AT&T: Beer keg, please phone home

May 19, 2009

Next time a bartender draws a long, cool German brew on tap at your favorite U.S. bar, you might be sipping beer that made a mobile phone call along the way.
At the Reuters Technology Summit in New York, AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega, who heads its wireless division, described a firm that has fitted its beer with mobile devices.

“We had a customer in Germany that wanted us — and we have found a way — to track their beer kegs as they were shipped,” said de la Vega. He said the wireless devices track how cold the keg is, whether it was properly pressurized and its location.

“It helps to run their business better,” he said of the beer company. AT&T uses the GSM system, which is the same one used in Europe, has roaming agreements with European carriers, and bills its client for the calls. De la Vega said that’s only the beginning.

“You’re going to have more and more devices connected to our network than you ever have before,” he said, including everything from cameras to recorders.

De la Vega showed off two small Netbook portable computers that have built-in wireless device. They will be sold at AT&T stores across the country by mid-summer, with AT&T picking up part of the cost for customers who take a long-term contract — the same way most mobile phones are sold in the United States.

As for the beer, de la Vega wouldn’t say what brand had contracted with his company. So when you drink a German beer on tap in the United States, you might wonder if it’s the one that phoned home.

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