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Smart Ice Cube Orders Drinks When Glasses Are Empty

Martini's Smart Cube technology consists of a plastic ice cube containing a Bluetooth beacon and a sensor that determines when a drink is finished and transmits that information to bartenders.
By Claire Swedberg

As the customer takes the drink to her table, the cube detects the amount of liquid in her glass and transmits that information on a regular basis. The app determines the distance from which the signal is received, storing that data (such as 8 meters from the bar) with the cube ID and the patron's name. One more piece of information is stored with the cube data: Each Smart Cube has a unique color combination in its LED lights—such as blue and green—and that information can then be displayed along with the cube's ID.

When the patron is close to finishing her drink, the capacitive liquid sensors (one on each side of the cube) detect that the liquid level is dropping and prompt the beacon to temporarily cease transmitting, then begin beaconing again. The beacon is designed this way because an individual may, in some cases, may take the cube out of the drink to look at it, or tilt her glass in such a way that it may seem empty when it is not. By requiring the beacon to wait until it detects an absence of liquid for a minute or more, the system can ensure that drinks are not reordered prematurely.

When a patron's glass is empty, an iPad at the bar displays that customer's name and approximate location, as well as the LED color combination of her Smart Cube.
When the drink is finished, the iBeacon momentarily switches off and back on, which notifies the iPad app that the glass is empty. The tablet's custom Ice Cube application programming interface (API), written by AMV BBDO, changes the drink's status to empty and displays an indication to the bartender, who then knows to pour another drink. At the same time, the LED light in the cube begins flashing its unique colors. When a bar employee delivers the drink, he knows the patron's name, approximately how far from the bar that person's drink is located (and, thus, the table's general location) and the cube's particular light colors. The worker can then quickly bring the drink to the customer and address him by name—for example, "Here's your drink, Charlie." This spares the patron the time and effort of having to reorder a drink.

With the system, that second drink could have its own Smart Cube, with an ID number that would be linked to the same patron in the app. During the pilots, however, the second drink was served without a Smart Cube; as such, there would be no automatic reordering option after the second drink was finished.

This ability to prevent a third order, Mignoni explains, ensures that patrons do not over-drink. In fact, she adds, Martini's corporate policy is to only serve two alcoholic beverages to each patron at its pop-up bars, so such technology helps to prevent the over-serving of any specific customer.

AMV BBDO put in a great deal of effort to ensure that the Smart Cube would work as expected, Rowley says. Because the 2.4 GHz signal transmitted by a Bluetooth beacon can be disrupted by the presence of liquid, the company had to carry out considerable engineering work related to the antenna's location and orientation within the cube, as well as the type of beacon used and the Smart Cube's power requirements. The cube contains an aerogel—a porous ultralight solid material derived from a gel—designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The aerogel is used to ensure that the Smart Cube functions as an ice cube, by keeping it cool and enabling it to float in liquid.

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