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Singapore firm rolls out robotic barista

Crown Group’s robotic coffee kiosk, powered by a slew of artificial intelligence capabilities, serves up coffee beverages round the clock without the need for human baristas

Singapore coffee company Crown Group has rolled out a robotic coffee kiosk that serves coffee beverages around the clock without the need for human baristas.

Dubbed Ella, the kiosk comprises a six-axis autonomous robot arm surrounded by brewing equipment that enables it to produce consistent quality coffee from freshly ground coffee beans and frothed milk.  

With a small footprint of under six square metres, Ella is powered by proprietary internet of things (IoT) hardware and software, including computer vision capabilities that look out for any abnormalities that may affect its operations.

The company has also developed a fulfilment module that uses deep learning and predictive analytics to digitise its supply chain management, enabling Ella to scale up its deployment with a lean fulfilment team.

Keith Tan, CEO of Crown Group, said Ella was created when Crown Coffee started in 2017 to overcome manpower shortages and inconsistencies in coffee quality, which made it difficult to scale the business.

In response, the company teamed up with Alibaba Cloud in a proof of concept project which was completed that same year. In 2018, Crown Coffee showcased Ella at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, and six months of development later, the first version of Ella made its debut at Hofex 2019, a food and hospitality trade show in Hong Kong.

Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Crown Coffee repurposed Ella’s mobile app to let consumers order and pay for their coffee. There is also an interactive screen that uses facial recognition to provide each customer with a unique experience, such as recommending new offerings or similar types of coffee, based on the customer’s previous orders.

Speaking at the launch of Ella last week, Singapore’s minister of state for trade and industry, Low Yen Ling, noted that digitisation and automation initiatives do not simply mean retailing products online or creating robots.

“Companies that embark on such efforts can also take the opportunity to fundamentally enhance the customer experience and create a strong business proposition,” she said.

“Ella is a good example of a digital solution that focuses on the customer experience at its core. It recognises that customers increasingly crave for personalisation and customisation, and personalised customer services can now be offered with the help of technology.”

Calling for more firms in the food and beverage industry to pursue digitisation and innovation to stay ahead and seize opportunities in a post Covid-19 landscape, Low pointed out government schemes such as the SMEs Go Digital and the Productivity Solutions Grant that businesses can tap on.

“We also rolled out the Digital Resilience Bonus earlier this year to enhance government funding for the adoption of digital tools in the food services and retail sectors,” she added.

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