Shangguan News-Robot Coffee is here! The price is cheap and the taste is praised. Is the outlet for
Time:
2020-11-05

According to Shangguan News, since the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, a number of new industries have ushered in new opportunities while overcoming difficulties. Among them, the 'unmanned economy' scene application is impressive.

For example, unmanned coffee kiosks and unmanned supermarkets. There are also unmanned vehicles for short-distance cargo transportation, and drones for high-altitude observation and disinfection operations.

Will the epidemic help the rapid development of this field?

This article starts with a case of a Shanghai company’s robotic coffee kiosk, trying to open and close the curtain on the challenges and prospects of this industry.


[Hundreds of people line up for a cup of coffee]

This is an unmanned coffee shop covering an area of 2.5 square meters, invented by Shanghai Hedong Robot Technology Co., Ltd.


上观新闻-机器人咖啡来了!价格便宜口感获赞,无人经济的风口真的到了?


Consumers can place orders through mobile payment. There are more than 40 varieties of American coffee, French Ole, complex rose lychee latte, Middle Eastern mocha chino, and beverages such as matcha latte and hot chocolate.


After the order was placed, the coffee beans in the transparent bin started to be ground and extracted. The robotic arm is like a human hand, and a cup of milk coffee that looks and tastes similar to that of a branded coffee shop on the market is fresh out.


Hedodol Technology was established in 2018. The core team consists of more than 30 doctors and masters graduated from Fudan, University of Science and Technology of China, Tongji, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and European and American universities. The earliest domestic R&D personnel engaged in robot coffee kiosks, robot dessert shops, service robots, and cleaning robots. The company spent 2 years developing this machine and launched the product to the market in 2019.


Deputy General Manager Sun Li recalled that at the beginning of its establishment, the team did a detailed coffee market research.


Nowadays, brands such as Starbucks and Luckin have cultivated a large number of Chinese coffee consumers. The sales of coffee in the Chinese market have reached more than 1 trillion yuan each year, and they are growing rapidly, with huge potential in the future.


Among them, freshly ground coffee is becoming more and more popular. But for ordinary people, spending about 30 yuan a day for a cup of freshly ground coffee is still expensive. Now, freshly ground coffee made by this robot with the same quality as brand coffee is priced at 9.9 yuan for American coffee and 13.9 yuan for latte, which is attractive to consumers.


So, do consumers really buy it?


In July 2019, the robot coffee kiosk was put into a Grade A office building in Changning District for trial operation. At first, the office workers who came to watch the excitement raised various questions.


'Is it really freshly ground coffee beans?' 'Is the taste the same as the brand coffee shop?' 'Is the quality of the milk froth the same as the manual operation?'


After witnessing the fully automatic operation process in the transparent chamber and tasting the taste of coffee, doubts were basically eliminated. The machine thus began its business trip in the office building. 300 cups can be sold in one day, and there are still orders at 2 am.


After that, the company took this machine to participate in the World Artificial Intelligence Conference and CIIE. All the participants were very curious about it. At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference, people came to buy coffee in an endless stream. At the peak, more than 100 people lined up, and many companies came to consult and cooperate.


The audience at the exhibition was more professional. Their questions were: 'How much does the machine cost?' 'How about the sales at the trial operation site?' 'How many cups can be sold in a day?' 'How to deal with after-sales maintenance?' Customized?'


上观新闻-机器人咖啡来了!价格便宜口感获赞,无人经济的风口真的到了?


Currently, the machine is priced at 396,000 yuan/unit for overseas exports and 349,000 yuan/unit for domestic sales. It will be cheaper to join. Some customers still have doubts. After all, the price of nearly 400,000 yuan is a bit expensive compared to automatic juice machines, coconut juice machines, and mini jukeboxes.


However, some people have calculated such an account: the rental cost of Shanghai coffee shops is very high, plus the cost of water and electricity, labor costs, a large investment in a year. The robot coffee kiosk that only needs to be invested once can be open 24 hours a day, and only one person can spend 1 hour a day for maintenance and replenishment, which still has a considerable cost advantage.


A couple from Jiangsu, after hearing about this machine, quietly went to the trial office building to “squat” for two days to observe the consumption situation. Two days later, they took the initiative to come to the door, bought a few machines, and put forward their own squatting suggestions.


It turned out that the operation and maintenance personnel did not go to the office to replenish materials after 8 o'clock that day. At this time, it was the peak of white-collar workers entering and leaving. People passing by the lobby wanted to buy a cup of coffee, but found that the machine was being surrounded by people for work, thinking it was malfunctioning. The couple suggested that the operation and maintenance personnel must arrive at the office before 8 o'clock every day to complete their work.


At present, robot coffee kiosks have successively entered Qingpu Outlets and other places.


[Like a smart food processing factory]


As an intelligent robot, how much technical content does it have? Zhang Wei, the company's technical director, made some analysis.


For example, the intelligent pulping system. Syrup is easy to stick to the machine and it is difficult to clean. So far, vending machines do not have the option of syrup. In this way, a series of fancy flavors such as hazelnut latte and vanilla latte can only be tasted in artificial coffee shops.


Zhang Wei said that they have spent a lot of time on the pulping system. There are almost no independent automatic pulping machines in the world. Because the market demand is very small, the company's R&D motivation is insufficient. The machine produces slurry, not only requires the slurry to flow out smoothly, but also has to be aligned in direction and standard in volume, and the error must be controlled within 0.5 grams. In addition, the machine pipeline has to be cleaned automatically every time to ensure that the pipeline is clean when the slurry is changed next time, the food is safe, and the team can only conduct independent research and development.

上观新闻-机器人咖啡来了!价格便宜口感获赞,无人经济的风口真的到了?


Another example is the ice out system. Vending machines generally only use crushed ice, but the robot coffee kiosk uses block ice. The difficulty is to ensure that the angle and weight of the big ice cube must be accurate. At present, only Japanese companies in the world make automatic block ice machines. The purchase price is extremely expensive, and the team is forced to develop independently.


There are also some details. The layman looks simple, but it actually adds technical content.


For example, the buckle cover, the buckle cover machine on the market, the principle is relatively simple, that is, the size and thickness of the customized cup cover are calculated, and the machine is stuck in a fixed position.


Behind the buckle cover of the robot coffee kiosk is a set of 'flexible production system'. Whether it is a transparent plastic cold drink cup or a hot drink paper cup, it can change the strength, angle, and accurately buckle the lid.


The principle is to use a hybrid sensor. The sensor provides specific data for different cups. The background calculates the pressure and angle of each closure. After the closure, the sensor returns the data to check to ensure a tight fit. In this way, it is possible to flexibly cap various cups.


In addition, robotic arm shaking is also a complex automation technology. The robotic arm that imitates the cocktail shaking action is produced by foreign companies, but it is expensive. In the end, the team still independently develops the robotic arm control algorithm.


上观新闻-机器人咖啡来了!价格便宜口感获赞,无人经济的风口真的到了?


'The entire robot coffee kiosk is equipped with more than 100 sensors and has more than 40 patents, some of which are international patents.' Zhang Wei said, such as pressure sensors, photoelectric sensors, ultrasonic sensors, temperature and humidity sensors, and patent-related secret sensors. Behind each subsystem, there is a set of complex intelligent algorithms.


However, traditional fully automatic machines use almost no sensors, relying on 'card slots.' Some advanced machines have less than 10 internal sensors, and there is no intelligence and algorithm.


Zhang Wei said that the unmanned coffee kiosk can theoretically provide hundreds of beverage combinations and support the addition of extremely complex auxiliary materials. If the interior is expanded, it is equivalent to a small 'smart food processing plant', which belongs to 'smart manufacturing' and 'industry 4.0.' 'Related technology.


And only when technology reaches this point, 'no one' can truly replace 'human' and can be called 'smart'.


[Exploring the 'Shanghai Standard']


The unmanned economy is a new thing, and the approval of the license is also facing challenges.


Coffee beans, tea leaves, various powders, various slurries, liquid milk... Shanghai's Food and Drug Administration has never encountered such a variety of ready-made food machines, and there are almost no ready-made standards to follow. Therefore, the relevant departments convened experts from all parties to jointly review, and adopted the method of objective report + expert review.


Some of these experts come from food safety agencies, some from microbiological research institutions, some from the agricultural sector, and some from the CDC.


In the face of new problems, experts sometimes bluntly say 'this is not possible.' When Zhang Wei asked why it didn't work, the expert replied: 'According to my experience, it just doesn't work.' At first, the company was disheartened, but after careful consultation, it was found that the experts' opinions often made sense.


For example, the remaining microorganisms in the machine must be qualified, and a major problem is liquid milk. Vending machines generally use milk powder or processed and packaged milk, and almost no machine directly uses fresh liquid milk.


Regulatory authorities require that liquid milk must always be maintained at 4°C-6°C, which poses a challenge to the parts of the machine in operation. The contact surface between liquid milk and air must also meet certain standards. After listening to expert opinions, the company developed targeted antibacterial technology and some patented technologies for liquid milk in the machine. However, the microorganisms need to be verified by the culture medium, and the cycle is relatively long. Only liquid milk is the only item. It took a long time for both parties to ask the question to reach the standard.


For example, the machine provides ice drinks. When making heated things, bacteria are not easy to survive, but the cold environment will allow bacteria to multiply further. How to ensure the food safety of iced drinks in the automatic operation of the machine has also taken a lot of effort. In the end, after running-in and research and development, the food safety level of this robot coffee kiosk has exceeded that of a manned coffee shop.


In fact, Shanghai has issued local standards for vending machines, but this robot coffee kiosk is much more complicated than vending machines, and finally a series of new standards have been formed. For example, the first liquid milk standard for machines that are currently on sale, the first slurry standard that can be maintained at a weekly level, and the first ice cube ice drink standard for automatic sterilization of machines.


And this new set of 'Shanghai Standards' is expected to become a blueprint in the future, providing a reference for later intelligent unmanned economic industries.


Original link: https://xw.qq.com/amphtml/20200322A0E00Y00