Fizzy drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola is betting on the Internet of Things to improve everything from its supply chain management and listening to customers, down to creating new flavours of its iconic drinks.
Speaking at Data Centre Dynamics Converged Europe in London last month, Coca-Cola’s International CTO Jane Gilmour outlined how the Georgia-based company has been embracing Internet-connectivity for over twenty years, but is only now starting to leverage the IoT for greater business efficiencies and customer offerings.
“We first started on IoT in 1982 when the first Coke [vending] machine was connected to the Internet,” Gilmour said at the conference.
“Carnegie Mellon students put their machine online to see if the Coke was the right temperature and when it had been last refilled. That’s pretty much the challenge today. We want to make sure everyone who drinks a Coke has a good experience.”
The company has subsequently launched a number of IoT initiatives, with the main aims being to improve not only the delivery of products, but also the products themselves. In addition, it is moving away from data centres and to the cloud for better data management.
“I think the IoT is very useful in things like supply chain management and we’re doing some works on more efficiently delivery systems,” Gilmour added, noting too that Coca-Cola has more than 200 bottling partners and distributors around the world.
“It’s not the sexy headline but it’s a big driver. In some parts of Africa and India we use elephants and canoes to deliver Coca Cola. Can we Internet an elephant and would we want to?”
Coca-Cola has also connected a third of its vending machines to the Internet so it can tell which machines are busiest, and which varities of the drink are selling the most (through facial recognition and contactless payments technology). Gilmour said that, in developing countries, machine might even be connected via satellite and act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for local communities.
In addition, through the use of IoT, a new Coke applications lets drinkers tell the company when a machine is empty, or if they dislike a particular variety. Coca-Cola also wants to get coolers connected so it can see what drinks people are buying.
Coca-Cola’s new freestyle machines have 150 different Coke concentrates that allow users to create their own varieties. For example, a person might choose two thirds lime soda and one third Vanilla Coke. This not only allows people to have their favourite drink without the need for bottling, but the information gathered could influence future flavours. The company can use this information to put a product into production.
But despite this faith in the cloud and in IoT, Coca-Cola isn’t prepared to move everything there just yet.
“The recipe of Coca-Cola is not online it all – it’s in a vault in Atlanta,” Gimour assured Coke drinkers.