Most of us know the feeling of hosting a party and worrying about running out of food and drink. Imagine owning your own restaurant or bar and always trying to manage your beer on hand, hoping you’re counting the kegs correctly and that they’re full to the brim. For many bar managers and restaurant owners, stocking beer can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task, and that’s one way Verizon is helping make life a little easier through machine-to-machine technology.
After starting his own successful brewery, Flat12 Bierwerks, in 2009, Steve Hershberger knew there had to be a better way to track, order and serve America’s favorite beverage -- a $100 billion a year industry. Over a few years, he came up with a solution of real-time monitoring via smartphones and tablets, a system easy enough for a fifth-grader to understand but sophisticated enough for a retailer to analyze real-time sales and inventory reports to stay profitable. “Getting it wrong, or getting it right, is the difference between being profitable and staying alive,” Hershberger said from his Carmel-based office.
SteadyServ Technologies, Hershberger’s Indiana startup, is tapping big data beer solutions for the hospitality industry nationwide. It’s a relatively straightforward system: A sensor is placed on every keg, and using Verizon’s wireless network, SteadyServ’s iKeg system lets beer distributors, brewers, restaurant managers and pub owners know at a glance how much beer is on hand. The data collected on keg volume – through weight and pressure monitoring – is transmitted over Verizon’s 4G LTE network to the devices of distributors and bar managers, for a convenient cloud-based machine-to-machine, or M2M, solution.
Through this technology, a bartender or manager can receive text alerts when a keg needs to be replaced, and read real-time inventory reports on a tablet. The reports also reveal what’s selling – and what’s not. Knowing what customers like and don’t like is critical to managing inventory, especially with the explosion of craft beers and breweries. Already, some retailers using iKeg have reported reducing the loss of sellable pints left sloshing around in a keg by as much as 43 percent. The SteadyServ system has attracted plenty of media attention, including articles about the Hoosier startup in The New York Times and Washington Post.
According to the Beer Institute, there are 576,000 retail establishments in the United States that sell beer. That’s a lot of beer, and SteadyServ is making it easier to track all those pints. Hershberger says an average consumer drinks 2.45 pints of beer in one sitting. But, he says, that same consumer can’t drink their favorite brew after it suddenly sells out. Instead, the person whose favorite beer is not on tap will often simply stop ordering. Hershberger estimated that the “out of inventory” issue translates to $700 million in lost sales annually.
With the help of Verizon’s machine-to-machine wireless technology, Hershberger and SteadyServ hope to keep America’s favorite brews flowing.