Ultrasound tech plus Gett taxis turn TVs into Coke vending machines

2 Israeli firms, working with Coca-Cola, may have cracked the code on how to implement same-day delivery – without drones

A Gett Coca Cola app user orders a soft drink from his smartphone, via Dov-e ultrasound technology (Courtesy)
A Gett Coca Cola app user orders a soft drink from his smartphone, via Dov-e ultrasound technology (Courtesy)

What do TVs, smartphones, taxis, and Coca-Cola have to do with each other? They were all part of a grand experiment in which a television ad communicated with smartphones, giving consumers the opportunity to order their favorite soft drink and have it delivered to their homes by the Israeli-born on-call taxi service Gett – using ultrasound technology designed by Israeli start-up Dov-e.

And what worked for Coke, said the companies involved in the experiment, could work for other products as well – making same-day delivery of items ordered over the Internet a reality.

During a special broadcast last Wednesday on Israel’s Channel 2, viewers who had downloaded an app created for the occasion were treated to a first time ever tech event – the “arousal” of their smartphones in response to an ultrasound signal that was embedded in a Coke jingle, which opened the app and gave them the option of ordering a six-pack of the soft drink. The order was forwarded by the app to Gett, the on-demand taxi service, which dispatched a driver to pick up the Coke from a local distribution point and bring it to the recipient – all within an hour of the order.

Key to the magic is the technology developed by Dov-e, an Israeli start-up that is using ultrasonic sounds to enable payments at cash registers, gas pumps, food and drink vending machines, etc.

Ultrasonic sounds – which are out of the range of human ears but can be picked up by other creatures, like dogs and bats – are ideal for communicating with Internet of Things devices, according to Dov-e CEO Yehuda Yehudai. Speaking at the Axis Innovation start-up event in Tel Aviv last week, Yehudai said that ultrasound was superior to either Bluetooth or NFC (near field connection) communications, which Apple, Google, and others were relying on to promote their mobile device payment platforms.

“Our protocol enables full-duplex (both ways) communication, which means that the mobile phone can send and receive information at the same time, and it is more secure, as it does not transmit any sensitive information, and does not save any sensitive information on the mobile phone itself. Instead, what we transmit are one-time evaporating tokens, that only work at the time that they are played,” said Yehudai.

In addition, Yehudai said, Dov-e’s technology does not require major hardware upgrades, either on the vending machines and other equipment in which the company hopes to implement its technology.

“For devices without an embedded computer (such as old vending machines) we can provide reference hardware designed to run our point of sale software development kit, and as far as devices are concerned, the microphones and speakers needed for supporting Dov-e are the ones you already have, in the store, TV, car radio etc.”

Dov-e has implemented its technology in numerous beta sites, such as at several tech conferences in Israel, and in coffee machines in Finland, he added.

No less innovative is the cooperation between the three companies involved, said the director of digital advertising for Coca Cola Israel, Nitzan Almog-Evron.

“This project was an excellent opportunity for us to show off our innovation and increase excitement about our brand, by providing a groundbreaking personal experience for consumers. Within minutes of the ad being broadcast we reached thousands of customers, bringing them their orders via Gett. It should be noted that this was the first time that an ad on a TV screen connected with a smartphone in real time, using a new technology from Dov-e that we expect to see used more widely in the future. Coca Cola Israel was proud to be a part of this.”

The project has important implications for the future of same-day delivery – a trend that all online sites are anxiously embracing in order to better compete with brick and mortar stores. While the idea of drones delivering packages to homes after an order has been placed has been receiving a lot of media attention, it’s probably going to be many years before such projects are widely implemented, if ever, say industry experts, since many governments are opposed to the idea of free-flying drones dotting the skies over cities and dropping packages on doorsteps.

But taxis, car services, and delivery trucks are all right there, right now – and Dov-e’s ultrasound technology is also ready and available to be implemented in TV commercials, websites, and even billboards and other digital advertising media, signaling apps and offering consumers an easy way to buy and get delivery without having to wait.

“Gett was an essential part of a new technology that connects between TV ads and on-demand delivery, with the delivery made within minutes of an order being submitted,” in a model that could be widely implemented, said Keren Fanan, sales director of the Israeli branch of the firm. “We are always happy to take part in groundbreaking projects and expose our customers to new services. We thank everyone who participated in this project, and we promise to continue to seek ways to bring products and services to consumers’ doorsteps.”

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