Starbucks, one of the most popular coffee chains hailing from the United States, is brewing up a blockchain project with the help of the tech giant Microsoft in order to efficiently track coffee production, as stated in the latest announcement.
Starbucks has joined the many companies that are embracing the blockchain technology as the Seattle-based coffee giant continues to invest in technology as much as coffee. According to reports, both Microsoft and Starbucks discussed a series of initiatives that they are working on together at the Microsoft’s Build developers conference.
The dynamic duo is focusing on a blockchain project dubbed ‘Bean to cup blockchain’, which aims at connecting Starbuck’s large pool of coffee drinkers with coffee farmers. This project is dedicated to benefiting both the parties: for the coffee farmers, the project will open doors to new financial opportunities, and for the customers, it will allow them to track and trace the journey of their coffee from coffee bean farms all the way to their cup via the Starbucks mobile app.
Starbuck’s reason behind delving into blockchain seems to be crystal clear: providing their customers with authenticity and transparency for the coffee that they are paying for. The company revealed that it worked with more than 380,000 coffee bean farms last year, the ‘Bean to cup’ is evidently a part of the promise that Starbucks made to open source the pilot program and share what it learns.
The company first announced its Bean to Cup initiative last year, revealing that it would start a pilot program with farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Rwanda to develop a new way to track the journey of the bean to cup. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said that they are taking traceability and trust to the next level with this project.
Microsoft is helping the coffee chain in its blockchain endeavor by offering its newly launched Azure Blockchain Service as a part of their partnership. Officially launched on May 2nd, Azure is a blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform which enables users to build blockchain applications on pre-configured networks. In a blog post, Microsoft said:
With a few simple clicks, users can create and deploy a permissioned blockchain network and manage consortium policies using an intuitive interface in the Azure Portal.
Azure is Microsoft’s helping hand to companies that aim to thrive in this new era of secure multi-party computation by delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company can use to digitally transform the processes they share with others.
Starbucks and Microsoft’s Innovations
The Bean to cup initiative is just one of the few innovations that the two companies are working on, other innovations include:
Predictive Drive-Thru Ordering
The Starbucks mobile application gives a handful of recommendations based on a customer’s order history. The company is working on extending that technology and brining it to the drive-thru.
Microsoft believes that the customers will eventually choose more personalized drive-thru services, hence the new drive-thru technology will have digital billboards making order recommendations. However, it won’t be providing the same level of luxury as the phone app’s detailed customer order or history, instead it will be relying on store transaction histories and more than 400 other store-level criteria, such as inventory, time of day and weather.
Connected Coffee Makers
Since Microsoft’s Azure is a cloud computing service, Starbucks is using it to connect as well as secure more than a dozen pieces of equipment in each of Starbucks 30,000 stores, including coffee machines, grinders and even blenders.
The company’s IoT (Internet-of-Things)-enabled machines are responsible for collecting more than a dozen data points for every shot of espresso pulled, including the type of beans, the temperature of a cup of coffee and water quality.
The aim behind this project is to help Starbucks take a proactive stance on maintenance instead of a reactive one. The machines purportedly work for 16 hours a day, every day, at high volume, which means that any glitch or breakdown can cripple the store and cost the company a major loss.
Furthermore, this IoT project will also enable Starbucks to update their menu rapidly in a matter of minutes as opposed to weeks as in the traditional method, which included sending thousands of USB drives and uploading them manually.
Starbucks and the Cryptoverse
The coffee chain has been making headlines in the cryptoverse lately. Only recently details emerged about Starbucks willing to accept payments in bitcoin (BTC). This news came following an equity deal with American cryptocurrency trading platform Bakkt
The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the institution behind stock trading powerhouse NYSE, launched Bakkt last year and Starbucks happened to be one of its notable partners among others, like Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital, Boston Consulting Group and Microsoft.
Bakkt’s software will purportedly facilitate payments which will be instantly converted from cryptocurrencies into fiat currencies. So even if Starbucks is accepting bitcoin payments, it will be taking no direct risk with its price volatility.
It seems that America’s biggest, most popular coffee chain just might kickstart blockchain and crypto adoption at a mass level.