New app connects you to your drink using lights from your phone

Cambridge tech firm creates an app that lets you order drinks from your table and directs you to your beverage using a stream of lights

  • The BEAM app lets you order and pay for a round of drinks while sat at your table 
  • Once at the bar, the app uses NFC and machine vision to emit light bubbles
  • These beams of light link your phone with your drink to prevent order mix-ups 
  • The app is being developed for commercial launch by Cambridge Consultants 

Picking up someone else’s drink at the bar could soon become a thing of the past thanks to an immersive new app that identifies drinks with beams of light.

The BEAM app, which is currently in development by Cambridge Consultants, lets customers order and pay for drinks on their phone while still sitting at their table.

Using near-field communications tabs on the surface of the bar, the app also streams light bubbles that link drinks to customers’ phones.

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The BEAM app uses near-field communications and machine vision to link customers’ phones with their drinks, helping bartenders to give the right orders to the right people

The innovation is the brainchild of Cambridge Consultants, which offers tech-based product and development services.

The firm says that the customer experience should be ‘elevated, not just automated’.

Rosie Parrish, User Experience Designer at Cambridge Consultants, said: ‘To stand out from the crowd, brands in many different sectors are striving to provide more than just a product or service.’

‘They want to create a memorable and meaningful experience for the customer.’

‘Blending everyday technologies in the right way is a great way to create these elevated brand engagements.’

The experience begins when the customer orders drinks from their table via the app, after which they will receive an alert telling them a bartender is ready to make their drink.

Once at the bar, the customer places their phone on its surface, at which point a line of light bubbles appear to emit from the end of the device.

The light bubbles form circles corresponding to how many drinks the customer ordered. 

The BEAM app ejects a stream of light bubbles onto the surface of the bar, which form rings that encircle the customer’s glass

For example, customers who order a glass of Merlot and a Pinot Grigio will see two circles form on the top of the bar labelled as such.

The bartender then places the glasses in the appropriate circles and pours the drinks, after which the machine vision system changes the status of the order and presents the name of the drink to the customer.

BEAM means drinks are never left unattended at the bar because they are linked to the phone as they are being prepared. 

The BEAM app visually connects the phone to the drinks as they are prepared to help prevent any mix-ups at the bar

The app’s machine vision capability can also detect and track other items on the bar such as bar mats by creating virtual avatars.

This enables customers to play with the lights while they are waiting for their drink.  

The app aims to make the drawn-out experience of ordering a drink more exciting while improving the operational efficiency of bars by eliminating time taken by bartenders to process payments.

The app is able to identify real-life objects such as bar mats using machine vision and near-field communications

The BEAM app is said to have applications beyond the bar, from fast food outlets to clothing brands.

It is being demonstrated at Innovation Day 2019, which is taking place in Cambridge this week, although an official launch date for the app’s commercial use is yet to be announced. 

The innovation showcase is demonstrating a range of tech solutions including virtual reality cricket, a home assistant that knows when it’s looked at and an AI system that betters human vision by eliminating obstructions such as rain and smoke.


Near Field Communications (NFC) microchips are designed to transmit information wirelessly over short distances – usually less than four inches (ten cm).

They are similar to the radio frequency identification (RFID) products retailers use to track inventory and shipments.

It can be used for a number of functions, including sending pictures and videos between devices, and authenticating door locks.

It is also considered much more secure than Bluetooth, another wireless data standard.

It is included in most modern smartphones.


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