Beer servers can find out in real time how many pints of their customers' favourite brews are left with the help of an app on their smartphones or tablets.
Steve Hershberger, CEO of SteadyServ Technologies, says he wants to eliminate the guesswork of how much beer is left in kegs to help bars and restaurants keep track of their inventory with his iKeg system, which has a sensor and an app.
"How much beer is left in a keg due to guessing and shaking?" asks Hershberger, who's based in Carmel, Ind., and is courting beer distributors, breweries, bars and restaurants.
"You can't see inside the keg. It's this heavy and unwieldy thing."
Hershberger estimates there are about 20 pints of beer left unsold in each keg, wasting thousands of litres of beer.
He incorporated social media into the app because "beer is a supportive actor to virtually any social engagement." Bar owners can post their current beer selections to Facebook and Twitter so customers know what's available.
"If you go to a bar and your favourite beer isn't there, you won't leave but you will drink one-third less," he says.
Hershberger's iKeg system uses a sensor that goes under a beer keg to keep track of how many pints are left through changes in pressure. The information is sent wirelessly to the app.
Hershberger's inspiration for the iKeg came from his background in the software industry and as a former co-owner of a craft brewery.
He wanted to know if his brewery's primary beer was being offered on tap when he was out for an evening and more often than not he was told: "We're sorry, we've run out."
"At first, I thought that problem was unique to us. It was not. It's unique to a lot of breweries."
Roger Mittag, founder of the beer education company Thirst for Knowledge, said there's already a system in use in Canada that basically shuts down draft lines once there's no more beer left in a keg, eliminating guesswork or shaking kegs. But he likes the app that's part of Hershberger's iKeg system.
"If the app actually tells you that this is how many usable pints you can get out of this keg, what it then helps the bar to do is hold the bartenders responsible for making sure there is no waste," Mittag said from Toronto.
"It can then show a bar owner where the waste is being created."
But Mittag said he's not impressed with the idea of telling patrons how many pints of a particular beer are left in a keg.
"That frightens me because if I see when that keg was tapped and there's a certain amount left in there, I might not buy it any more because I might think it's not the freshest beer."