Pretty soon, it won't be mostly just the coffee-swilling customers getting online at Starbucks, as new measures have Starbucks set to expand its line of Web-capable devices. Over the course of the next year, according to reports from the company, it will fully double the number of devices that can both connect to the Web and provide information accordingly. This in turn is expected to bring some new features to Starbucks locations, while also helping to cut down on waste and improve customer service.
On tap includes a new influx of Clover coffee-brewing systems, which can not only track what customers are most enjoying at Starbucks, but can receive updated recipes direct to the coffee maker itself, also allowing for staff to perform some diagnostic measures on the coffee machine as well. But it's not just coffee makers that will get the cloud-based connectivity measures, as connected refrigerators are set to join in, now able to tell when a carton of milk in said devices' care has spoiled.
What's interesting here is that this is only the beginning, really. Not just for Starbucks, either, but for similar operations around, including other coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and even retailers that are connecting larger and larger parts of operations to the Web. Inventory management functions, customer service functions, and similar are getting a boost from online connectivity that can track popular items, request restocking of expended items, and even perform less expected functions like locking doors and altering in-store temperatures.
image via shutterstock
All this interest is driving some big upswings in the market for connected technology, sometimes referred to as the “Internet of Things.” Cisco estimates that said market will reach fully $27 billion by 2016, and that's almost three times what it is today. While concerns about privacy have come into play—especially as related to things like smart grid technology that can not only monitor power use but even cut it off as need be in some cases—as well as potential dangers of electromagnetic fields, there has also been plenty of interest in said devices. Consumers have been eager to try out connected picture frames, thermostats that can be controlled remotely, and especially home entertainment devices that connect to the Web for various functions.
Indeed, businesses are discovering the value in such devices as well; consider the Red Fish Grill in New Orleans, Louisiana, who moved to a connected oil-management system for deep fryers. With such a system in place, the restaurant cut its oil consumption in half, saving the business around $15,000 a year. The system in question, meanwhile, costs around $420 a year to operate, meaning a substantial savings for the business.
Saving money for a restaurant, where profit margins can be slim, often means a direct boost to the bottom line, and makes restaurants eager to find ways to save money for the sake of improved profit. While technology may not be the silver bullet answer to an unprofitable restaurant, it's entirely possible to see more technology represent the difference between profit and loss for at least a few restaurants out there, and certainly possible to see profitable restaurants improve with better technology.
Half the point of better technology is to improve the lives of its users, and seeing restaurants get in on that particular action just makes sense. With restaurants, retailers, and similar small businesses feeling the pinch of a difficult economy these days, turning to technological advantages to gain new profit is not only natural, but it's a smart move, as well.
Edited by Ryan Sartor