Tesco the Tech Company…?

In passing, a handful of things that recently caught my eye on Nick Lansley’s Tech for Tesco blog:

Tesco Freeview experiment: apparently, “Tesco.com R&D has been given access to a 32kbps [broadcast] digital stream …” So? Nick Lansley explains further:

[M]ost Freeview set-top boxes can see a “Channel Zero” on channel 306 (multiplex C) but most set-top boxes can’t pick up (or indeed understand) the information contained in it. The [Tesco Technika or Dion branded box[es] with ‘Channel Zero’] … can read the content of this channel – it’s this channel I have been given access as a conduit to delivering content.

I can imagine getting marketing to sponsor a cookery show and allow compatible set-top box (or TV) users to get the ingredients listed on the screen at the push of a button and they use the remote control to quickly add one or more of them to their online grocery basket without getting in the way of the watching the show. Importantly, this would work whether the show is being watched live or played back via PVR (on future PVR-enabled boxes).

Interesting…. And also interesting to see how this compares with the pretensions of a “global online university” that has had a “close” relationship (i.e. gives them cash) with the BBC for years… ;-)
(Just by the by, I’m also reminded that Tesco has started producing straight to DVD films for sale exclusively in Tesco Stores (Tesco goes to Trolleywood), and wonder: will Channel 0 stream video trailers too…?!;-)

How to make “Sat-nav” work inside a Tesco Store: over recent months, folk at several HEIs have started mulling over the notion of on-campus location services (e.g. to my knowledge at least: @stuartbrown and @liamgh at the OU, @alexbilbie at Lincoln; any others?). Once you get indoors, there’s a problem though, because GPS doesn’t work when line of sight is lost to the satellites… which makes indoor use difficult… One alternative is to use wifi triangulation, detecting the relative signal strengths of various wifi hotspots whose location you know, and calculating location based on that.

TEsco - wifi hotspot triangulation

Which is what this post describes, along with several example use cases. (Again, just by the by, I notice Tesco previously has a patent in the wifi area: PERFORMANCE ENHANCING WIRELESS NETWORK CONFIGURATION). Of course, if your phone knows where you are, then so does the Tesco App. But then again, in shopping centre localisation/shopper tracking is old news (old Sunday Times article: Shops track customers via mobile phone).

– QR Codes are all the rage at the moment, aren’t they? As for example, QR codes now appearing on Tesco print ads, as are on-phone barcode canners (which make it easy to add things to your shopping list when you’re at home or possibly also take things off your shopping list once you add them to your basket in store…) Of course, QR codes are just one integration point between the physical world and the digital:

Tesco mobile

– SMS is pretty much universal, whereas smartphones aren’t. Here’s an example for a link request using SMS: Search the Tesco Recipe site using an SMS text message. How does it work?

– Type ‘COOK’ followed by two or three of the key ingredients you have observed.
– Send the message to 83726 – that’s “TESCO” spelt out on your phone’s keyboard.

and get a link back to a URL on the Tesco recipe site for a recipe containing those ingredients. All that’s needed for a full SMS round trip is a collection of tiny recipes, such as those published by @cookbook… (e.g. as described in this New York Times article: Take 1 Recipe, Mince, Reduce, Serve)

It’s easy for the online echo chamber to focus in on what Facebook and Google are up to… But don’t forget the real world… there’s a huge potential for evil there too…!;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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