Challenge: Provide seamless service to customers in a disconnected environment.
Solution: Combine Hitachi Vantara services with AWS to create an enclosed environment, to allow customers with no connectivity to continue to use their smart tap solution.
The food and drink industry is ripe for innovation, and smart devices and IoT are set to transform the way companies manage stock and run their kitchens. When Sestra Systems (www.sestrasystems.com) identified a gap in the market to help businesses standardize how they dispense drinks, it developed TapWise. The dispensing-as-a-service solution turns beverage taps into IoT-connected devices, improving customer service, preventing loss through spillage, and ensuring compliance with ABC regulations.
“Our solution controls portion size so customers can maximize the profitability of their stock while also introducing smart features such as remote locking,” explains Sestra Systems’ Vice President of Engineering, Ben Maphis.
While ensuring a more accurate volume of the drink is poured, the taps also collect a vast quantity of data and store it in the cloud. The data provides customers with visibility of who poured which drinks, when and why. “We’re giving customers better insight into how much beverage loss is costing them while helping them to forecast stock, maintain their equipment better, and provide next-level customer service,” comments Maphis.
But with customers ranging from small hotels to large stadiums, distributors and even cruise ships, the company needed to ensure TapWise was highly available, even with limited access to the cloud. “We needed to allow precision dispensing without connectivity, making sure our customers can still control their taps and that the data is retained, even in the middle of the ocean,” Maphis adds. And as the company scaled, it needed to maintain connected control for an increasing number of diverse environments.
To augment its existing cloud strategy and provide innovation at scale, Sestra Systems leveraged Hitachi Vantara’s Cloud Application Modernization Services. “The services not only allow us to give customers real-time control over their TapWise systems but also provide the flexibility needed to expand into new markets, such as cruise liners and government organizations, with limited or no connectivity,” says Sestra Systems’ Principal Engineer, Paras Goda.
The company uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) in conjunction with cloud services from Hitachi Vantara to connect devices to the network so customers can sync and aggregate data when they go online. When there’s limited connectivity, the smart taps are in an enclosed, nonconnected environment, so customers can still leverage data on performance to boost operational efficiencies. For example, they can get notifications that they need to change a keg to maintain a seamless pouring experience.
The IoT solution Hitachi Vantara developed for Sestra Systems means that once devices are provisioned, the configurable agent service captures telemetry data, such as CPU usage, available memory and diagnostic log per hour, and services these commands. It then sets IoT-specific rules in the cloud to move the data from any cloud service provider’s MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) broker to various endpoints. The highly scalable AWS Kinesis Data Streams, a real-time data streaming service, enables it to scale from hundreds up to billions of devices, and the serverless framework provides high value at a low cost.
“As our relationship with Hitachi Vantara grew, the project evolved from cloud enablement to helping us grow our solution to a completely serverless environment,” said Maphis. “We can scale and offer consumer cloud services to address the needs of the different industries we work with.”
Sestra Systems is also leveraging the Hitachi Vantara solution to make its TapWise product more feature-rich and to allow customers to control and monitor dispensing in real time. For example, it’s currently working on self-service models that would allow hotels to offer users a loyalty app to dispense their own drinks in their rooms.
By partnering with Hitachi Vantara, Sestra Systems has developed a smarter, end-to-end platform to put its customers firmly in control of beverage distribution. “Customers have richer insights in the palm of their hand on their mobile device, which means they can engage with the system in real time, in a predictable way,” says Maphis. “They’re also building up a better picture of end-customer behavior, which will help them make smarter business and promotional decisions.”
The partnership with Hitachi Vantara has been key for breaking into new markets with limited or no connectivity. “The ability to bridge the connected and disconnected state on cruise ships and in government organizations is a really good example of how Hitachi Vantara is helping us reach into new markets and deliver more value to customers,” said Maphis.
The project has also helped Sestra Systems to evolve from offering a dispensing-as-a-service solution into becoming a complete solution provider. This transition has unlocked more value for the customer by enabling the company to help them install the system and products, train staff and uncover the insights that will help them expand their beverage programs.
“Hitachi Vantara helped us standardize our product and make it more robust, reliable and scalable,” comments Goda. “By working with a partner who has spent many years innovating its product sets and service offering, we knew we were in good hands and could focus more on our business goals and less on the infrastructure supporting TapWise.”
And it’s not just TapWise customers who are making the most of richer data insights: The wealth of centralized data is allowing the company to perform deeper analytics, to help it shape the business and continue to exceed customer expectations.
“With our enhanced platform from Hitachi Vantara, we’re more focused on what we can provide to customers to give them more value in the service we’re already providing,” concludes Maphis.
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