Mary Hayes Weier of InformationWeek recently published a great article, Coke’s RFID-Based Dispensers Redefine Business Intelligence.
Coca-Cola has introduced a new RFID-enabled drink dispenser called Freestyle. It provides mass customization with 30 flavor cartridges (sodas, teas, flavored waters, etc.) that can be mixed to make more than 100 different drinks (out of the more than 3,000 that Coca-Cola sells around the world).
Starting this summer, the new dispensers will be available in fast-food joints across California, Georgia, and Utah. Customers can select a brand, such as Sprite, and are then offered several variations (Peach Coke? Grape Sprite?).
The RFID-enabled dispensers keep track of consumption trends (flavors, quantities, times…) and transmit that information each night over a wireless network to point-of-sale management software from SAP, and then to Coke’s SAP BW data warehouse in Atlanta (Coca-Cola has standardized on a common SAP backbone across 45 countries, and uses a mix of Microsoft and BusinessObjects front-end BI products.)
The data will be used for operational activities (automatically scheduling refills, stopping distribution if there’s a product recall of a particular cartridge, etc.) and for analytics: assessing how new drinks are doing in the market, identifying differences in regional tastes, and helping fast-food outlets decide which drinks to serve.
Coca-Cola is hoping to use its new analytic power to speed up and improve test marketing processes, with the ability to try out new flavors with almost real-time feedback. That information can then be quickly shared throughout their worldwide distribution channels.
I’ve tried to imagine what a dispenser analytics dashboard might look like, using Xcelsius:
Disclaimers: (1) This is purely speculative, and not endorsed by Coca-Cola in any way; (2) This is for fun, NOT an example of dashboard best practice. If you’re interested, see Stephen Few’s blog about vendors abusing Xcelsius in this way
It’s also worth noting that Coca-Cola has used Xcelsius in the past, for example as part of the launch of Coke Zero in Australia: