The last sip of your gingerbread spice latte will never be lukewarm again.
The internet-connected Ember mug is designed to precisely control the temperature of the liquid inside. Inc. wrote about the futuristic mug and its inventor, Clay Alexander, back in April. Alexander wants to revolutionize the way people eat their food, letting them monitor their intake while keeping their food at a constant temperature.
The mug is the company's flagship product, and it launches Monday with a somewhat surprising distributor: Starbucks. Ember is one of the first third-party tech companies to sell products in the coffee company's stores. The mug will be available at 100 Starbucks throughout the U.S., as well as on the Ember's site.
Starbucks, Alexander says, has pretty strict testing standards in place: Before the company signed off, it ran the mugs through months of safety inspections as well as taste tests to make sure the mug didn't change the flavor of its coffee.
Creating a temperature-controlling mug is not as straightforward as it might sound. Alexander first filed the patent for the mug in 2010 and spent years refining the design and technology. It works by letting you set the desired temperature, and then uses a series of sensors and heating rings to warm the liquid or a waxy heat-absorbing substance in the walls to cool it. The temperature can be set between 120 and 150 degrees--Alexander says most people's preferences fall near the middle of that range--by rotating a dial on the bottom.
Ammunition Group, the designers behind Beats by Dre, helped create the minimalist aesthetic, which includes no buttons and completely hides the LED display when the temperature isn't being adjusted.
"No one wants to feel like they're drinking their coffee from a piece of technology," Alexander says. Ember hired engineers from Amazon and Nokia to build the hardware inside, which they had to continually shrink down so the mug wouldn't be any bulkier than a standard insulated mug.
For not looking like a piece of technology, the mug sure has a high-tech price: $150.
Ember has $8 million in funding from business moguls and celebrities including StubHub CEO Scott Cutler, Roc Nation CEO Jay Brown, the NFL's Ndamukong Suh, Demi Lovato, and two-thirds of the Brothers Jonas (Joe and Nick, if these kinds of things concern you).
Alexander says this is just the beginning. While the problem the coffee mug solves might not seem necessarily urgent, he says the technology can be applied in other, useful ways. Ember has also created a working prototype of a baby bottle that brings milk or formula to body temperature. The bottle itself contains no electronics--instead, it rests on a warming station that alerts the parent when it's ready and tracks the infant's intake to fractions of an ounce.
Alexander's several-year road map for the company includes plates that keep foods at desired temperatures. Sensors and temperature controllers within the plate can, for example, keep steak on one part of the plate warm while keeping potato salad on another portion cool. The entrepreneur plans to try to crack into the restaurant industry first and then market to the general consumer.
And further down the line: steins that keep your beer consistently cold. Alexander has already received patents for all these ideas, so it's probably just a matter of time before warm beer is a thing of the past too. Bottoms up.