-based services on your phone), and
  5. You accept that the app, being R&D, is a bit geeky but you are prepared to fiddle and play with it, and
  6. You accept the system, being R&D, may just not work from time to time.
...then I would love to hear from you.

To join the control group, write to our R&D project manager Ben Martin at with subject 'SATNAV APP'. Ben (@realbenm) has been running this exciting project from the start, so he'll look forward to hearing from you. Indeed you'll receive further instructions in a few days after contacting us. In the message please indicate what make and model of Android handset you have, and the version of Android it is running.

The service is only available publicly to Android phone owners at this time, because we don't want the app in it's current state going into the public app stores. Only Android easily offers the ability to install apps from 'Unknown Sources'.

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.

We must also see how we would put the technology into our production applications and make it really easy for everyone to use. There's also the possibility that the infrastructure is not reliable right now.

This project is in R&D for a good reason, and we are allowed to prove the viability - or otherwise - of anything we might wish to offer our customers. Sometimes R&D is close to production, and at other times it is far away. 

Apologies to other companies offering this service who contacted me after my original blog post that kicked off this project. We've had to operate under strict NDA with our chosen provider and not even intimate there was a such as system under construction. Until now!


  1. it's a shame that I don't live any where near this store, as I would love to try it out - sounds like pretty cutting edge tech - not seen / heard anything along these lines anywhere else (except for something similar in a major single-pick distribution centre I know of which used RF)

    Not only that - but that's 2 Good News stories for Android in the last week! Happy days :o)

  2. Great-sounding app. Who was the developer?

  3. Sounds awesome - can't wait for this to be rolled out, as I live so far from Romford :-(

  4. Roll it out Quickly

    What we do need and NOW is in store WiFi

    If my Local ASDA can .....

    ANDROID is the Future ;)

  5. Are you able to expand on what the tech is behind the positioning? WiFi triangulation, micro cell sites?

  6. thats ok if every thing is where it is supposed to be on the shelves

  7. I've asked Ben Martin, project manager for this project, to write up information on how the system works at Tesco Romford.

    We've just had clearance from our supplier that the Non-Disclosure Agreement is no longer in force so I'll let Ben (who has done all the hard work from our team's perspective to make this happen) reveal all on this blog in the coming days.

  8. In response to the comment about in-store wifi, Tesco Romford has free customer wifi throughout the entire store. You just go to the landing page when you attempt to browse anywhere on the web, and type in your Tesco Clubcard to get free access.

    There's a Costa coffee shop in that Tesco too so it's a great place to relax with free wifi before or after a shopping spree!

  9. This is a great idea, however i dont live anywear near it, (from cardiff) but u should prehaps thinking of increasing your testtign to more tesco extra stores so more ppl can test it

  10. Awesome idea, love it! Unfortunately I'm also ~300 miles away but if you bring this anywhere else I'll definitely get involved.

  11. Sounds like a cool project and I for one would use it.

    One question I have..when is there going to be a clubcard/tesco shopping app for the Android? Given that I believe Android has a 38 percent share globally, more than that of the iPhone..why have we so far been left out and are quite regularly in other areas too?

  12. Now, this is not something that get by me everyday. I am the lucky one that is a android fan as well as do weekly shopping from the selected tesco extra. (3 miles from my home).

    i can't wait to test this app once Ben has sent me the link.

    getting so excited.!!

  13. I think that this is a misguided venture, I think it would be far better for Tesco to simply employ people to be on hand to just tell shoppers where stuff is. I don't know what the technology is costing but it would be better to give people jobs and keep things in a human perspective, what you are proposing is very impersonal and distances people even more from each other.

  14. Brilliant Idea. Shame i'm not near the store to help test it. Hope the tests are successful as i would definitely use this.

  15. Sat Nav to find the product you are looking for might be helpful. BUT why is it so hard to find things in the first place? It would be much better if Tesco would stop moving stuff around for no good reason, and also kept similar products together! In my local Tesco, things like tinned beans can be found in several different places including Asian, West Indian, Polish etc. Low-salt vegetable stock is not kept with the 'regular' variety, but is hidden next to gluten-free ice cream cones! Instead of in-store SatNav, maybe they should just lay out the store in a more logical way.

  16. @Anonymous 13:49
    You're right, and we should get rid of Sat-Navs so people interact with pedestrians better to ask directions, and car parks should all be attended. Lets not forget ATMs - much better to queue for 30 mins in the branch. Cars? nah - horses keep the stable-boys in jobs.

  17. Before going towards this overkill of an idea which assumes customers need to be spoonfed with turn-by-turn directions, wouldn't it be a great first step if we just merely classify a shoppping list by aisle - let customers at least prioritise their trip by aisle. It doesn't have to THE ABSOLUTE SHORTEST distance - even if the app just sorts my shopping list in the order of the aisle, that's so much better than going back and forth. In fact, I do this today on my own. In my local Sainsburys that I know the layout very well, I write down my shopping list in the order of the aisles!

    This doesn't need major sat nav equipment etc. - only need info about product placement in each store layout - which I am sure Tesco has!

    Reminds me of the Russian pencil vs. that multi-million dollar American pen joke...

  18. This sounds great... can't wait for it to be enabled nationwide and for the iPhone too!

  19. Hi Sundar

    Yes Tesco FInder for iPhone (in the app store) does that - it groups shopping list by store.

    The idea of 'sat-nav' is to give a sense of where you are and how far it is to the product when you have a very large store like the one at Romford.

    This is a low cost R&D project just to see if we can be better for customers. That's what R&D is for!

  20. I am loving the idea behind this.

    Shame I am in manchester, but if you decide to bring it to the north, give me a holla

  21. If I need a satnav to help me round the shop I probably shouldn't be out without my carer

  22. Love the concept - awesome idea!

    As Marcus said though, when will there be an official Tesco app for Android? Given that UK market share is well over 35% ( and ahead of the iPhone, is there anything in the works that you can tell us about? Even a "wait and see"? ;)

    This was my introduction to this blog, and I love the fact that you're able to be open and post examples of things you're working on like this. More companies should be excited about their R&D like this!

  23. I dont care about finding the beans quickly. Why are tesco messing around with this tech before an android app the same as on iphone? it has been promissed for months!

  24. Can't think that Tesco will like this for long - as if lot's of people use it, they will all have their heads down going for exactly what is on their list and not be tempted by any of the items so carefully placed to entice them.

  25. Hi Tescos,

    Do Supermarkets make lots of money by having people aimlessy wandering and picking up extra products of interest on their shopping trip. With an app, is that going to slightly sub-vert that?

    Are you going to be putting in in-app adverts or "related stop points" for customers to add to their travels?



  26. emailed in to get it... but i just get an email back "Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender"

  27. some time message sending fail is occurs

  28. I already use a shared electronic shopping list, grouped by product type. My partner and I can both add to the list when we spot something we need, and either of us can cross them off when we go shopping. Although items are grouped by type, I regularly use three different branches of Tesco (and a fourth a little less often), so the correct order for the aisles is different in each one. Just being able to have a shopping list in aisle order for each different store would be great. Even if I had the aisle number for each product type in each store (which I don't), sorting by aisle number doesn't work, because the larger stores are normally numbered in a U-shape. Having the app tell me the aisle number for something would be quite as much navigation information as I need.

    Is there any news on what happened with this trial, and whether it's going to be tried anywhere else?

    The other thing I'd REALLY like is a proper scan-as-you-go systems (even if only for Clubcard customers) - like the superb one that Waitrose have in some of their stores - that would save me having to queue at the tills too. Just swipe your card to collect a scanner, dock it at a pay point when you've finished shopping, and pay the bill. It even tells you about multi-buy offers when you scan things. No unloading and reloading of a trolley full of shopping, barely any queuing, and a whole lot of time saved. I don't even mind if you use some of the freed-up checkout staff to check my trolley once in a while to make sure I haven't done a runner with something without paying.

    Oh - one more thing. My partner and I both need to be able to add things to the same shopping list, and to access the list to go shopping, whichever one of us does it. We share a Clubcard credit card account, so that could be used to identify our synched, categorised and aisle-ordered shopping list ;-).

  29. What have been the developments with this concept? Was the control group a success?

    I only ask because, whilst being completely oblivious to the fact Tesco was already working on something similar, I have been developing an idea of my own that has a definite resemblance.

    Having seen that Ben Martin is now working as an IT Technical Specialist, I assume he is no longer responsible for heading up this project? Therefore who would be the relevant person to get in contact with to discuss working with the ideas I have?

  30. I can't wait for this app to be made UK available. I've been looking for a suitable app for ages and this one sounds like it'd fit the bill. I'd use it all the time. I hate grocery shopping so anything that'll speed up the process is good.

  31. Please roll this out, I am constantly lost in the Leeds Seacroft Tesco, which is massive and not my local, but close to my kids gym. Its off putting shopping there as I don't know where anything is and its so big it takes forever to find what I need, often when I am in a rush and really need to be in and out asap. An app which tells you product abailability in the different stores would also be good!


As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: