IBM’s Coffee Delivery Drones Can Predict Your Next Cup


The drones could read social cues and biometrics to dispatch caffeine when you need it

Because this doesn’t at all sound like the beginning of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where sentient technology withholds caffeine to control the human population, your coffee may one day be delivered by drone — before you even ask.

IBM has secured a patent for a coffee-delivering drone that reads social and biological cues to know when people will need their next caffeine pick-me-ups, reports USA Today.

Paperwork filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicated that the device could be used in public settings like an office, coffee shop, or event, where a preordered cup of joe would be delivered to the drinker by Bluetooth, a gesture — or even biometrics.

For example, a drone could potentially assess someone’s recent sleep schedule and/or quality via a Fitbit or similar tracking device, or read real-time biometrics such as blood pressure, pupil dilation, and facial expressions.

If granted access to a coffee lover’s medical information, the drone may be able to cross-reference medications that interact with caffeine and know whom not to serve.


Drawings from the IBM patent application show people summoning coffee with a hand gesture

As the drones start to collect data, they will learn individual (and collective) coffee habits —  and adapt accordingly.

The Financial Times reports that as coffee drinking “can be a semi-ritualistic activity,” the drones would assess if groups might be in need of a refill based on factors such as how long the group had been talking and whether the conversation seemed calm or high-pressured.

Future plans include drones with the ability to recognize the the most “popular” or “famous” members of the group, and deliver their coffees first.


A sealed bag is one of IBM’s suggestions to prevent scalding drips

So what does this technology mean for the coffee industry – and the 1,694,710 jobs in the US economy it supports?

“While this is not an official National Coffee Association position, I’m thinking that Watson may have too much time on his (?) hands and needs a hashtag #coffee fix of its own,” Bill Murray, NCA President and CEO, joked on LinkedIn

And to be clear, this doesn’t mean your favorite barista will be replaced anytime soon.

“IBM encourages our researchers to pursue their interests even though not all of their inventions become commercial products,” IBM spokeswoman Amanda Carl wrote in an email to USA Today. “By publishing their inventions as patents, we give our researchers the recognition they deserve and make their work public, so it can inspire new innovations.”

Are coffee delivery drones the ultimate convenience or really creepy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

Compiled by Kyra Auffermann, NCA

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