Cheers to M2M-Enabled Beer Kegs

“Let’s go grab a drink.” These five words have not only become the universal social call for millions of people around the world, but they are also becoming the rallying cry for some fun new M2M technology.

In the past week I have come across two unique announcements associated with how M2M technology can be applied to the business of draft beer. And seeing as I am one of those millions of people around the world who finds it hard to turn down a frosty, hoppy glass of delicious beer, I was of course all ears and eager to find out more about each announcement.

The first is a hosted service called DraftMagik, focused on something the company (DraftServe Technologies) calls the “Point-of-Pour.” Using RFID technology, establishments can monitor and control the amount of draft beer being poured. It centrally controls advanced sensors, flow meters, and valves to help produce accurate and realtime reports of all draft beer served at an establishment.

As I see it, the aspect of the technology that is even cooler is the way it enables these establishments to put the “point-of-pour” into the hands of the consumer. Pubs and restaurants can set up stations within their establishments that allow patrons to pour their own beers. By distributing loyalty cards or one-time use wristbands embedded with RFID technology, owners can manage such things as pre-paid balances—and perhaps most importantly—age verification.

This is a pretty cool concept and one that could perhaps create a unique experience for some local pubs and restaurants to allow patrons to make sure their drinks are always filled. But that type of experience would definitely need to come with some caveats. I think it would be pretty key for the technology to allow bar owners to, let’s say, cut off consumption after ‘x’ amount of beers or trigger an alert to a waitress to make sure some patrons aren’t over-serving themselves.

The other announcement associated with “connected beer” is something called the “Kegerator.” This concept device, created by Bug Labs, manages the pour of draft beer, measuring such things as beverage temperature and consumption levels by patrons. While the details I have on this one are limited, the concept seems to be the same: managing the rate at which beer is distributed and refilled, ultimately helping bar owners better manage their liquid inventory. I actually enjoyed seeing this Kegerator dispensing a few cold brews in California earlier this week.

Beer. It always seems to be a crowd pleaser, no matter where you go. But it’s also big business. I’ve read the United States produced 196 million barrels of beer in 2009, and consumes roughly 20 gallons of the frosty beverage per capita annually. And according to www.beerservesamerica.org, the beverage is responsible for roughly 1.8 million jobs in America, either directly or indirectly. In fact, the industry pays more than $44 billion in business, personal, and consumption taxes. In other words, beer is profitable—and perhaps a good business to be in.

The connected devices community certainly believes this to be true. But while technology like this is cool, it’s important to ensure the freedom this technology allows to patrons doesn’t compromise their ability to consume responsibly.

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