Drones delivering coffee

Having just arrived back from Japan a couple days ago, I grabbed an extra cup of coffee this morning to help me get over the fog of my jetlag. In the future, my extra boost of caffeine may come courtesy of a drone that knows — preemptively — when I’m feeling a little low-energy.

That’s because IBM was issued a patent last week for a system that would deliver coffee via drone based on a person’s current mood or cognitive state. The patent, called “Drone delivery of coffee based on a cognitive state of an individual”, utilizes sensor data and other indicators to know when a person is sleepy.

According to the patent, data  from wearables, cameras and analysis of past behavior could be used to determine “sleep cycle, bed time for the last N days, a joint measure of the characteristic for two people (e.g. husband and wife), and current blood pressure, or heart rate.” The patent also describes utilizing contextual information like a person’s calendar to determine whether they’re in need of additional alertness. Have a meeting that morning? Keep eye out for coffee drone!

The drone system described in the patent could also deliver coffee to an office or other room full of people and dynamically decide who is most in need of a little caffeine. From the patent: “…if it is known that a meeting participant is meeting with a senior supervisor, and the participant prefers coffee when under stress, the confidence level L can be increased” that someone may want a cup of coffee.

While this patent seems like a strange one for IBM, the company is notorious for its prolific patent filing and, not unlike others, sometimes creates interesting scenarios no one else has yet envisioned and file a patent for it. That said, the concept of preemptive delivery is one that seems to be gaining steam. The Spoon uncovered a patent issued to Amazon (another prolific accumulator of patents) in February for predictive restaurant ordering.

So are we headed for a world where products just show up before we even push a button or know ourselves we’re in need of a pick-me-up? Maybe — but I can see how some consumers would find this type of preemptive determination a bit too pushy, particularly if the system is expecting payment for these products.

On the other hand, utilizing data to understand where there is high demand for a product is something that companies like Zume are already doing today, and I can see how preemptive delivery to areas with groups of people where there might both an undisclosed and unsatiated demand makes sense.

Either way, I don’t expect to see coffee delivering drones showing up unannounced at my house for some time.

Now excuse me while I go put another pot of coffee on.

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