Equipment

App-controlled coffee machines hit the market

When industry leaders are calling it a US$19 trillion market, it’s hard to ignore the buzz around the Internet of Things. While the term used to define machine-to-machine computing is not new in the tech sphere, consumers are starting to take notice of the technology in the form of everyday appliances getting connected to the internet. When companies like IBM are investing a whopping US$3 billion to develop an Internet of Things division, it seems like a good time to start paying attention. With more and more everyday objects getting connected wirelessly to the internet, appliance companies are starting to jump on a tech bandwagon that experts believe will not only change the way we interact with our homes, but bring the customer relationship to a whole new level. With all the hype, it’s no wonder the first appliance many of us interact with in the day is among the latest to fall into rank. The first wave of app-controlled coffee machines is already emerging, with a range of innovative features that aim to do more than just let you control your brew remotely. GCR Magazine talks to some of the industry’s frontrunners to learn more about their connected products and vision for the future. Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew Coffee Maker with WeMo Jarden Corporation might have been the first to bring a connected coffee maker on the market when it launched the Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew Coffee Maker with WeMo last November. Developed with Belkin’s WeMo intelligent device platform, the machine was primarily designed to help the consumer save time and have greater control over their coffee experience. The company claims the machine can brew a pot up to 20 per cent faster than competitors. Its connected features allow the user to schedule or adjust brew time, and set up reminders so coffee is ready exactly when the user wants it. Peter Taylor, Director of WeMo Product Management at Belkin, says that while their demographic is broad, Mr. Coffee’s machine is primarily connecting with the consumer type they refer to as a “solver”, who uses technology to facilitate daily activities. “They’re not necessarily in the market for a thousand dollar bean-to-cup experience… but they are looking for an easier experience.” Smarter Coffee Machine One of the latest connected coffee machines to hit the market is the Smarter Coffee machine. Created by the British maker of iKettle that launched last year, CEO Christian Lane says its newest machine was a natural next step for the company. “The fact that everything in the home is becoming connected, we wanted to become part of that revolution,” Lane tells GCR Magazine. “There was a real need for it.” The machine can essentially do the job of a barista, preparing customised coffee from fresh bean to cup. The app, which also works with iKettle, lets the user fine-tune his or her cup by giving them control over how coarse the beans are ground, brew strength, and the amount of coffee to prepare. Lane says these are important details that not only give consumers a premium experience, but help save precious minutes in the morning. “If you wake up and you’re in a good place and your morning flows smoothly, that carries on to the rest of the day,” he says. With Smarter’s app, the user can set an alarm to wake them up in the morning when the coffee is ready, or even have a pot ready when they get home with its “welcome home'’ feature. Smarter’s coffee machine can be pre-ordered via Firebox.com, with shipment starting in early May. Behmor 1600 Connected Behmor Inc. will soon be adding two new connected coffee consumer products to the market, including what may be the first connected home roaster. Using DADO Labs’ Internet of Things platform, the Behmor Brewer and Behmor Roaster will give both the refined and newbie coffee consumer the ability to easily prepare artisanal coffee from green bean to cup. “It’s for the person trying to get the most out of their cup of coffee,” Joseph Behm, President of Behmor Inc., tells GCR Magazine. The connected roaster will not only give coffee lovers the power to control what has traditionally been left to roasteries, but make it more accessible with pre-set recipes available through its app. Likewise, the connected brewer will give the consumer the ability to alter intricate details such as brewing temperature, pre-soak time, and water brewing volume. With non-connected versions already on the market, Behm says the company wanted to get a jump on the competition by connecting newer models to the Internet of Things. “We came to realise that is the way of the future,” says Behm, who has a background in technology. He says that while smart appliances may be a little more pricey at first, the benefit to buying connected products is that the apps that control them have the potential to keep evolving. And for Behm, that is a promise his consumers can take to the bank. “If you have a connected version you can change the firmware at any time,” he explains. “You can change it, improve it, tweak it. We can constantly evolve with them. We are not going to remain stagnant.” Planning ahead While the Internet of Things is not a new concept in the tech sphere, it’s only started to hit the consumer radar in the past few years. When brands like Nest and Hive came on the market with thermostats allowing consumers to control their home heating remotely, the possibilities and dangers of the technology started gaining mainstream attention. Rodger Lea, an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia and CEO of Internet of Things startup Sense Tecnic, says that it’s no longer an option for appliance companies to keep their head in the sand. With technology now available for home devices to get connected, he says more companies need to start thinking strategically about the future. “It’s not really a question of is it the right time,” he tells GCR Magazine. “It’s just become inevitable.” Lea says there are significant advantages to getting connected, particularly in terms of data collection.  He explains while companies have traditionally had a tenuous relationship with consumers, learning more about how people use their products can give the company the opportunity to have a much stronger connection with the end user. “At the very least they get a better understanding of what they do with their coffee machines,” he says. Lea foresees a lot of trial and error in the sector, but thinks by bringing their connected devices on the market, companies will start to learn more about the value proposition it brings the consumer. “The only way you can find that out is by getting out there and getting in front of the consumer,” he says. He also thinks the concept of a device ecosystem will be a strong business driver, which may see tech companies entering entirely new markets. He points to the recent launch of the Apple watch as an example. But while companies with stronger brands may have the ability to drive such an ecosystem themselves, Lea says there are opportunities for the little guy to branch into someone else’s. Belkin, for instance, has a variety of partnerships with brands connected to its WeMo application, which help create a comprehensive system of home devices that can be controlled through one app. The wave of the future While it’s hard to predict the future in any sector, it may be even harder to do so with the Internet of Things. For Smarter, the future lies in helping consumers connect with suppliers. Lane says the company will be looking at developing a platform that will allow users to buy coffee or tea via the machine. “It’s difficult for us to plan long-term,” he says. “I think the technology is evolving so quickly that we can predict where it’s going, but our long-term goal is to be the best coffee and tea provider.“ Belkin’s WeMo, which has had a head start on the scene, will work to build out in three areas, including home awareness, home comfort, and home atmosphere. “We’re trying to enter these spaces and offer a comprehensible 360 degree experience,” says Taylor. GCR

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