Asda George and IBM are stimulating retail app innovation through APIs

I’m excited to be involved in a collaboration with Asda’s fashion brand George, encouraging developers to imagine and create the next generation of engaging mobile apps for retail.

Later this week, Asda will be inviting a select group of application developers to a Fashion and Design studio in Soho, London and opening up access to the data and IT services behind its George products. Teams of developers will use the data and services on George product to compete in creating the most original, innovative and engaging new applications in a bid to win prizes and kudos from their peers.

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The developers will have less than 27 hours to come up with ideas, code working prototypes, as well as eat and sleep (optional!) before they present their solutions to a panel of judges in the afternoon the second day.

How will developers produce cool apps in such a short time? APIs. IBM has helped Asda George turn their product data and services – such as search product catalogs and checking stock levels – into a set of APIs that provide easy access to tap into Asda’s IT systems. APIs enable the developers to rapidly and easily experiment and combine together these services to quickly build new applications.

In addition the APIs George are opening up for this event can be easily combined with APIs from other sources – such as services that provide weather forecasts, location and mapping, access to social media, SMS text messaging and sensors in the Internet of Things.

Composing new apps by combining these APIs opens up a whole new world of possibilities, where apps might suggest items of clothing based on that actor you just tweeted about, the local weather forecast, or the wearable device tracking your fitness habits. Since developers can quickly tap into these services through APIs, and with very little coding, can be prototyped in hours rather than weeks or months.

This revolution – where developers jam together and compete to try out innovative ideas – is really fueling the excitement around APIs. Innovative retailers like Asda are seeking new ways to engage with their customers, taking advantage of Mobile as a powerful channel for reaching consumers. Organizing events like this hackathon gives retail marketing executives a way to let the developers experiment, coming up with ideas that customer focus groups and market research may not.

With this event, Asda are seeking to really push the boundaries of how they engage with consumers. They aim to raise George’s fashion credentials and driving increased awareness of the brand to a wider audience.

IBM’s API Management software enabled the hackathon organizers to rapidly prepare a Web portal for the developers, that provides secure access to the APIs and IBM’s Integration Bus connects into Asda back-end systems.

A small team of IBM’s own developers will be taking part in the challenge (although not for the prizes) to showcase how Cloud platforms such as IBM Bluemix, with features like the Bluemix Internet of Things service that enables developers to build even more engaging prototypes that can be easily deployed into the cloud.

I’m looking forward to sharing the highlights of the event on the Twitter hashtag #georgeapi.

Let the awesome begin!

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