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10/27/2021

McDonald’s partners with IBM to further automation of drive-thru lanes

Marianne Wilson
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McDonald’s has sold its McD Tech Labs to IBM.

McDonald’s is partnering with a tech giant to speed the development of its artificial intelligence capabilities.

The fast-food giant said it has entered into a strategic partnership with IBM to accelerate the development and deployment of of its automated order-taking technology (AOT) in its drive-thru lanes. As part of the deal,  IBM will acquire McD Tech Labs, which was known as Apprente before McDonald’s acquired the artificial intelligence company in 2019. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

McDonald’s noted that as part of its strategic growth plan, "Accelerating the Arches," it is committed to innovation across digital, delivery and drive thru. The company said its development and testing of AOT technology in restaurants has shown “substantial benefits” to customers and the restaurant crew experience. (The technology uses AI to understand drive-thru orders.)

[Read More: McDonald’s pilots faster ordering, payment solutions at drive-thru]

“The acquisition of McD Tech Labs will complement IBM's existing work to develop and deliver AI-driven customer care solutions with IBM Watson,” the two companies stated in a joint release. “Businesses across industries from financial services and healthcare to telecommunications and retail are using Watson to drive business outcomes.”