Back in the day, when I was in the army, the coffee came to us in the field in 30-gallon pots with the grounds still in them. If you wanted a cup, you simply grabbed the ladle, dipped it and poured it into your mess kit cup. The trick was to know where the coffee ended and the grounds began. My, have we not come a long way in the last 40 or so years (yes that dates me…).
This missive was spurred by a feed I received with the headline “IBM has secured a patent for a coffee drone that not only flies around public spaces to deliver cups of brew, but also predicts which people need caffeine pick-me-ups.” OK, I am a pretty progressive guy, and I have seen ideas that were ‘out there’ find a following. However, this…I dunno!
I can see it now. Here I am, cruising down some, backwoods, southern Mississippi highway on my Harley when, all of a sudden, the nearest Starbucks texts me that it is coffee break time. I pull over, whip out my handy-dandy 5G smartphone/tablet/mini-computer (because by now, there is not a single centimeter of uncovered wireless space) and text them. I order a Venti half-caf, quad; 1-vanilla, 2-caramel, 1-sugar free vanilla, 3-mochas, 2-white mochas, and 8-raspberry, nonfat, with whip, caramel drizzle, mocha drizzle, and curls, latte. A few minutes later, I hear the buzzing of a drone and starts to hover over me. I snag the cup of coffee and enjoy a hot java while listening to the sounds of the woods, completely immersed in nature (unless the drone accidentally runs out of power and spills that cup of scalding hot coffee on someone along the way, or even on me)!
Then, it latches onto my Fitbit, or some other wearable, reads recent sleep quality, calculates my body mass, metabolism, state of awareness, blood pressure, pupil dilation, facial expressions, yada, yada, yada and schedules my next cup of coffee a few hundred miles down the road (even considering what goes in, must come out at some point).
It is not really about the coffee or the delivery method. It is about how things that can be, or perhaps should not be. Do we really need to crowd the airways with drones because we are trying to satisfy our self-involved, too lazy to walk to the nearest coffee shop urge? I have not even touched on the preemptive-ness of the app to know when you need your next caffeine pick-me-up. That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, starting with security.
Then there is the issue of using bandwidth. One can argue that this as a use case for edge networks. Actually, it is a great idea in urban edge environments. Maybe that is what IBM sees in it. However, scale that out to hundreds, no thousands of trivial similar use cases and one can see where bandwidth, even edge and mmWave, might be taxed.
One can also argue that the future world is one where we are all so busy, scurrying around to placate family, do our jobs, make a flurry of meetings, meet family and friends, make the gym, sell Scout cookies, run kids to soccer, play music, compete in chess clubs, and mow the lawn (if we even have them by then). In such a scenario, convenience, certainly, becomes a critical factor. However, at what point does convenience become lazy?
Will it actually work? Who knows? The future of the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX), 5G, edge networks, virtualization, and more, certainly promises a fully interconnected, unlimited bandwidth wireless ecosystem where everything and everyone is connected. There is no doubt that this will come about, someday. However, there is so much we still have to figure out, not just technologically, but practically and morally, as well. In addition, the laws of physics are what they are. Perhaps when we perfect teleportation, we will not have to worry about drones spilling hot coffee all over us.
At this stage of the game, even IBM admits it may only be a pipe dream. IBM spokesperson Amanda Carl said in an email, “IBM encourages our researchers to pursue their interests even though not all of their inventions become commercial products. By publishing their inventions as patents, we give our researchers the recognition they deserve and make their work public, so it can inspire new innovations.”
Sounds good to me!