Wecheer.io, a platform that maps consumer behavior, offers beverage manufacturers a smart bottle opener service, which records the time and place of every opened beer in real time. Based on the data of the smart device developed in Estonia, the manufacturer can target sales campaigns and make discount offers to customers precisely by knowing their preferences.

The story of the innovative marketing tool began in Switzerland, where three friends first simply invented a fun and smart gadget – a beer bottle opener, that could send a virtual “Cheers!” to your friends’ phones when you opened the bottle. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the first simple version was ready. But the product had shortcomings, so a strong partner with IoT competence had to be found.

A reliable WeCheer device that takes a picture and identifies the product

“It was at the end of 2016 when the co-founder of the start-up company Wecheer Aurèle de Bosset contacted us with the question of whether we would be willing to help in the development of a smart beer bottle opener. Already at the beginning of 2017, we met in Estonia and had a two-day brainstorming session. At first, the plan was to improve the design of the existing version, but we quickly came to the realization that it would be more reasonable to design a new version,” recalls Kristjan Tozen, CEO of Krakul, a developer of the Internet of Things and autonomous systems, who at that time was the company’s CTO. Another important change took place during the work. “While the initial task was to create an opener for the consumer market, during the project the client realized that a greater value proposition would be to use the opener as a marketing tool for beverage manufacturers and bars,” explains Tozen. “This led to new responsibilities for Krakul, more emphasis had to be placed on reliability and durability – the device had to maintain its reliability after thousands of openings, be resistant to shocks and moisture, and at the same time work quickly and efficiently so that people can use it comfortably.”

Simply put, the smart bottle opener works as follows: most of the time the device “sleeps”, and the opener starts working when it is placed on the bottle. Then the device takes a photo of the cap and sends it to a server with an image recognition algorithm. In this way, the opener identifies which brand it is and sends information in real-time to the Wecheer.io platform, from which the producer receives a notification, about where and which beer from his assortment has just been uncorked. The brands of the beverage manufacturer joining the service are entered into the system in advance. If a bottle is opened in a bar whose manufacturer does not have the right to use Wecheer, the opener’s smart device remains “dumb” and functions as a normal opener.

“This bottle opener is the only one of its kind in the world, there are some that simply count the number of openings, but without a product recognition function,” confirms Kristjan Tozen. “It was quite a challenge to develop it so that the photo could be taken as stable and with even light as possible, for this we built a small flashlight into the bottle opener.”

Development work in Estonia and Vietnam

Because of the bottle opener project, Krakul’s small team had to fly quite a few times to Vietnam, where part of Wecheer’s development activities and also production takes place. “The first time was in the summer of 2017 when the first prototypes began to be completed – we flew to the site to meet the rest of the team and test and develop the prototypes. After that, we went a few more times, tested new versions in bars and also immediately received useful feedback. We also visited a local factory where we introduced and improved the opener production process,” Tozen says. In addition to the planned trips, a long journey to Vietnam had to be undertaken as a last resort. “There was a situation where the equipment stopped working for some reason after coming off the factory production line. The client sent us some devices to Tallinn and they worked with us. We had no choice but to take a one-way ticket to Vietnam. In a few days, the error was mapped and corrected, and production could continue. Then we came home.”

Aurèle de Bosset of Wecheer highlights the same point when he lists the strengths of his cooperation partner. “Their flexibility and reactivity to jump on a plane and fly to another world with two days’ notice are admirable. They have shown the will and ability to develop further not only our product but also move forward in the work specifics. I think that is the key word – the desire to achieve not a good result, but the best result,” says Aurèle de Bosset.

Smart bottle openers became more widely used in 2018 when more devices were produced and a certain level of reliability and quality was achieved. However, because it is always possible to take a step in the better direction in product development, Krakul is already working on a new version of the smart bottle opener. “The goal is to make the device even more durable, to optimize the assembly process and quality, and also to lower the production price,” lists Kristjan Tozen. In addition, the developers also have to take into account the human factor – since drink manufacturers sometimes pay bar employees a sales bonus for the bottles opened by the smart bottle opener, the device must make sure that the bottle is actually opened. That’s why additional sensors and detection algorithms have been added to the new version.



Marketing is moving toward direct communication

However, the Wecheer team is confident that the smart bottle opener and other technological solutions that monitor consumer behavior are the new directions of customer communication. “For Wecheer, the smart bottle opener led to the realization that brands need to free themselves from third-party distributors and find more creative ways to collect data and interact with consumers. That led Wecheer to expand beyond the bottle opener, we now have also solutions based on OCR and QR technologies,” said Aurèle de Bosset.

“The market is changing and brands cannot continue to sell as they have in the past. They need to look for better ways to engage directly with consumers, regardless of where they purchase. We believe this is a huge shift in the way of doing business, and we are just at the beginning.

In times of economic uncertainty, marketing expenditures have to be even more focused and effective. This means not only collecting more data but more importantly taking action on it. The smart bottle opener and other similar IoT products are a perfect combination of data and action,” says Aurèle de Bosset.

  • To date, almost 20 thousand smart bottle openers have been produced and more than 13 million bottles have been opened with them. This year, Wecheer plans to manufacture another 20 thousand smart openers.
  • Openers have been operating in Brazil, Vietnam, Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, and Italy for AbInBev and Coca-Cola.