Singapore-based Crown Digital announced yesterday that it will be installing its robotic baristas at 30 Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations in that country by the end of 2022.
Dubbed “Ella,” Crown Digital’s robo-coffee kiosk is 5 sq. meters, serves a variety of coffee and tea drinks, and can make up to 200 coffees per hour. While Ella uses an articulating arm to make and serve drinks, one of its standout features is its transparent screen that can display information about drinks, orders and even full-motion videos and graphics.
For these MRT installations, Crown Digital has collaborated with Stellar Lifestyle, which has “expertise in property and retail management, media and digital advertising solutions,” according to the Crown Digital announcement blog post. Crown Digital also wrote that Stella Lifestyle has invested an undisclosed sum in Crown Digital’s pre-Series A round of funding.
This is the second rail network that Crown Digital has partnered with, following a pilot deal with Japan’s JR East‘s train stations signed at the end of last year. With their high-traffic audiences looking for refreshment on-the-go, transit hubs like MRT stations and airports are popular target markets for robotic coffee kiosk companies that are just now coming market such as Crown Digital, Smyze, and Cafe X.
Another benefit to robotic coffee baristas in these pandemic times is that they are contactless. Robots don’t get sick, and don’t act as a vector of viral transmission the way that humans do.
While there are a number of robot baristas coming to market, we have yet to see big coffee chains jump into automation. The exception is Costa Coffee, which bought Briggo last year and re-branded those Coffee Hauses into Costa Coffee BaristaBots. Though I suspect that as more deals like Crown Digital’s start popping up, we’ll soon see other big coffee brands like Starbucks and Dunkin add their own robots as well.