Portland developers create 'smart' wine caps

Caps connect with app

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new kind of tracking device for wine is being developed in Portland.

Portland product innovation company Uncorked Studios has developed an app called Sommely that makes your wine collection smarter.

Imagine going to your tablet and telling it you're having spaghetti for dinner, and you'd like to pick out a medium-priced bottle of Italian red wine from your collection. Sommely's "smart" wine bottle caps will start blinking to show you which ones fit that criteria.

"Sommely allows you the ability to put that story on a cap," said lead developer Marcelino Alvarez.

Sommely's early prototypes were done on a 3D printer. Inside the cap is an Intel processing chip, bluetooth and an LED light. One battery charge will last years.

"You put the cap on top, press the button, the app says 'Hey is this a new wine you purchased?' Scan the label, and it imports the information and you can add notes, like 'this is for a special occasion' or how much you paid for it, explained tech developer Lee Learner of Uncorked Studios.

When you touch the bottle on the Sommely app, the corresponding smart cap lights up on the shelf so you can find it.

"The beauty of Sommely is it does stay updated with time," Alvarez said. "So if something goes up in value and you have 12 of them and it's starting to peak, it'll notify you of 'Hey you should start drinking this.'"

Of course, this isn't for the casual wine buyer. Sommely's team says their customer is the wine nerd, not quite a collector.

"While we want the geeks to get into the tech and enjoy that aspect of it, we want it to be something our parents can use and can plug and go," Alvarez said.

Even restaurants want in, when it goes to market in about 18 months. Jeff Brown is general manager of food and beverage at downtown Portland's Urban Farmer and Departure, and also an advisor on Sommely. "I feel it's my job as a restauranteur to show you where food comes from and then I'm doing my part," Brown said.

There are still some logistics to work out, but Sommely was already a hit at Intel's Developer Forum last month in San Francisco. It will come in a kit with a certain amount of smart caps, and a monthly subscription to the wine database and app.


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