Tesco CIO says wearables and robots only five years away

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, has announced through the mouth of its chief information officer, Mike McNamara, that within five years time, we can expect to see wearables and even robotics used in stores. In some cases it’s already begun, as staff are using Samsung Gear smartwatches to aid in stock control.

Speaking at the Retail Week Tech and Ecomm summit, McNamara said that there were plans for intelligent wearables to be gradually incorporated into the staff’s uniforms over the next few years. Some of these ideas involved issuing smart badges and potentially even smart clothing, containing sensors that allow them to be tracked around the store, as well as giving them notifications that they need to be somewhere, instead of someone just shouting it over the intercom system.

In a more surprising revelation however, he also revealed that Tesco was looking to bring robots into its supermarkets. Chances are they’d ooperate behind the scenes initially, handling unskilled work that would be better suited to an automaton. This would free up staff to take more hands on roles with customers, providing a better service for everyone.


Data collection is also a big priority for the chain too, explained McNamara: “Data in the world of bricks and mortar is our most valuable asset. It used to be property and locations but, in the multichannel age, it’s data.”

In fact, the decision to begin using wearables and other smart products, was driven by data Tesco had already collected through its loyalty card scheme. That program had allowed it to track what people bought, when they bought it, what they were willing too spend, how much they purchased and all sorts of other information. When collated, this data allows Tesco to provide a much more personal experience to the average shopper and one that’s tailored to their buying habits.

McNamara is also quite clearly a company man, with a lot of praise for his superiors for allowing him to hold this current position.

“Right now we have probably got the most exciting, the most interesting and most strategically important jobs in our respective businesses,” he continued. “Five years ago my job was all about productivity – the background of retailing, focused on the efficiency of the operation. Things are very different today. Productivity remains important, but today it’s all about investing in technology that is put in the hands of our colleagues and customers.”