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Tesco launches in-store navigation trial

Tesco's research and development team is eager for tech-savvy punters to visit its Tesco Extra store in Romford in order to show off a new innovation: in-store mapping on your smartphone.

Long-promised but seldom-delivered, in-building mapping is the next big frontier for navigation vendors. Like traditional satellite navigation, in-building mapping aims to take over where GPS ends - guiding users to particular facilities in large shopping centres, to their booked seats at stadia, and even to the beans in their local supermarket.

It's this latter use that has Tesco particularly excited, and the company's R&D team has breathlessly announced the implementation of an in-building mapping system for Android devices.

The technology is still very much in its infancy, but still holds promise. "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," claimed Tesco's head of research and development Nick Lansley.

Users selected to trial the app, which isn't publicly available yet, will find that they are able to compile shopping lists - which can be transferred between handsets, if you'd rather send someone in your stead - and see a 3D representation of the building the instant they enter, with each of their chosen items highlighted.

As well as a sci-fi style 3D map, the app will automatically figure out the shortest route between two areas - guiding you quickly between the beer and the burgers, for example. The map also plays host to a blue dot, representing the shopper - accurate, Lansley claims, to around one metre.

"We won't be rolling this out to customers in general for a while," Lansley has admitted, "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."

Despite this, Lansley is eager for volunteers to trial the app in order to prove its viability to those who could green-light the project for a wider roll-out. Interested users, who have an Android device featuring version 2.2 or above and the ability to install software from unsigned Android Package (APK) files, are asked to e-mail the project manager Ben Martin with the subject 'SATNAV APP.'

"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," Lansley concluded. "Sometimes R&D is close to production, and at other times it is far away."

Source : Gareth Halfacree - thinq

23 May 2011
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