Online grocery shopping gets the Tesco API treatment


Supermarket chain Tesco has revealed its view of the future of online grocery shopping, in the form of a new application that combines online shopping with diary and task management.

Nick Lansley, Tesco's head of IT and new technologies showed off the company's latest development project at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.

Lansley explained that Tesco's bespoke systems are entirely based on .NET and Tesco is making available its own API to developers looking to add Tesco functionality to their own apps.

One example of this API in action is Tesco @ Home, a new gadget-based application built in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to make online grocery shopping more visually interesting than its current web-based ordering service and more integrated with Outlook or Windows Live calendar and messaging.

"We start with a gadget called the Tesco @ Home gadget, it lets you see your orders, to-do lists, messages and calendars. It serves as a hub for home information as well as grocery ordering," said Lansley.

"Using the calendar, you can plan grocery ordering needs in one view, while also being able to see what's happening in the household and who will be home for dinner."

Using simple drag and drop, users can pick and load a shopping basket with three meals in less than 30 seconds, Lansley claimed.

Shoppers wishing to browse or simply see what they are buying are presented with a slick 3D view of the available items, arranged into a form of online aisle. Customers can find and buy items simply by clicking on the oversize picture icons, that also lend themselves to touch screens such as the new multi touch home monitor display being touted by HP.

"Using a PCs web cam, you can scan the barcode of any item and add it to your basket," added Lansley. To demonstrate, he scanned' a Coke can using the webcam of the demonstration laptop he was using. The application was able to read the barcode from the photo taken and correctly identified the can and added it to the basket in around one second.

No date was given for when, if at all, the Tesco @ Home application would be released to customers, but Lansley did confirm that the company will make the Tesco grocery shopping API available shortly to third party developers looking to integrate Tesco online shopping into their own applications and web sites.