The company hopes to make soda safer amid the pandemic.

By Tim Nelson
July 14, 2020
Advertisement

In an era full of widespread delivery, app-based ordering, and drive-thrus, setting foot in a fast food establishment isn’t really an essential part of the experience anymore. 

If there was one compelling feature, however, it has to be those touchscreen Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Never in human history has a piece of technology granted so much freedom, joy, and sugar with just a few taps. 

As you might imagine, any kind of public-use touchscreen isn’t exactly a great idea right now. So what’s a fan of mixing Cherry Coke with Vanilla Mr Pibb to do? Scan a QR code.

According to Business Insider, Coca-Cola recently announced the introduction of an update that would use customer smartphones to turn the popular Freestyle soda fountains into a totally touchless experience. Soon, anyone with a smartphone will be able to open their camera, point it at an on-screen QR code, follow the link that automatically appears, and control as usual by touching their own phone. There’s no standalone app to download and no account of any kind to create, because that would just be ridiculous. 

Tim Robberts/Getty Images, Roberto Machado Noa/Contributor/Getty Images

Chris Hellmann, the global VP of Coca-Cola’s Freestyle Division (what a job) says that the touchless tech will start rolling out to 50 of America’s 52,000 Coca-Cola freestyle machines this week, with a further 10,000 expected to feature updated functionality by the end of 2020. 

If you’re wondering why Coca-Cola isn’t ramming through this update ASAP, it’s because they’re admittedly unsure of the demand for it at a time like this. 

“I’m not sure how much we’re going to see consumers use it,” Hellmann told BI. “This could be very common, and consumers might be very comfortable and want to use it all the time, or it could be a small part of our business.” 

The burning question is: Can you still mix in as many sodas as you want, or is this smartphone option unable to recreate that level of high fructose precision? Whether or not it can will go a long way towards determining whether this pandemic-induced change is ultimately worthwhile.