Categorized | seriously smart

In the “I wish I thought of that department”

Coke Freestyle beverage dispenser
Would you like a vitamin boost with your pomegranate açai Coke?

Drink dispensers that can serve 100 different drinks and record and transmit all the customer data using RFID.

This will not only allow Coke to test all manner of drink combinations — a veritable bizzarry of soft drinks gone wild — but will turn drink dispenser users into product developers themselves. Coke has noticed an important fact: when people step up to soft drink machines, a sizable number of them “mix” drinks. Ten minutes ago, I just saw someone at Chipotle take half a glass of Coke, add about a third of a glass of Sprite, and then top it off with lemonade. Coke recognized that in all these quirky customer mixes, a million dollar product is waiting to come out.

Freestyle will let Coke more easily test new drink flavors and new beverage concepts, such as adding various vitamin combinations to flavored waters and juices. The dispensers each contain 30 cartridges of flavorings that mix up 100 different drink combinations. The cartridges are tagged with radio frequency ID chips, and each dispenser contains an RFID reader. The dispensers collect data on what customers are drinking and how much, and transmit that information each night over a private Verizon (NYSE: VZ) wireless network to Coke’s SAP data warehouse system in Atlanta. The company will use the data to develop reports that assess how new drinks are doing in the market, identify differences in regional tastes, and help fast-food outlets decide which drinks to serve.

Test marketing via Freestyle will be a lot cheaper than the model Coke’s been using: bottling and bringing to market new products that sometimes don’t gain traction and get canceled after a year or two. “This is a huge jump from our current fountain dispensers,” says Christopher Dennis, Coke’s IT director of e-business transformation. “It’s like going from the dial phone to the BlackBerry.”

I wonder what Moshe Yudkowsky would think?

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