The Man Behind Singapore's First Robot Barista

Photography by Chino Sardea
31 Mar 2022

Keith Tan is the CEO of Crown Digital

Crown Digital began as a Singapore-based team of baristas and coffee lovers who pivoted from traditional café operations into a technology company committed to the science and pursuit of fast, efficient, and consistently perfect gourmet coffee. Our first creation, ELLA the robot barista, proved that technology could reinvent user experience in a truly unprecedented way.

Today, we are a full-stack startup –  working with our own hardware, software, and people. Our team has deep experience and insights into robotic solutions, artificial intelligence, the power of IoT, and optimal consumer experiences across digital touchpoints. Our team also has a unique eye for identifying unmet market white spaces where technology can bring new value.

Crown Digital’s vision is to reinvent lifestyle experiences and add value to our communities through the power of artificial intelligence and robotics to become the leading inventor, operator, and distributor of future-ready solutions. The Crown Digital journey began our goal of delivering a gourmet experience to the world’s growing community of grab-and-go commuters. Our creation, ELLA, the world’s first successful robot barista, humanized technology and demonstrated the potential of robotics and AI to reinvent the commuter lifestyle experience and re-energize urban retail.

We actually took ELLA international in December 2021. She is now serving quick and efficient cups of coffee to the time-pressed commuters at Tokyo and Yokohama Stations as a part of the test marketing collaboration launched with East Japan Railway Company (JR East). We are also launching ELLA at 30 MRT’s across Singapore by the end of 2022.

Our first semi-automated F&B concept called Bytes Station opened in March 2022 at Raffles Place MRT and caters to health-conscious commuters seeking convenient yet nutritious grab-and-go food options. This new model demonstrates how smart retail solutions can be embedded purposefully into traditional F&B functions.

The response for ELLA has been phenomenal. Customers have appreciated the efficiency of ordering in advance and always comment on the consistent, high-quality taste of every cup. We expect more robots to enter a range of different sectors over the next couple of years, so why stop at coffee? We feel there is opportunity for Crown Digital to diversify into other sectors while benefitting the wider community. The future of AI-driven solutions is vast and exciting, and we are just getting started.”