Starbucks Partners with Microsoft to Track Coffee Using Blockchain

Their new machine learning powered app will also offer tailor-made suggestions for food and drinks.
Loukia Papadopoulos

You love your morning brew but have you ever wondered where it comes from? Now Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to track your beans from "farm to cup."


Groundbreaking innovation

“We have a world-class team of technologists engaging in groundbreaking innovation each day. Their inventiveness and intellectual curiosity are matched by their dedication to enabling the Starbucks experience, and this is increasingly critical to how technology has to show up for us,” says Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks executive vice president and chief technology officer.

“Everything we do in technology is centered around the customer connection in the store, the human connection, one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”

The new feature for Starbucks' mobile will show customers everything from where their packaged coffee comes from to what the firm is doing to support farmers in those locations.

The move is meant to reinforce Starbucks' commitment to ethical sourcing. The feature uses Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service which allows each state change to be recorded and shared.

“While high-quality, handcrafted beverages are so important, it’s the stories, the people, the connections, the humanity behind that coffee that inspires everything we do,” says Michelle Burns, Starbucks senior vice president of Global Coffee & Tea.

“This kind of transparency offers customers the chance to see that the coffee they enjoy from us is the result of many people caring deeply.”

Tailor-made order suggestions

Starbucks has also been using reinforcement learning technology to offer customers tailor-made order suggestions. 16 million active Starbucks Rewards members will receive recommendations from the app for food and drinks "based on local store inventory, popular selections, weather, time of day, community preferences and previous orders."

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Starbucks is also looking to expand this technology to drive-thru services.

“We’re meeting our customers where they are — whether in-store, in their car or on the go through the app — using machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand and anticipate their personal preferences,” said Martin-Flickinger.

“Machine learning also plays a role in how we think about store design, engage with our partners, optimize inventory and create barista schedules. This capability will eventually touch all facets of how we run our business.”

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