Microsoft Brews Up a Solution for Costa Coffee

Posted By Barb Edson
General Manager, Marketing and Business Development

With the holiday shopping season behind us and my upcoming travel to next week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention & EXPO in New York, I’ve been thinking about the opportunity we frequently discuss with retailers and hospitality organizations to transform the customer experience with intelligent systems—perhaps none as tangible as a fresh, delicious, custom-brewed cup of Costa Coffee.

The story behind the iconic red Costa Express vending machines really underscores the power and flexibility of the Microsoft platform. The UK’s leading self-service espresso bar, Costa Coffee’s acquisition of Coffee Nation in 2011 resulted in the birth of Costa Express. There are now more than 2,500 machines in the UK since the launch of Costa Express 18 months ago. Moving forward, our consulting team worked with Costa to customize a solution that met their business goals—specifically capitalizing on actionable data to drive greater ROI for Costa and, soon, a better cup for coffee lovers.

When Costa decided to build a next-generation coffee-serving machine, they wanted a flexible, end-to-end solution, so they sought out the leader in platforms for intelligent systems, business analytics and cloud computing. Working with partner Bsquare, Costa created a scalable intelligent system that delivers on the company’s goal of bringing a smarter, more connected and richer experience to the customer.

Just as it takes more than a bean to make a good cup of coffee, it takes more than a chip to run an intelligent system. The flexibility of the Windows Embedded platform was key for Bsquare and Costa; with the power to support a range of architectures, Microsoft is able to help partners develop solutions that exactly meet their needs.

The coffee vending machines run on Windows Embedded Standard 7 with a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application on .NET/Silverlight, connecting on the back end to Windows Azure and SQL Server to collect key sales and diagnostic information. The centralized cloud-based web reporting dashboard is built using ASP.NET Model View Controller Framework

The solution allows Costa to track all aspects of the machine—from milk levels to diagnostics information, showing alerts that allow for remote monitoring and reduced maintenance costs. Sales data is automatically aggregated into the Windows Azure cloud from all vending machines, enabling a complete, real-time view of all information, including drink type and size.

These new machines are technological marvels, designed to appeal to all five senses of the coffee lover, from the striking Italian design to the 27-inch HD touchscreen—each unit even emits the sounds and smells of a bustling café. Foremost is taste, and the new machines offer a choice of more than 250 espresso drinks, custom-made on the spot using Costa’s Mocha Italia blended coffee beans and fresh milk.

The resulting blend of Windows Embedded technology and Costa’s commitment to customer delight is a better cup for coffee lovers, and greater ROI and customer satisfaction for Costa.

Stay tuned for some announcements from Costa next week during NRF, and, if you’ll be in New York, be sure to visit the Intel booth (#1539) for a glimpse of the new solution.