Malibu to Enable Consumers to Order Drinks With a Twist

The maker of flavored rums plans to introduce RFID-enabled coconut-shaped drinking cups to clubs, bars and festivals by summer 2017.
By Nathaniel Prince
Nov 09, 2016

Malibu, a brand best known for its coconut-flavored rum, is expanding its product line with a drinking vessel designed to simplify the process of obtaining a refill. The coconut-shaped mug, called a Coco-nect cup, effectively functions as an active radio frequency identification tag through the use of Bluetooth technology, allowing bar-goers to send out a signal when they want a drink. The beverages will then be delivered to the appropriate customers, allowing those individuals to continue talking or dancing, instead of having to leave their group in order to quench their thirst.

When ready for another drink, a patron twists the bottom of the Coco-nect cup. Its base begins to glow, and the built-in battery-powered tag transmits a 2.4 GHz signal to inform the bartender of the customer's drink order, as well as his or her location, via a special app running on a tablet PC installed at the bar. When the server presses the "accept order" icon on the tablet's touchscreen, a light on the bottom of the cup changes color. The cups form a mesh network, using the Bluetooth protocol to pass the drink order from one Coco-nect to another, until it reaches the tablet, where the app then uses triangulation to help determine the customer's position. After mixing the drink, the bartender leaves the bar to deliver the order, with the help of a smartphone app featuring a map that displays the customer's location. When the employee is within close range of the patron, the light at the base of the cup begins to flash, further pinpointing that individual.

When a bar patron twists the cup's base, it begins to glow and transmits a signal that informs the bartender of the customer's location and drink order.
A first in the drinks industry, according to the company, the Coco-nect cup is an example of Internet of Things technology: everyday objects that have network connectivity. Malibu worked with IoT agency SharpEnd during a 12-week span to develop the product. SharpEnd used existing off-the-shelf technologies when developing the cup. Prototypes have undergone a successful trial run, and the final product is slated for release by next summer.

Deborah Nunez, Malibu's joint global marketing brand manager, has stated the rationale behind the Coco-nect's creation: fighting FOMO (the fear of missing out). Malibu's research shows that young people do not want to risk missing out on fun by having to go back to the bar to refresh their drinks. The Coco-nect system eliminates the need for them to leave their friends on the dance floor, work their way through a crowd and wait on line to place an order. Instead, a new round of drinks comes to them.

The bartender delivers a drink with the help of a smartphone app featuring a map that indicates the customer's location.
Earlier this year, SharpEnd helped Malibu incorporate Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags into the labels on bottles of its products sold at Tesco stores in the United Kingdom. This enables consumers to access product-related content with the tap of an NFC-enabled mobile phone (see Malibu Rum Serves Up NFC-Connected Bottles).

A drink order is automatically displayed on a tablet PC installed at the bar.

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