Connected Coffee? Starbucks Jumps into Internet of Things

By Rachel Ramsey October 29, 2013

It seems Starbucks is always ahead of the game. Whether it’s getting people in the mood to kick off the fall season with pumpkin spiced lattes, spending $612 million to debut the first-ever Teavana concept store (tea bar) or adopting the latest technology, Starbucks is making a name for itself as a trendsetter. The company embraces technology earlier than many other food retailers, like providing free and fast Wi-Fi to customers, working with Apple’s Passbooks to make mobile payments and utilizing Square. Now, Starbucks plans to connect its fridges and coffeemakers to the Internet of Things.

Marianne Marck, senior vice president of Starbucks, said the company is “investing in different technologies to make it easier for our baristas.”

The cloud-based Clover coffeemakers will track what recipes customers prefer, and alert workers to the machine’s performance. For example, employees can be alerted when a carton of milk has gone bad by the fridge itself. Though, with an annual revenue of more than $13 billion last year and thousands of drinks sold per day around the world, I have to wonder how many times that actually happens, even without fridges monitoring cartons of milk. The coffee retailer will also connect other appliances to the Web.

Image via Las Vegas Guardian Express

Mark Gibbs from Network World explained earlier this year how Starbucks could implement the Internet of Things in its daily tasks, like connecting coffee cups.

“Tomorrow there'll be a strip down the side of the coffee cup that contains temperature, pH and volume sensors, along with some flash RAM for storing data while connectivity is lost, and for tagging the cup when the order is filled (which could be cross-referenced with the till roll to identify the purchaser), accelerometers to detect movement, and a WiFi transceiver to provide not only communications but location services as well. And this instrumentation package will be dirt cheap ... maybe a few cents by the end of the decade,” he said.

He explained that connecting cups can provide valuable insight in understanding its customer base and customer habits. Connecting coffee cups means Starbucks could track how coffee is consumed, how fast it's consumed, how big each sip is, and what extra ingredients are added. It would know if coffee wasn't finished, what temperature the coffee was when it was abandoned, how far the cup travelled until it was finished or thrown out and more.

Devices connected to the Internet of Things will soon be flooding the mass market. Cisco predicts more than 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020 and Morgan Stanley thinks that number will reach as high as 75 billion. Today, there are already more than 80 “things” per second connecting to the Internet, which will grow to more than 250 per second in 2020. These things range from mobile devices, cars and cities to cardiac monitors, thermostats and Starbucks appliances.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

IoTevolutionworld Web Editor

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