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This 'Smart' Whisky Bottle Must Be Stopped

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

The brands are everywhere. (Via ThinFilm)

First came the Bluetooth-connected flowerpot, and I did not speak out. Then came the “smart” jump rope, and still I said nothing. Now, a whisky bottle that can text you cocktail recipes has arrived, and it’s time for me to protest: No. For the love of God. Stop.

The bottle, as VentureBeat reports, contains a sensor that can detect when your phone is nearby and send cocktail suggestions, advertisements, coupons, and reminders to stock up on more whisky, all straight from the bottle. It is made by a company named Thinfilm Electronics, which has partnered with the maker of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky to bring this technology to the masses.

(Via Thinfilm)

It works like this: A thin sensor tag is slapped on the side of each bottle. That tag contains patent-pending OpenSense technology that allows it to “communicate” with smartphones nearby using NFC (a way to connect with phones that are close by). The tag has the ability to sense whether the seal has been opened or closed and adjust the messages it sends to your smartphone accordingly. Potential messages, according to Thinfilm, could include whisky-based cocktail recipes (though, as any whisky connoisseur will tell you, with a bottle like Johnnie Walker Blue Label, you’re better off just drinking it with Ice).

This is where it’s clear that this smart bottle isn’t necessarily made for the  buyer’s benefit. The smart bottle is being marketed as a way you’ll be able to tell if a whisky has really been aged as long as the maker says it was. But, it doesn’t actually know how to read the chemical composition of the alcohol (and besides, that aging was done in barrels, not bottles, at the company’s distillery). It simply knows if the seal has been broken or not, something you can probably verify using your analog eyeballs.

The real reason these sensors exist? So the Johnnie Walker brand can follow you, from your thirsty potential customer stage all the way until you’ve brought home your purchase and opened it to have a drink. Per Thinfilm’s own press release on the technology: “Sealed products could trigger multimedia content to encourage a consumer purchase, while opened products could deliver messaging with usage tips, recommendations of complementary products, and a frictionless reorder option.”

In other words, these smart bottles will be used to get you to buy more things. It seems brands have become so insatiable that their unwelcome, embarrassing presence in your social media feeds isn’t enough. They must be where you are at all times, whether that’s by way of cell-signal tracking drones above you or a whisky container that can send a “fun” push alert to buy a replacement while you’re still drunk on the first batch. If an actual human followed us around this closely in real life, it’d be grounds for a restraining order.

But in the wild, wacky world of the Internet of Useless Things, it’s just business as usual.

(Via Thinfilm)

These smart bottles will go into production later this year, to be featured on Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label scotch. Prototypes will be on display at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, later this week. My Yahoo Tech colleagues will be there, covering the event. (Editor’s note: We’ll be drunk.) I’ll be at home, hashtag-protesting this insult to Scotch whisky. #NotMyWhisky.

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