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Industry 4.0 coffee: Introducing Ella the robotic barista from Singapore

Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 15:34 GMT+7
Industry 4.0 coffee: Introducing Ella the robotic barista from Singapore
Keith Tan, CEO and founder of Crown Digital, poses in front of his Ella the robotic barista at the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific event, which took place from October 22 to 25, 2019 at the Singapore EXPO Convention & Exhibition Center. Photo: Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News

A Singaporean entrepreneur has proved his business may be considered an inspiring example of Industry 4.0 in Southeast Asia thanks to the employment of a robot that can make coffee non-stop for several years.

Keith Tan took Ella the robot to the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific event, which took place from October 22 to 25 at the Singapore EXPO Convention & Exhibition Center, to showcase his revolutionary idea to catch up with Industry 4.0.

A wealth manager turned entrepreneur and digitalization evangelist, Tan founded Crown Coffee in 2015.

His venue is located at CT Hub 2, Singapore, surrounded by tech companies that later helped him revolutionize his coffee business.

His desire for technology, digitalization of his business, and consistent coffee quality prompted him to establish Crown Robotics to turn his small coffee shop into a smart café.

Since 2017, Tan has brought Ella the robotic barista to many events, expos, weddings, and roadshows.

The robot was created using AI, machine learning, cloud computing, facial recognition, and data analytics in order to tackle manpower challenges, ease scalability, and ensure consistent customer experiences, according to Crown Coffee’s website.

It was those tech gurus frequenting his coffee shop that facilitated the production of Ella, as they were convinced by Tan’s pitches and thus agreed to help him in the process of creating such a robot.

As usual, Tan faced such challenges as finding talents and funding.

“I needed experts, technical teams, engineers, and funding,” the entrepreneur told Tuoi Tre News at the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific event in Singapore.

“Tech requires a lot of money, you know.”

Another hurdle was customers’ trust.

“When they did not see Ella, they’re like ‘If you’re using a robot, there’s no feeling, it won’t work,” he recalled.

“I told them, ‘Well, please visit Ella, it’s gonna change your mind.”

Tan believes he will succeed with this robot even though it may take US$100,000 to buy one.

“As a coffee shop in Singapore, I cannot scale my business with humans, as I am the face of the business.

“There’s only one key. Customers come for the owner, like ‘I want to talk to him, I want to get a coffee.' There’s only one key.

“I wished I could have hundreds of keys. So I couldn’t scale my traditional business.

“Now with Ella, I can scale my business.”

What he has done is he mapped out his customer journey digitally, every single step, and thought about how to engage them in a digital manner.

“We have quality coffee, consistent quality, convenience, and affordability,” Tan told Tuoi Tre News.

“This is the very beginning of how food, coffee, and tea can be automated by leveraging AI and robotics.”

Ella’s service life is 33,000 hours, which translates to 3.5 years of non-stop work, the Singaporean entrepreneur said.

“She works without complaints and sick leave,” Tan joked.

“We plan to operate at least 40 locations in Singapore and are raising funds for it.

“We will go to different markets, we will come to Vietnam.

“And we will identify some partners from Vietnam and work with them.

“Our vision is how this could be part of a smart city’s infrastructure. We’re also doing delivery robots as well.

“They can be used in hotels, integrated with check-in and check-out, or you can order coffee to be delivered to your room at 3:00 am with an app.”

See how Ella works below:

Ordering a cup of coffee. Video: Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News
 

An order number sheet

Ella makes coffee. Video: Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News

A cup of coffee made by Ella. Photo: Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News

A cup of coffee made by Ella. Photo: Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News

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Viet Toan / Tuoi Tre News

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