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RFID Will Deliver Drink Orders On the Go

Technology startup Shotput's system will enable consumer app-based orders of beverages or other products, from a mobile unit equipped with radio frequency identification, in order to provide automated dispensing and restocks.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 24, 2017

Logistics technology and services startup Shotput has partnered with a global beverage company to pilot a solution that delivers product quickly to consumers wherever they are, by using refrigerated containers dispersed in heavy-demand areas, equipped with radio frequency identification technology. The beverage company, which plans to pilot this technology during the next few months, has asked to remain unnamed. The system, says Praful Mathur, Shotput's roboticist and co-founder, is intended to challenge the existing model of product supply chains, by enabling a more Amazon Prime-type of service for food, beverages or other consumer goods.

The solution that Shotput has developed consists of EPC UHF RFID-enabled shelves within a cooled container that acts like a vending machine. When a consumer requests a product via an app, the system receives that request, prompts the dispensing of products from the closest cooler and orders transportation to get the product quickly to the consumer. RFID ensures that replenishment orders are made in time, thereby preventing out-of-stocks.

Shotput's Praful Mathur
Shotput refers to the coolers—which act like robotic vending machines but could be the size of a shipping container—as micro-warehouses. These units are what enable orders to be placed from any location, the company explains, and goods to be received quickly.

Shotput was launched in 2014, Mathur says, to develop advanced robotics for the logistics industry. He formed the company to provide greater efficiency to the supply chain of goods, such as food, beverages and other verticals, that traditionally are purchased by individuals walking into stores and finding the goods on store shelves. The availability of e-commerce, as well as companies like Amazon, are challenging that model in the case of many higher-value products, he adds, while beverages, food and other convenience items tend to be more challenging for e-commerce, based on the high volume of goods being moved and sold worldwide. "The consumables are one thing that hasn't done well in the e-commerce space," Mathur states.

So Shotput, Mathur says, is developing a system that it plans to test this year. Initially, testing will involve the beverage manufacturer, to determine whether consumables—a can of soda or other beverage, for instance—could be purchased in the same way that goods are ordered via channels like Amazon Prime.

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