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Starbucks gets in on the Internet of Things

Coffee chain to invest in connected coffee makers, plans for connected refrigerators as well

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 22, 2013 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/32c0

Starbucks has always seemed like the kind of company that was on the forefront of technology. Whether it was giving its patrons free WiFi, or partnering up with iTunes to give content to Starbucks customers, this is an organization that has been able to stay ahead of the technology curve.

So it shouldn't be surprising that the company is now getting in on the early stages of the next big tech wave that is about to hit: the Internet of Things.

Starbucks is planning to to double the number of Clover coffee-brewing machines it operates over the next year, according to a report from Bloomberg on Tuesday. 

These coffee makers are connected to the cloud and allow stores to not only track customer preferences, but for recipes to be digitally updated and to allow employees to monitor how a coffee maker is performaning. Starbucks has installed roughly 500 of the coffee makers since 2008.

And Starbucks plans to go beyond just connecting its coffee makers: it is also planning to have connected refrigerators, that will be able to alter employees when something is about to expire. 

“We are investing in different technologies to make it easier for our baristas,” Marianne Marck, a senior vice president for Starbucks, told Bloomberg.

The Internet of Things

So what exactly is the Internet of Things, and why should we be excited about this?

Essentially, it is a network of devices that are connected via sensors to maximize the potential of each object. And, while that may not sound all that exciting, it is when you hear some of the possibilities that can come from these sensors.

For example, you can have an alarm clock that is connected to your commuter train, that will ring early if there is a delay. Or you can buy a fork that will tell you how long it took to eat your meal and how many bites you took, to help you lose weight. Or a car that can drive itself.

(You can read more about these devices, and some others, here).

The obvious reason for Starbucks to begin implementing this technology is to save money. The quicker it can replace damaged equipment, or restock on items, the more money it can make. These coffee makers cost $11,000 each, so there must be big savings for the company to be willing to spend so much on them.

And there is already evidence that using this technology does work.

A New Orleans restaurant called The Red Fish Grill installed an Internet of Things device to tell the seafood restaurant if it is using too much oil in its deep fryers. As a result, the restaurant was able to cut its cooking oil consumption in half, and save $15,000 a year.

Companies in the space are also starting to raise money. Zonoff, provides a software platform to its channel partners, who deliver “Connected Home” devices and services to consumers, raised $3.8 million earlier this year. 

This is a category that General Electric wrote could be worth $10 to 15 trillion by 2030. One that a survey from Zebra Technologies in October found was already in place in 15% of oganizations around the world, and one that 53% of those organizations planned to implement within the next year. The possibilites for what can be achieved are pretty exciting.

The Internet of Things will no doubt get a boost from being implemented by one of the country's biggest companies. 

(Image source: http://www.nytimes.com)


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