Robots and wearable tech could be in Tesco in 5 years, says CIO

7 Oct 2014

Tesco’s chief information officer, Mike McNamara, envisions helper robots, wearable tech for shopping, and the end of queuing in Tesco stores within the next five years.

The supermarket chain, which has nearly 7,000 stores across the world, is keen to adapt quickly to change.

Speaking at the IGD Conference, one of the largest marketing conferences in the world, McNamara said customers’ demands have changed radically in recent years with the advent of smartphones.

In his speech to attendees, he emphasised that the old adage of ‘the customer is always right’ couldn’t be any more true today, as having access to a smartphone means the customer is “in charge of the shopping process.”

Giving one example within his own company, McNamara said a number of Tesco’s stockroom staff are now using smartwatches to monitor what is coming in and out of their stockrooms.

He also confirmed Tesco Labs, the technology research division of the company, is experimenting with IBM’s Watson supercomputer to generate thousands of different possible recipe combinations to create a Tesco line of food products.

McNamara even suggested robots could be introduced into stores to free up work in areas such as stock control and delivery and filling shelves, for example.

However, he stressed these are by no means an absolute certainty. “Not all ideas will see the light of day but some will. If we don’t experiment and if we don’t innovate for customers, we’ll lose the competitive edge.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic