Starbucks teams up with Microsoft for blockchain-based coffee tracking, predictive ordering and more

By Laura Mullan
Microsoft has revealed that it is working on a series of technology projects in partnership with Starbucks to digitally transform the world’s largest...

Microsoft has revealed that it is working on a series of technology projects in partnership with Starbucks to digitally transform the world’s largest coffee chain.

At Microsoft Build 2019, the two companies unveiled that they were working on a series of initiatives including blockchain-based coffee tracking and IoT-enabled machinery.

“We have a world-class team of technologists engaging in groundbreaking innovation each day,” says Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks executive vice president and chief technology officer.

“Their inventiveness and intellectual curiosity are matched by their dedication to enabling the Starbucks experience, and this is increasingly critical to how technology has to show up for us.”

Through the partnership, Starbucks said it has created a reinforcement learning platform which is hosted in Microsoft Azure.

The platform uses machine learning technology to create tailor-made order suggestions for customers.

For instance, if a customer consistently orders dairy-free beverages on the app, the platform can recognise this non-dairy preference and suggest dairy-free food and drinks.

Starbucks is also looking to expand this technology to the drive-thru experience.

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“We’re meeting our customers where they are — whether in-store, in their car or on the go through the app — using machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand and anticipate their personal preferences,” says Martin-Flickinger.

“Machine learning also plays a role in how we think about store design, engage with our partners, optimize inventory and create barista schedules. This capability will eventually touch all facets of how we run our business.”

Additionally, Starbucks said that it is using Microsoft’s Azure Sphere to “secure the upcoming wave of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices across its store equipment.”

This will allow the coffee chain to shift from reactive maintenance to a predictive approach meaning that Starbukcs can solve machiner issues before they happen.

On top of this, Starbucks said it is using Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service to trace its coffee beans from farm to cup.

“While high-quality, handcrafted beverages are so important, it’s the stories, the people, the connections, the humanity behind that coffee that inspires everything we do,” says Michelle Burns, Starbucks senior vice president of Global Coffee & Tea.

“This kind of transparency offers customers the chance to see that the coffee they enjoy from us is the result of many people caring deeply.”

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