JR East to test Singapore-made robotic coffee baristas at stations

09, Sep. 2021

Photo shows the Ella autonomous robotic barista capable of offering over 200 types of blended coffee, which was developed by Crown Technologies Holding Pte. Ltd. of Singapore. (Photo courtesy of East Japan Railway Co.)
Photo shows the Ella autonomous robotic barista capable of offering over 200 types of blended coffee, which was developed by Crown Technologies Holding Pte. Ltd. of Singapore. (Photo courtesy of East Japan Railway Co.)

SINGAPORE, NNA - East Japan Railway Co. will start testing in December fully autonomous robotic baristas to serve coffee at its Tokyo and Yokohama stations in a tie-up with a Singaporean retail tech startup.

The company known as JR East said the planned test-marketing involves the Ella robotic barista system developed by Crown Technologies Holding Pte. Ltd., which has had a business partnership with the railway operator since late last year.

The unmanned system serves coffee through an automated ordering, serving and cashless payment process. It can serve more than 200 types of blended coffee and allows customers to use dedicated apps and railway-related IC cards for payment.

JR East expects the upcoming market research at two of the busiest stations in Japan to pave the way for it to provide loyal customers with customized coffee by using artificial intelligence analysis of their preferences.

It also envisions offering such a "coffee subscription service" to commuter pass holders. A plan is also in the works to create a Japan-based joint venture with Crown Technologies for these robo-barista services.

The collaboration between the companies is built around the idea of a resolution platform designed to tackle chronic problems on the JR East side, including labor shortages and declining passenger traffic, with the use of the start-up's innovative technology.

JR East opened the "One & Co" co-working space in Singapore in August 2019 with the aim of providing opportunities for exchanges between, in particular, Japanese and local businesses.

This led JR East to invest in Crown Technologies in a deal signed last December through JR East Business Development SEA Pte. Ltd., a local subsidiary, in the run-up to the robotic barista project in Japan. The investment amount has not yet disclosed.

"We are moving on to promote co-creation activities further through collaborations with foreign startups that assemble at the One & Co space," a JR East official told NNA. (NNA/Kyodo)