Coffee, tea or vaccine? Smart mug maker Ember plots shift to pharma cold-chain tech

Temperature-control technology maker Ember’s business runs hot and cold—literally.

The Los Angeles-based company made a name for itself selling “smart mugs” able to keep coffee, tea and other beverages warmed at a specified temperature for hours. However, Ember is now looking to follow in the footsteps of other consumer tech developers by branching out to the medtech sector—showing it's not just a game for Apple, Fitbit and Bose.

Supported by a recent series E funding round that brought in $23.5 million, Ember is eyeing new devices for transporting medicines and other sensitive pharmaceutical products by maintaining much lower temperature ranges.

The venture capital financing was led by Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group’s GOLDTek Technology subsidiary with additional backing from tech investment firm EDBI plus other new and existing investors. It brings Ember’s total earnings across its five fundraising rounds to more than $65 million.

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Ember’s pharma cold-chain tech will center on a self-refrigerated, cloud-based shipping box, which the company says will be the first of its kind designed to keep medical products cool throughout the transport process.

That new application will build on Ember’s “over 129 granted patents surrounding temperature control, data and connectivity,” per Clay Alexander, the company’s founder and group CEO.

Its flagship mugs are equipped with precision sensors for temperature control and liquid volume measurement as well as a long-lasting lithium ion battery (and accompanying charging coaster) for sustained temperature control. Convection current technology, meanwhile, continuously circulates the drink to keep it at a uniform heat throughout.

On the software side, the Ember devices automatically turn on and off depending on whether liquid is detected. They also keep track of a user’s preferred temperature, returning to that point with each use unless otherwise programmed—which can be done using a connected smartphone app or, on the travel-sized iteration, a touchpad on the side of the mug.

Similar technology will undoubtedly be embedded into Ember’s pharma cold-chain products. The company said it’s also planning on expanding its consumer product range with temperature-controlled infant feeding devices, among other new drink ware.

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In tandem with its R&D advancements, Ember will allot some of its new funding to building out its international footprint. That’ll include more than doubling its team across both the U.S. and Asia throughout 2022; its workforce already expanded by more than 75% this year. Ember is also planning to establish a regional headquarters and R&D facility in Singapore—where investor EDBI is also based—following the company’s recent relocation to a new Los Angeles-area corporate HQ.