Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dean Kamen Helped Develop Coca-Cola's New Dispenser

We had an earlier story about the new Coca-Cola fountain dispenser called Freestyle (left). There is an interesting connection to inventor Dean Kamen (right), the developer of the Segway.

Kamen's company, DEKA, (DEan KAmen) had already developed a wearable system for injecting insulin for diabetics. Coca-Cola talked to him about using that technology, which carefully measures and mixes liquids, to help them develop a new way to mix Coca-Cola fountain drinks. The result is Coca-Cola's Freestyle fountain dispenser.

The Freestyle won't be showing up in every fast-food restaurant immediately, but the new fountain is seen as the biggest single innovation in Coca-Cola's history. Tests have already shown that, in addition to providing fresher-tasting drinks, the Freestyle system boosts sales, provides a greater number of choices, and, since the machines communicate electronically, can provide instant data on sales of each product.

Kamen was paid a fee by Coca-Cola but, since he is already a billionaire, what was most important to him is leveraging Coca-Cola's global beverage distribution system for his dream of figuring out how to get clean water to every child in the world.

For years, Kamen's company, DEKA, has been developing an innovative water-purification machine. To get the machines into production, however, to scale it up, and bring down the cost curve, Kamen needs a big company like Coca-Cola. Kamen's scheme aligns with Coca-Cola's business because they depend on clean water—the single biggest ingredient in the company's products.

What if, while meeting Coca-Cola's desire to distribute it's products around the world, Dean Kamen's dream of providing life-saving clean water to kids around the world could be met at the same time?

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