Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Feel Like a SMUG of Coffee?

I was recently reading on ReadWriteWeb about a company called Smug Coffee that offers the world's first smart mug (or "smug"), that uses RFID to create an affordable way to encourage coffee shops and customers to use reusable mugs.

The Smug is, essentially, a gift card in the form of a travel mug.

Each Smug is embedded with an RFID tag (similar to the ones used in certain "touch and go" payment card systems) linked to a gift card account at your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop. Paying for your beverage is as simple as waving your Smug travel mug over a specified part of the counter near the cash register.

So, two nice issues are solved. One, having to carry around a gift card that's hidden somewhere in your wallet or purse. Two, it offers yet another good reason to use a reusable mug rather than the wasteful disposable coffee cups. And the more reasons we can offer people to reduse and reuse, the better.

On top of the environmentally friendly benefits, this technology allows a person to go online and set their "usual" drink, which would pop up on the barista's screen, to store their name for more personalised service, get a free coffee on their birthday, and allow for intelligent drink recommendations based on purchase history.  Given the gift-cardy nature of this, there's a nice way for someone to add money to another person's account. For example, a college student's parents can keep topping up their child's account, perhaps giving it a bit of a boost near mid-term and exam time. (Or instead of me complaining to my wife that I never have enough change or any cash in my wallet to buy a coffee, she can get me a Smug, load up my account and tell me to stop my whining)

Of course, nothing beats going to your actual friendly neighbourhood coffee shop where the people who work there actually know you, know your "usual" and know your name. There's no technology needed for that -- just excellent customer service skills. But leveraging the Smug technology at a coffee chain would allow a traveling customer the convenience and experience of buying a coffee at their community coffee shop nomatter where they roam.

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