S’pore Startup’s Robotic Barista To Serve Espresso At JR East Stations

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Singapore-based technology startup Crown Technologies announced today (January 11th) that it has signed its first major cross-border contract with JR East Business Development SEA Pte. Ltd. has completed. Ltd, a subsidiary of the East Japan Railway Company.

This brings the company to an initial valuation of S $ 33 million.

The Crown brand is one of the earliest adopters of fully automated coffee machines and “smart cafes” in Singapore.

ELLA, Singapore’s first Crown Coffee resident and robot barista since October last year, serves sturdy Italian Buscaglione coffee to regulars through fully digitized touchpoints, including its own coffee app.

The tech arm Crown Robotics was responsible for the conception of ELLA, while the provider of intelligent retail solutions Crown Digital developed the app.

As part of this new partnership, ELLA will be deployed in time for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo at all stations of the largest Japanese passenger train operator.

COVID-19 Accelerated Automation

As we already know, even baristas are being replaced by robots.

The F&B and service sectors are particularly at risk as automation replicates and streamlines tasks. Indeed, the layoff of low-skilled jobs is already becoming a reality in Singapore.

Photo credit: Crown Technologies

The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this automation. It is being widely used by companies across the board, according to an APEC report released in June 2020.

At Crown Coffee, the process of brewing coffee is completely replaced by automation, as the ELLA robotic arm helps brew coffee cups.

ELLA is designed for unmanned and contactless retail stores in high volume environments like the Olympics, so it’s very convenient and safe in a post-COVID landscape.

How is ELLA implemented in Japan?

Each kiosk can produce 200 barista-quality cups of coffee per hour around the clock.

Thanks to the modular structure of ELLA, the offers for the Japanese market can be localized.

You can expect immersive and innovative digital contact points such as an interactive, transparent OLED screen and an ordering system for mobile apps with its own payment gateway and e-wallet.

This allows JR East to take advantage of a variety of inclusion opportunities such as advertising and notifications that are aimed directly at the end user.

Krone digital order kioskPhoto credit: Crown Technologies

In the backend, computer vision uses artificial intelligence to monitor the kiosk around the clock for anomalies that could affect the operation of ELLA.

A fulfillment module based on its own mobile app uses predictive analytics to predict demand and digitize supply chain management.

In this way, JR East can only support the replenishment and maintenance of the kiosk with a lean fulfillment team that has the power of big data.

A strategic investment

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, are expected to take place from July to August 2021.

The investment will accelerate the rollout of ELLA on the East Japan Railway’s network of 1,657 stations serving an average of 17 million passengers daily. The completion should meet the increased requirements of the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo.

In addition, sales in the Japanese coffee segment are expected to reach $ 35.452 million in 2021. The market is expected to grow by 5.2 percent annually.

ella robot barista SingaporePhoto credit: Crown Technologies

In Japan, the local Starbucks publishes culturally relevant limited-time drinks and snacks tailored to Japanese tastes and interests. Big chains like Exclesior Cafe, Doutor and Tully’s are also known for regularly bringing out appealing new lineups.

The art of filtering coffee has found its place in the Japanese social scene, spawning a variety of roasting strategies, careful bean selection, and brewing technologies.

Latte art connoisseurs and independent cafes are also rife, especially in more unique shopping areas like Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa.

In fact, Japan is the fifth largest consumer of coffee today.

Keith Tan / Photo credit: Crown Technologies

This is as monumental as it gets for our first investment. Japan has long been known for driving innovation and being at the forefront of using AI and robotics to solve social problems and achieve economic growth.

– Keith Tan, Founder and CEO of Crown Technologies

According to a media statement, Crown Technologies founder and CEO Keith Tan first met JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) while performing at a tech event in Tokyo.

He was later invited by JETRO Singapore to showcase Crown Technologies’ robotic barista solution and then showcased JR East.

ELLA complements JR East’s medium to long-term vision for technological innovation1 – a 20-year plan that leverages advances in IoT, big data and AI to address Japan’s labor shortages due to the decline in the working-age population.

Crown Technologies also announced that it will soon launch its Series A round, deploying 30 additional commercial units from ELLA across Singapore.

Selected image source: Crown Technologies / Shinjuku Station

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