Do you ever find yourself raging up in the club, fist-pumping the night away with attractive people, but worried your Dom P or Cristal bottle service doesn’t look expensive enough? Well, Kanye West, don’t worry. UK cider giant Strongbow is currently prototyping the StartCap – a bottle top with the kind of smart RFID chip you’d find in a passport or credit card that can trigger remote actions once opened.
RFID technology can use an antenna to trigger just about anything you connect it to and has found uses in road-detecting car tires and casino poker chips. Strongbow lays out some fun use cases in its promo video but logic dictates that if this technology reaches the mass market, the functions tied to the smart caps would likely be controlled by the company – or at least the watering holes selling the stuff. I’m sure the more hacking-inclined out there would commandeer the technology for their own custom use, but for the rest of us this innovation doesn’t seem very useful for the consumer beyond alerting the authorities that they need to sell you more alcohol.
None of the advertised use cases for the StartCap make sense. Picture it: you open your Strongbow Gold and it activates music, turns on lights, fires a confetti cannon, or checks you in on Foursquare. What about the next person who cracks open a bottle? Does it skip to the next song? Turn off the lights? Make them strobe on and off? Fire the confetti cannon again? And how is it going to know who you are to check you in online? You start asking some questions and all of a sudden Strongbow seems mighty suspect.
Interestingly, the most recent comments on the Strongbow video decry the idea as a ripoff and redirect to a Dutch advertising student’s concept video from May 2011 that seems to understand that advertising and actual usefulness do not have to be mutually exclusive in these types of marketing gimmicks. The video, seemingly done on spec for native Heineken, illustrates a smart bottle opener that triggers the creation of a Facebook event page for the awesome spontaneous Heineken party you just started automagically. Not that RFIDs are prohibitively expensive or this application is significantly more useful, but having the chip in one durable device rather than distributed to every bottle cap that’s going to end up falling to the floor and being trampled on by the end of the night seems much more practical.
“Start anything you want,” the Strongbow video promises. Well, start anything you want; as long as that thing is something the company pushing silly RFID bottle caps also wants.