Sommely wireless ‘smartcaps’ help wine collectors hone in on the perfect wine for any occasion

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Sommely's wireless Bluetooth system aided with LED color-coding lights allows users to track their wine inventory in a visual and social way.
Sommely's wireless Bluetooth system aided with LED color-coding lights allows users to track their wine inventory in a visual and social way.

Related tags Wine

Sommely is designed to help wine enthusiasts optimize their collections through a wine tracking system of Bluetooth connected “smartcaps” that monitor wine inventory while storing data inputted by the user through the product’s mobile app. 

Developed by Portland-based Uncorked Studios in partnership with Intel, Sommely has been the company’s “Trojan horse”​ as it moved beyond developing software and into hardware technology, founder and CEO of Uncorked Studios Marcelino Alvarez told BeverageDaily.

The goal of Sommely is to help remind users of the memories associated with the wine they own and to “encourage more journeys around wine drinking,” Alvarez said.

“I think right now we either treat wine as too precious or we don’t know what we’re drinking,”​ Alvarez told BeverageDaily.

“What we can do with this tool is help people understand what they have to tell really good stories about it and help capture those moments.”

According to Alvarez, the audience for Sommely faces two unique problems: One is they have wine that they enjoy drinking, but struggle with accurately tracking what they have in their wine collection and the ideal time to drink it. The second problem is that as wine collectors accumulate more and more bottles of wine it becomes increasingly difficult to remember the background of each wine.

Organizing and tracking wine inventory can be a juggling act for most collectors, everyday wines can get easily mixed up with special occasion wines when a bottle gets put back in the wrong spot.  Sommely is able to help a wine collector visualize their assets with LEDs in each smartcap that light up to show which bottles meet the criteria selected through the app.

“Other systems kind of suffered from this reconciliation problem. It’s very easy for your entire collection to fall out of order because someone adds something that isn’t properly documented and you would basically have to re-inventory everything,”​ Alvarez said.

How does it work?

Sommely’s cap shaped design can be fitted to any bottle of wine and features an LED board that lights up depending on what the user inputs into the Sommely app. For example, a user can search for a specific bottle of wine by type, vineyard, or food pairing. 

Sommely Lifestyle_small

“You start with all the lights on the caps and as you filter down you end up with just maybe one or two or three bottles lit up​,” Uncorked Studios senior developer and lead engineer for Sommely Lee Lerner told BeverageDaily.

The app communicates with wine data stored in the “cloud” ​and then makes recommendations based on a user’s previous consumption history and other relevant data.

With Sommely, “there’s no spreadsheets to manage, no stickies, or hang-tags to worry about, it updates itself automatically.”

Enhancing the social nature of wine

Sommely is able to store related data such as the wine’s origin, where it was purchased and for what occasion, the first time the user drank it, what food was paired with the wine, and whom they were with when it was consumed.

“People really care about the stories around wines and are less driven by the number,”​ he said.

“[US wine critic] Robert Parker matters way less to younger wine drinkers who are willing to spend more for something that has a unique story.”

Alvarez said that the next steps for the company are establishing a partnership on the wine data side to incorporate more relevant information and honing in on a lower-powered radio technology to bring it to the mass market.

While an exact launch date has not been decided, Sommely is expected to be available to consumers at some point in 2017. 

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