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Successful pilot will put PDAs in every Tesco store

Daniel Thomas
Tesco shop-floor staff across the UK will be using handheld devices to access price and product information by the middle of next year, after a successful pilot project at its Hemel Hempstead store.

Philip Robins-Jones, strategic development director at Tesco, said the move is the first step in the company's pervasive wireless computing strategy, centred on Microsoft's .net platform.

The first stores will begin to use the Intermec personal digital assistants (PDAs) based on Microsoft's Pocket PC platform in August, with the rest of the UK rolling out in the following months.

A number of business benefits were immediately realised during the pilot, Robins-Jones said. "We were surprised at how quickly staff got used to the devices - they are very intuitive, which means training is not an issue. With improved access to information staff became more confident when dealing with customers and it also improved their productivity," he said.

The PDAs initially connect to a wireless local area network within the store before linking to servers at Tesco's head office via the company's wide area network.

Although Tesco has a number of back-office systems, it used enterprise application integration software to avoid writing lots of applications on to each device, said Robins-Jones.

"We have a .net application layer running on our central server, which means the devices can remain browser-based and it is easy to change applications," he said. "We have more than one system for pricing, stock and so forth, but this is all invisible to the user - they get single access to all systems."

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