University College London Student Project at Microsoft Future Decoded

The rise of online retailers, big-box-stores, and the increasingly personalized services offered to online shoppers, in conjunction with the economic downturn of 2008 and its residual economic effects, has meant that more and more British shoppers are turning away from the high street to address their shopping needs. Although there has been some evidence of better economic performance in recent years, the high street economy has not always followed in step. As a result, there has been a net increase in vacant shop fronts across UK high streets.

To help address the needs of ailing UK high streets, the Spot Markets project was developed as a collaboration between Kent County Council, Microsoft, and University College London. This project aims to reinvigorate the high street economy by introducing the sophisticated tools often used by online retailers to the high street environment, democratizing access to them, and ultimately giving small businesses a fighting chance against large corporations with constant access to a significant online audience. The Spot Markets project as a whole involves the development and implementation of a core cloud-based architecture which will provide town-specific smart "engines" to match consumers with the sorts of local retailers, products, and offers which are relevant to them.  Additionally, the project involves the development of a suite of mobile and web based consumer and retailer applications for posting, accessing, and redeeming offers and deals on the system.

It is hoped that establishing a greater connection between consumers and local retailers will help drive footfall back into the high street.  However, the project had a secondary goal of providing valuable insights into those footfall patterns and local consumer habits by providing both retailers and town councils with analytics dashboards.  By making the data easy to understand through simple graphics, the Spot Markets System may be able to provide insights into consumer habits that have the potential to drive economic change for the better.



The Team/Project:

· 11 UCL Students

· 9 June 2016 -3 Sept 2016 to scope, design, and build Proof of Concept system

Applications/components developed:

· Consumer Website

· Cross-platform Consumer Mobile App

· Retailer website with Analytics dashboard

· Cross-platform Retailer App with QR code scanner

· Town website with Analytics dashboard

· Region Website (for configuration and deployment of town accounts)

· Cloud based service layer (including prototype ML components for POC)

Technologies used:

· Azure Databases

· DocumentDB

· Azure Machine Learning

· Deployment of Web Applications on Azure

· .Net framework

· Entity Framework

· Identity Framework (Authentication with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, native)

· Visual Studio Team Services and Git 

· Visual Studio

· Xamarin

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