While I'm not technophobic, I confess to being a bit technoskeptic. I'm suspicious of the Internet of Things, for instance, because I'm 100% certain that most of those "Things" will be badly programed, easily hacked, and error prone.

Every once in a while, though, high tech engineers come up with a product idea so brilliant that I'm absolutely certain every office worker in the planet will want their company to buy at least a dozen. 

IBM's recently-filed patent entitled "Drone Delivery of Coffee Based on a Cognitive State of an Individual" aka the DDCBCSI (catchy name, eh?) falls into this category. Because the idea is so astounding, I can't resist quoting from the actual patent filing:

"A caffeine containing drink is delivered to individuals that would like the drink or who have a predetermined cognitive state, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/drone. The drink is connected to the UAV, and the AV flies to an area including people, and uses sensors to scan the people for an individual who has gestured that they would like the drink, or for whom an electronic analysis of sensor data indicates to be in a predetermined cognitive state. The UAV then flies to the individual to deliver the drink."

The patent filing contains the following illustration to help readers visualize how the invention will work:

Since these drawings above are a trifle rudimentary, I've added speech balloons below make the scenarios more clear. (Note: according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, patent drawings are not subject to copyright.)

Scenario 1: Summoning the drone with a gesture.

A worker observes the coffee drone flying overhead. He motions it over. It flies to him, locates his coffee mug using AI, fills it up (or tops it off). The drone then flies away.

Comments: Is the person on the right sad because he doesn't drink coffee? If not, what is he staring at? Is he perhaps wondering why his coworker isn't wearing any pants? Or, for that matter, doesn't possess any legs? Who knows? The patent application can't answer everything!

Scenario 2: Coffee delivery based upon your physiology.

The drone monitors everyone's physical condition using a combination of visual cues and readings from their wearable devices. When those cues and readings indicate a pre-defined emotional state, the coffee drone flies over, fills your mug(s), and then flies off.

Comment: While the coffee drone is obviously intended for work environments, the illustration seems to suggest a non-work-oriented relationship between the two individuals. Is this appropriate for the workplace? If not, will the drone perceive a violation of corporate policy and perhaps change the payload to cold water to dump on their heads? Perhaps in version 2.0?

Scenario 3: Drink delivery based upon social interaction.

The drone senses when a group of people need the bonding ritual of drinking coffee together and delivers a pot of coffee to the group:

Comment: since this is a fairly complex application behavior, I turn to the patent for a more detailed description:

"Coffee consumption can be a social practice that assists various social roles, such as easing introductions or casual conversations (ice-breaking), and for providing a change in pace (a coffee break) for an interacting group. [The device will] assess the state of the group and its interaction, including and or all of: (i) an amount of time since the group interaction began; (ii) a nature of the interaction, which can be any of a casual conversation, intense discussion, low-energy interact, or anger or another dysfunctional interaction."

Call me naive, but I suspect that the sudden appearance of a flying coffee drone is almost guarantee to change the emotional state of a workgroup.

Future Scenarios

As brilliant as this invention might be, further applications of this technology will inevitably be yet more brilliant.

For example, the drone could deliver alcoholic beverages at bar or night club, thereby avoiding the annoying crush at the bar. Or even to people caught in rush hour traffic. No need to stop for a quick one! 

Similarly, a home-based drone could deliver food and beverages to people watching television, thereby making those tiresome and exhausting trips to the fridge entirely unnecessary!

Anyway, unless anyone files an objection, I am hereby naming the IBM coffee drone as the best invention of 2018. And to celebrate that award, I will now have another cup of coffee which, unfortunately, I'll need to fetch for myself in the usual manner.

As far as I'm concerned, the future can't come fast enough!

Published on: Oct 24, 2018
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