Welp, they’ve finally done it. Ember has made a product that even I, the biggest (or at least loudest) Ember naysayer, cannot help but find objectively cool. The California-based makers of the app-controlled self-heating coffee mug, which has divided the Sprudge office on whether or not it is a necessary piece of equipment, has entered the medical delivery fray with their latest creation: a shipping box that will keep contents cold.
The pandemic has brought about some interesting pivots by coffee companies. We’ve seen shops making deliveries, selling pantry items, and even offering large-format coffee drinks. But this one from Ember is inarguably the most interesting. As reported by Fast Company, the Ember Cube looks to tap into the “cold chain,” the temperature-dependent subset of the delivery supply chain that is expected $580 billion by 2030. As we have all learned throughout the pandemic, vaccines often need to be transported at specific, sometimes ultra-cold temperatures, and while the Cube won’t achieve the -130°F needed for Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, it will be able to keep contents at 41°F for up to 72 hours.
The Cube, which looks like a matte black edged version of the Edgeless Safety Cube from Portal, is constructed of a few inches thick polypropylene foam, the material used in exercise equipment. Inside, it keeps things cool using vacuum insulation “like a Yeti cooler” and a “phase-change material… gel-like substance” that starts off in a frozen state but absorbs the small amounts of heat able to work inside the box. As the gel takes on more heat and turns liquid, it nonetheless keeps the temperature of the contents of the Cube stable. Once the Cube arrives at its destination, it’s able to be “recharged;” the unit gets plugged into to a USB-C cable to power up the vented refrigeration system to re-freeze the gel.
No heavier than the cardboard box with freezer packs traditionally used with shipping at these temperatures, the Cube continues Ember’s techy bent by including cloud-based tracking. But perhaps the best advancement brought about by the Cube is its reusability. Per Fast Company, the containers are durable enough to withstand a decade’s worth of use, with Ember stating that “the Cube will save 7 million pounds of packaging waste from landfills a year” by replacing single-use cardboard, Styrofoam, and ice packs.
Ember has already signed a contract with Cardinal Health to use the Cube for all their refrigerated medical deliveries starting later this year.
So regardless of how you feel about the Ember Mug, whether you think it’s extraneous and over-engineered or you’ll listen to any ole Hoffmann and see it as a godsend to all coffee lovers, I think we can all agree that the Cube is a functional, potentially game-changing use for their technology. As far as Cubes go, is miles ahead of Nintendo and Nissan, though still juuuust behind Rubik’s and Gleaming The.