Coca-Cola Revolutionizes Fountain Machines for the COVID-19 Era

By Logan Wamsley

What constitutes as “normal” in the era of COVID-19 at times seems anything but. Today, actions as simple as standing in line in a fast food restaurant, picking up a tray, and using a fountain drink dispenser all come with significant risks to personal health. In this new world, equipment manufacturers have been tasked with pushing their ingenuity to the test and creating products that are not only revolutionary, but comply with the strictest COVID-19 safety protocols (minimal personal contact, six-feet social distancing, etc.) to ensure customer safety.

One such example can be seen with the work of Coca-Cola, who has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to reimagine the fountain drink machine and the customer experience using it.

The Coca-Cola Freestyle machine was already something of a technical marvel. Through the use of a touch screen, customers could dispense more than 200 different drinking combinations. Using the back-end infrastructure provided by AMS, customers will now be able to activate the machines using only their smartphone. In order to streamline the feature for maximum efficiency, it now requires no app installation on the customer’s part; instead, the user only needs to scan a QR code displayed on the machine’s user interface.

“In the case of Coca-Cola, what they’re doing here is a number of different things working behind the scenes to make this happen,” said Peder Ulander, Director of Marketing for Serverless, Open Source and Containers at AWS in an interview with SiliconANGLE. “First off, a QR code going to the phone basically triggers that first event. The user standing in front of this specific machine interested in pouring a beverage and what happens is it links together a web interface on the customer’s phone, calls up the Amazon Lambda resources on the back-end to do the processing, gets the beverage selection from the customer, pours the correct amount into the customer’s cup at that machine and finally resets the machine for the next customer after a timeout.”

“We’re investing a lot of time to understand how consumer behaviors are evolving throughout the pandemic and making sure our tech strategy matches those and future behaviors,” said Thomas Stubbs, Vice President of Engineering and Innovation at Coca-Cola Freestyle. “While all Coca-Cola beverage dispensers are safe with recommended care and cleaning, we acted quickly when the pandemic hit to reimagine the future of the Freestyle machine and get ahead of shifting consumer needs.”

Coca-Cola’s goal is to have all of the Freestyle machines in the U.S. be touchless by the end of 2020, with the rest of the world to follow shortly after. Not only does this benefit Coca-Cola customers as they can have worry-free access to the products they love, but it should also play a significant role in making restaurants quicker and safer as a whole. As a result, businesses can be confident in reopening to full capacity without compromising the safety of their customers or workforce.