BitBarista is an experiment using a Bitcoin-powered, semi-autonomous coffee machine to understand Internet of Things (IoT) devices and consumer behaviour. This is part of the 'Smart Transactions in Public Places' project led by Professor Chris Speed and Ella Tallyn of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Design Informatics and comes under the umbrella of PETRAS, a three-year UK government funded IoT hub announced in 2016. PETRAS is a consortium of nine leading universities working together to explore critical IoT issues in privacy, ethics, reliability, trust, acceptability and security.

What issue is it addressing? 
The rise of IoT brings many potential economic and societal opportunities, but there are naturally many consumer concerns, especially over privacy and trust with worries over issues such as 'data harvesting'. There are also many legitimate consumer questions, such as 'What does it mean to do business with a machine connected to the internet?', 'Can a machine really work for itself?' and 'What decisions might it make in the future?'.

How can BitBarista help? 
The team have created a prototype IoT device, a Bitcoin-powered coffee machine, to investigate how comfortable people are interacting with an IoT system that uses data as part of a value transaction. Such consumer issues need to be explored and addressed in order to remove barriers to IoT adoption and development and to enhance consumer interaction. Described by the BBC as 'A coffee machine with a life of its own, dispensing coffee to punters with an ethical preference', the BitBarista serves coffee in exchange for a Bitcoin contribution towards its future coffee supply and connects consumers to choices about ethical coffee. 

It is attached to a low-cost, credit-card-sized computer (Raspberry Pi) which controls the machine and connects it to the internet to enable it to collect, exchange and use data and have a Bitcoin account. The machine mines the internet for information about coffee growers and provides consumers with choices so they can vote for the choice of coffee supply in the future. BitBarista can also serve coffee in exchange for maintenance tasks, such as filling with water or cleaning away coffee grinds, so it becomes semi-autonomous, trading with customers to take care of its own maintenance.

Take a look at Design Informatics' video to find out more and see the BitBarista in action.

Who is it going to help? 
The project will help research teams explore how people will respond and react to new technologies in development, which will then feed into better technology development and customer adoption.

What are its potential applications? 
BitBarista offers a new model of business, where it connects the consumer more directly with coffee growers in the supply chain and the circumstances of the produce they are paying for, enabling them to have influence and make choices.

It gives us insights into the future development of autonomous machines with their own Bitcoin which people could trade with, for example renting a driverless car. 

Projects such as BitBarista also help us get a better sense of how people will react to new technologies before they arrive so we can think about design and what people really want. 

Early BitBarista results suggest that people are positive about sharing transactional data with relevant parties, provided they feel it is for a good cause and where they might benefit from this with a personalised service.

Find out more about the BitBarista experiment.