With the rise of hardware and software platforms to connect every object in the physical world to the internet, Internet of Things is a technology trend that has come a long way. It is molding how people interact with their environment and how they have come to rely on smartphones and the internet to fulfill daily tasks and requirements. And similar to a lot of industries, it is also making its way into the food and beverages industry. IoT is making every aspect of the food industry smarter through a combination of IoT smart connected products gathering data throughout the supply chain and intelligent algorithms converting them into smart insights.
Let us take a look at some applications within the industry that are already transforming how we think about food manufacturing, processing and safety.
1. Supply Chain Management, Traceability & Product Recall
A combination of digital tags on everyday consumer products and tracking sensors on transportation facilities can enable manufacturers to keep track of their products at every stage within the supply chain, leading to more efficient and leaner supply chain operations. Zeroing on and connecting to the source of production to initiate product recalls in case of damaged goods becomes simpler and faster by connecting every item on a batch and serial level to the internet. Brands can ensure ingredients for finished food products are all sourced ethically and responsibly while providing this information to their customers if individual ingredients are also hooked to the web.
IoT empowers brands and manufacturers with improved visibility into the journey of a particular food item from source or manufacturing plant to the shelf of a retail store. Qliktag is an IoT platform that enables brands to connect everyday consumer products creating digital twins or counterparts for each item on the internet, allowing them to deploy them as connected smart products, sharing each of their actions across the supply chain.
2. Consumer Transparency
In this digital age, not only are modern consumers used to being able to access vast quantities of information through their smartphones, the information has made them more aware of their world and the consequences of their consumption and lifestyle choices on the society and environment.
Through means of scannable digital tags like QR codes, NFC stickers, data matrix codes, barcodes and RFID tags, brands have the opportunity to leverage the smartphone technology by choosing smart packaging as the medium for digital disclosure product information. The SmartLabel initiative, created by the Trading Partner Alliance (TPA), is a prime example. With the aim to digitize label content and champion increased consumer transparency, the SmartLabel QR code enabled products on the platform allow consumers to quickly assess important information like expiry dates, provenance, certifications and promo offers apart from an ingredients list, in attractive, interactive and easy to read formats.
3. Improved Food Safety
IoT is already being harnessed by smart kitchens and restaurants to monitor the temperature and other storage conditions of food items to heighten and maintain product quality. In fact, there are quite a few innovative projects that are developing solutions that combine smart sensors and cloud based predictive analytics to predict certain pathogens before a potential outbreak occurs. SugarCreek Packing Co.’s plant in Indiana is a one of the many manufacturing facilities that’s hooking up each piece of machinery on the factory floor to the internet through smart sensors. These sensors that can detect biochemical and chemical reactions during the harvesting, manufacturing and transportation stages, allowing identification of certain pathogens and their removal before they move down the supply chain.
4. Leaner Inventory Management
Smart connected products can also be a game changer for IoT solutions in retail. Digitized products through smart packaging connecting to the cloud and updating their status autonomously will give rise to smoother and more efficient inventory management operations. Employees working in warehouses will have an accurate idea pertaining to the number of units per item and products nearing their expiry dates. IoT will enable simpler, smarter and more intelligent inventory management solutions that are cost effective, efficient and reduce wastage due to overstocking.
5. Reduction in Food Wastage
Smarter inventory management process will result in faster detection of expiry dates as well as more efficient stocking operations, reducing food wastage due to spoilage. Smarter storage and transportation facilities make it possible to control and maintain ideal conditions for food items so that they do not spoil. Smart connected products will be able to update details regarding their quality on their own in their digital counterparts, making it easier for warehouse employees to quickly identify any food item nearing its expiry date. IoT enabled intelligent processes can also help retailers to contribute more to food banks.
Zest Lab’s innovative ZIPR code (Zest Intelligent Pallet Routing) was developed with the aim to improve the efficiency of logistics post harvest and identify critical points across the supply chain where wastage occurs. ZIPR allows live tracking of the freshness of each pallet of produce using a combination of wireless IoT sensors and cloud based predictive analytics and machine learning, making it simpler to make decisions regarding how far a department store should a particular pallet be transported to, depending on its freshness.
6. Fighting Counterfeit Food Products
Enabling every single food item to have their own individual identity in the form of a digital twin on the internet does not just make it simple to track and update, but also makes it possible to separate from counterfeit items. Both consumers and distributors down the supply chain will benefit hugely by being able to scan digital tags on food packaging to confirming their authenticity, eliminating large blocks of substandard and fraudulent food products in the market. IoT enabled smart connected products are powerful tools for brands to establish trust with their consumers by ensuring the genuineness and quality of their products.
7. Better Control on Food Quality
Smart transportation containers and refrigerators make it possible to control the environment for food storage remotely. Any changes to the storage conditions can be detected quickly making troubleshooting a far simpler process. Advanced and intelligent storage and transportation containers make it possible to maintain the consistency of a food product’s quality.
Technology is the key to smarter, leaner and safer food processing systems that help brands create more intelligent and sustainable supply chain events that are transparent, cost effective and promote higher quality and safer consumption of food products.