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Crown Technologies secures major strategic, cross-border investment from Japan’s JR East

ELLA, Singapore’s first fully autonomous robotic coffee barista, will be deployed across stations of Japan’s largest passenger train line operator in time for Tokyo Olympics 2020

SINGAPORE, 11 January 2021 — Crown Technologies, the smart retail solutions providers and pioneers in melding cutting edge technologies into the business of traditional Italian coffee, today announced the inking of its first major deal – a strategic, cross-border investment from JR East Business Development SEA Pte. Ltd, a subsidiary of East Japan Railway Company, that brings the company to an initial valuation of S$33 million.

The investment will accelerate the rollout of ELLA—Crown Technologies’ AI-powered robotic barista designed for unmanned and contactless retail operations in high-volume environments—across East Japan Railway's network of 1,657 train stations that serve an average of 17 million passengers daily, with completion slated to meet the increased demands of the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

“This is as monumental as it gets for our first investment. Japan has long been known to embrace innovation and be at the forefront of using AI and robotics to solve social issues and achieve economic growth. By placing their bet on our technology that we’ve built in Singapore to serve the exact purpose, it not only puts us on the map, but is also the strongest testament to the vision that my team and I have worked tirelessly to build upon in the last two years” shares Keith Tan, CEO and founder of Crown Technologies.

Tan first met JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation), a Japanese non-profit governmental organisation that promotes trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world, when he was pitching in a Tech event in Tokyo. He was later invited by JETRO Singapore to present Crown Technologies’ robotic barista solution, and was subsequently introduced to JR East.

“JETRO has been working to create collaborations in Digital Transformation between Japanese large corporates and foreign tech companies. After hearing from Crown Technologies, we contacted a few Japanese corporates that might be interested in what they offer, where JR East responded positively. We are glad that the conversation was fruitful for both parties,” commented by Mr. Eiji Hisatomi, Managing Director of JETRO Singapore.

Powered by an ecosystem comprising patented proprietary IoT (Internet of Things)-connected software and external hardware that upgrades the coffee experience with speed, convenience, quality and consistency—each kiosk is capable of producing 200 cups of barista-quality coffee per hour, operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week—ELLA’s modular set-up allows its offerings to be localised for Japan market. Immersive and innovative digital touchpoints such as an interactive transparent OLED screen and mobile app ordering system with its own payment gateway and e-wallet allows JR East to tap into a myriad of engagement possibilities such as advertisements and notifications targeted directly to the end user.

On the backend, computer vision powered by artificial intelligence is monitoring the kiosk 24/7 for any abnormalities that may affect ELLA’s operations. Meanwhile, a fulfillment module, powered by its own mobile app, uses predictive analytics to forecast demand and digitise the supply chain management, allowing JR East to support the replenishment and servicing of the kiosk with only a lean fulfilment team with the power of big data.

“ELLA is transformational with the use of AI-powered collaborative robots. ELLA ensures safety in the post COVID landscape as she operates in a sealed chamber and is contactless. We are very honoured to be a part of ELLA's team and plan to conduct test marketing in Japan,” says Mr Toshio Omiyama, Managing Director of JR East Business Development SEA Pte Ltd. ELLA fits well within JR East’s Mid-to-Long-term Vision for Technological Innovation1 – a 20 year plan that harnesses the cutting edge of incredible advances in IoT, big data and AI to address Japan’s labour shortage due to decrease in working-age population.

Following this strategic round of financing, Crown Technologies will be launching its Series A round shortly, as well as the deployment 30 additional commercial units of ELLA across Singapore. It launched the first commercial unit in October 2020.

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Crown Technologies is a smart IoT (Internet of Things) start-up that pioneers a technology-driven concept that combines traditional Italian coffee with cutting edge innovation. Crown Technologies is the holding company of Crown Coffee and Crown Digital. Former wealth manager and coffee enthusiast Keith Tan first opened Crown Coffee cafe in 2016. Keith is the sole importer of Buscaglione Coffee, a high-quality espresso from a modern roastery in Rome, Italy. In 2018, Keith caught the technology bug and Crown Digital was formed to address the real problems of the traditional F&B industry and transform it through the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machines Learning, Robotics and Data Analytics. It was through Crown Digital’s expertise that ELLA, Singapore’s first Robotic Barista, was conceptualised and developed, propelling the brand into international recognition having been featured in USA’s largest retail show NRF2020 and Middle East’s largest technology event GITEX 2020.

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