Tesco’s retail media revolution continues with health-themed ‘hackathon’

Tesco Labs, the supermarket’s digital innovation wing, is running a 48-hour ‘hackathon’ next month to spur the development of health-themed technologies for its customers.

The supermarket has made an open invitation to computer coders, designers, and those working in tech marketing and business development to attend the weekend event in London, starting on September 12.

The aim of the hackathon is to develop retail media ideas that can help Tesco’s customers make healthier food choices in store and online.

In addition, Tesco is keen to explore how it can share data to help customers understand their own behaviour, compare their food choices with others, share tips and advice, and track and find out more about what they’re buying and eating.

The speed with which customers have adapted behaviours around digital technology – particularly mobile devices – has forced supermarkets to respond quickly.

To stay on top of disruptive technologies, and to understand the changing nature of customers in the digital age, Tesco put together Tesco Labs as a department to safeguard its technological future by thinking about how the business could look in five-to-ten years time.

One of the major stands Tesco is keen to latch onto is the market for wearable technology and apps. In particular, it’s looking at health-related products similar to those from Nike, FitBit, JawBone and Pebble that have emerged in recent years as aids to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Tesco is currently using its Lab to see if it could develop a product that would harness the excitement generated by the new app and wearable tech market, but with a Tesco spin.

To that end, it has launched a project called HealthBuddy, which is developing an app it will eventually give away to customers.

The app’s objectives include providing an alternative way for customers to record their daily calorie consumption, monitor their physical activity, and to track progress. The app will work by using built-in Android phone sensors to track activity and by pairing with a wearable heart-rate monitor.

The app, which is about to be tested by a control group, will also feature a series of gamification elements to set goals and offer rewards to users that can then be shared socially.

Next month’s hackathon sounds like a great way for developers and the supermarket to build on the work Labs is doing in-house on the HealthBuddy project.

Companies including Verizon, Motorola, Intel, P&G, Johnson and Johnson, Danone and Coca Cola have lent their support to the hackathon by either acting as judges or mentors to the participants, or through donations of prizes, catering supplies or tech kit.

Tesco has made great strides this year to build links with the development and start-up communities. Tesco Labs now runs an open innovation programme to collaborate with external start-ups and SMEs to develop future product and technologies.

With Rainmaking Loft, a London start-up hub, Tesco runs sessions where start-ups can pitch ideas. It also runs a project called T-jam, which is a quarterly ‘tech speed-dating’ event that brings Tesco technology enthusiasts together with start-ups looking to trial products or for investment for their products or services.

All of these developments tie neatly in to the claim made in June by Angela Maurer, Tesco’s head of innovation, when she said the firm wasn’t just a supermarket, but now also a technology company set on developing the future of retail.