Connecting the Cold Vault to Internet of Things

Coca-Cola technology test correlates cooler-door opens with actual sales

ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola Co. is using internet of things technology to connect its cold-vault equipment in convenience stores and other retail outlets to track product inventory, monitor energy efficiency and more, all with the goal of driving more drink sales.

Coolers in select markets are now wired with sensors that can, among other things, correlate the number of times a shopper opens the door with actual sales. The project leverages the internetworking of smart devices that collect and exchange data.

Sensors and Data

“We’re essentially doing two things: using sensors in our coolers to collect data, and then using that data to help our bottlers and customers make better decisions,” said Pete Rohwer, director of equipment commercialization for Coca-Cola North America, Atlanta. “Some beacons are hardwired, some are battery-powered and some have cameras. We’re adding them to our cold-drink equipment, connecting them via Bluetooth and sending the information to the cloud.”

A dashboard provides a snapshot of all connected units. Coca-Cola bottlers can track the location of its intelligent cold-drink fleet down to the outlet level and monitor temperature, lighting, energy use, placement and overall equipment health and performance. Some coolers are equipped with cameras that provide a real-time inventory view to help bottlers and retailers optimize product placement, manage out-of-stocks and troubleshoot issues virtually.

“We can monitor equipment performance to identify service needs before maintenance is needed,” Rohwer said. “And we can see how door swings link to transactions and determine if it’s stocked with the right beverages.”

For example, retailers may discover that four large single-door coolers get less combined traffic than one small, single-door cooler. Store owners also can detect changes in shopper patterns that can be compared to daily sales figures and then linked to changes in cooler location, product temperature, sales and promotions.

Two-Market Test

Coke's connected coolers debuted in Bulgaria in 2015. They are now being tested in Chicago and Dallas. “We’re purposefully starting slowly in smaller outlets,” Rohwer said. “We’re training sales teams and getting the right data flowing before scaling more broadly.”

And while the project is focused initially on improving operations and driving sales, proximity beacons will soon be able to send tailored coupons and offers to nearby consumers via a mobile app.

“The connected cooler is the next evolution in our ability to deliver a unified Coca-Cola experience," Rohwer said. "We’ve gone from a machine that sells Coke to an experience that sells Coca-Cola products, and now to a connectivity hub that sells Coca-Cola.”

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