A system of ‘connected’ wine cases developed by startup eProvenance is helping wine producers to monitor the conditions under which their merchandise is being shipped. The basic idea is to ensure a constant temperature in order to guarantee the quality of the wine on arrival.
By Lucie Frontière May 13, 2014
Franco-US company eProvenance, founded by Eric Vogt in 2007, is addressing a market niche which to date has been underexploited. Recently the firm unveiled its second generation range of sensors, which are designed to be inserted into wine cases so as to measure variations in temperature and humidity which the bottles undergo during shipping and storage. This system meets the wine producer’s need toensure the consistent quality of the wine they export to customers overseas. The sensors placed inside the wine cases record temperature and hygrometry data every four hours. A market survey eProvenance carried out at the start of the project indicated that customers are quite prepared to see a few dozen euros added to their bill if that helps to guarantee the quality of the merchandise they are receiving. As the sensors can keep feeding back data for fifteen years, buyers will also be able to track their own wine storage conditions. This helps to vouch for the quality and can mean as much as a 30% increase in value should the wine be resold.
The ‘smart’ case technology has been part-financed by French innovation agency OSEO and wine producers seem prepared to invest in the system as well. Domaine Ponsot – which specialises in Burgundy ‘Grands Crus’ – is the first winery in France to make use of this approach. Wine grower Laurent Ponsot decided to invest in the sensors following a dispute over the provenance and quality of wines shipped to the United States, purportedly from his ‘Domaine’. For the last few months, he has therefore been equipping cases of wine with the eProvenance sensors. From the moment an order is received, his customers can access data on temperature and humidity during shipping, without ever having to open a case. All they have to do is use an Android phone with an integrated RFID chip and download the ‘Ponsot i-Case’ app from Google Play. "Today we are able to monitor the ‘cold chain’ all the way,” Laurent Ponsot assures us.
When a customer makes use of this mobile app it also provides the wine producer with information on the customer’s profile, ultimately enabling better targeting of the wines on offer. The system also makes it easier to demonstrate that the shipper’s transit specifications are being adhered to, as the wine is given an eProvenance score on arrival, taking into account how long the bottles have been exposed to different temperatures. Meanwhile the information fed back remotely from the in-case sensors helps to warn of any potential disappointment arising from problems with the transport conditions and so provides a basis for settling any customer dissatisfaction issues. “Apart from the fact that the parties responsible can be precisely identified if there is a dispute, the whole issue of product traceability is very much a growing trend nowadays,” points out Grégory Choquel, head of development at eProvenance. The companyhas taken out patents on this system of using sensors during the wine shipping and storage process. However, Eric Vogt was able to draw inspiration from earlier precedents: electronic monitoring of fragile merchandise such as vaccines and also certain types of artworks is already an established practice.