Building a Facial Recognition-Powered Beer Kiosk System

We worked with Hop to build the world’s first self-serve beer kiosk to be powered by facial recognition technology.

iot beer distribution

"Very’s data scientists came up with suggestions that were in the back of my head but I thought, ‘that’s probably not possible.’ And they made it happen."

Anthony Connelly, founder of Hop

The Background

Conceived by Las Vegas-based Adult Beverage Co. (ABC), Hop is the world’s first beer kiosk to use automated facial recognition to verify identification, allowing users to purchase beer by the ounce and pour it themselves. ABC’s founder Anthony Connelly engaged us to build the proprietary software and hardware that powers Hop, which made its debut on the Vegas Strip.

The Concept

Hop asks first-time users to enter basic personal information, scan an image of their legal ID, take a few facial recognition reference photos, and swipe their credit card. When pouring a beer, a photo is taken at the tap and compared to the user’s reference images, giving a match rating out of 100%.

 

A bartender onsite reviews the rating and approves or denies service. On future visits, customers will be automatically recognized — which means all they have to do is approach the kiosk, choose a tap, and pour their beer.

 

Anthony’s vision was simple: he wanted to share his passion for beer by delivering a unique, convenient experience to fellow beer lovers. But the product he envisioned required complex hardware-software interactions, which can be surprisingly difficult to execute.

 

And that’s exactly why Anthony engaged us to help. While they had a working product that was up and running, it was difficult to use and incredibly buggy. What’s more: critical portions of their software and hardware were purchased from an inflexible third party vendor, which meant that it couldn’t be customized to meet the needs of the product or the business as a whole.

 

 

The Process

At Very, we’ve developed a unique approach to building connected devices: by applying web tools and technology to the hardware world (through Elixir and Nerves), we can iterate quickly and bring other innovations, like machine learning, to IoT hardware.

 

Knowing we’d take this approach with Hop, we began the project with a technical audit of their existing hardware and software to understand what was working and what needed improvement.

 

While the system’s hardware was functioning, we identified a range of improvements that would enhance product performance. For example: the previous system’s compute module controlled only two taps. The module we built can control up to eight taps — so with a single unit, we can control four times the number of taps.

 

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On the software side, we quickly built and integrated facial recognition technology, which was absent in the original system, by using AWS Rekognition.

 

So our team focused on developing proprietary technology that is now fully owned by the client. Unlike the previous software, the new software can be configured and operated remotely — an incredibly important feature, as the client’s business model includes plans to white label the system and distribute it to restaurants and other customers.

 

We also rebuilt the existing software so that it would better serve Anthony’s business objectives. The most critical software component in the system — which tracks how much beer is poured — had been purchased from another company. Because they didn’t own the technology, the client found themselves in an undesirable situation: not only was the success and scalability of their product dependent on a third party; they didn’t even have the power to properly customize the technology to suit their needs.

 

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The Results

We worked closely with Anthony and his team throughout the process, making every hardware and software decision with his short-term and long-term business objectives in mind. As a result, the new Hop system performs exactly the way Anthony envisioned, and — when ABC is ready — it has the potential to scale seamlessly. (Which is key, because Hop has many applications that extend far beyond the Strip.)

Hop makes the beer-buying process fast and seamless for thirsty tourists. For vendors, it eliminates waste (as it charges by the ounce poured, not the glass) and allows for easy inventory analysis. The Vegas Strip was a natural location for a pilot due to its open-container policy and the high volume of foot traffic, but Hop has countless potential applications — like event venues, stadiums and restaurants — which ABC plans to leverage in the near future.

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increase in daily revenue with the new system

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