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Italian coffee machine maker Lavazza, the Italian maker of iconic espresso machines, is branching out into the Internet - and it has a secret weapon. The humble coffee vending machine.

Customers will sign up for Lavazza Espresso Point, a "personalized services portal", using a touch-sensitive screen on the vending machine.

During their coffee breaks, customers can use the portal to manage shopping lists, obtain information on traffic conditions, or to monitor the weather.

Lavazza expects to sign content partnerships to "enrich the portal offer" and put out a prototype sometime in 2001.

Boring, but useful

Yes it's mad, it'll never work etc. etc. More prosaically, Lavazza has dreamed up a new feature for coffee machines which will surely have legs - remote management over the Internet.

The company recently demonstrated a new vending machine which connects to the Internet enabling the machine's distributors to management remotely in real time using a standard browser.

The machine is also designed to send regular emails to distributors about the consumption habits of the users, and to notify service centres when it is time to refill, restock, or maintain the vending machines.

Lavazza is to install 10,000 Internet-enabled coffee machines this year on a trial basis.

Lavazza embedded the Internet using a single-chip modem from Analog Devices which runs an IP stack from French/US startup, eDevice.

"Coffee vending machines are not our primary market," says eDevice CEO and co-founder Marc Berrebi. "Industrial controls, or automatic teller machines, or point of sales systems are typical applications." ®

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