Guest post by Ben Mann. Ben Mann is a Portfolio Product Manager based in IBM’s fabled Hursley Lab in Winchester, UK – the home of CICS and WebSphere MQ. He’s involved in everything to do with IBM’s Connectivity & Integration portfolio including the WebSphere MQ family of messaging products, IBM’s Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) WebSphere Message Broker and Visibility and Control for SOA with WebSphere Service Registry & Repository. You can read more of this thoughts here.

George at Asda is a force to be reckoned with in the UK’s fashion industry, recently moving into the number 2 spot as Britain’s second biggest clothing retailer by volume. As described in our pre-Hackathon post, George are exploring how to increase the pace of retail innovation, by inviting London’s most creative developers to imagine and create a fresh set of apps.

To inspire creativity Asda partnered with Rewired State – an exciting UK company focused on bringing hackers together to rapidly prototype fresh ideas.

To provide developers with the tools and data to make their ideas a reality Asda partnered with IBM. The IBM team helped integrate Asda’s backend IT systems and present developers with a ready-made “wardrobe” of APIs that can be quickly mixed, matched and combined to create the next breed of retail apps.

Through a clean API portal – powered by IBM API Management – developers were quickly and easily able to tap into a wide range of George’s product data. The APIs provided details about George’s inventory of thousands of lines of clothes – including colours and variations, sizes and stock levels across hundreds of stores nationwide.

Asda Dev Portal

Asda’s brief for the developers was simple yet challenging: discover ways to enhance the value of the George brand by creating new ways to engage with consumers. Oh – and be ready to showcase a working prototype of the idea by the following afternoon!

Day one kicked off with Asda George’s executive team briefing the developers on their goals and target market. They discussed the typical customer base for George – the Asda Mum who buys for her entire family – combined with a breakdown of how purchases are made and what goals Asda have for expanding their position while retaining their core values.

Next the IBM team introduced the developers to the APIs which provided the data sets about George’s clothing and stores for them to use in creating a new way to engage with the target shoppers. We also introduced the developers to the CloudFoundry-based cloud development platform Bluemix and a team of IBMers joined the hackers to build an exhibition app showcasing the Bluemix environment.

Bluemix and a team of IBMers

Before long the developers had formed themselves into 11 teams, exploring the APIs and exploring imaginative ways to use these to create new solutions for shoppers. The teams experimented with a range of approaches – from helping shoppers create outfits and to trying on clothes virtually. Developers used a wide variety of technologies to build apps to tap into the apps including node.js, Ruby, PHP, Azure, Kinect, Twilio and Bluemix.

Developer Teams

Following a flurry of post-it-notes, gesticulating and the loud chatter of ideation, the teams had quickly produced mockups of the apps, which continued to be tweaked and enhanced while the serious coding got underway. One team even supplied an Internet of Things count down timer to measure the pressure of the deadline. The atmosphere was electric, and driven – not by a competitive spirit – but the desire to learn, to challenge themselves and to build skills.

Please read the complete blog post here.

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