Things get smarter every day. More and more objects contain embedded technology that communicates, senses, or interacts with its own internal states or the external environment. Gartner estimates there are currently 6.4 billion devices connected to the Internet, and that number is expected at least to triple by 2020.
A recent Food Engineering article predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) will soon begin to impact the food processing industry. In the article, Shaun Kirby, chief technology officer for Cisco Consulting Services, explains how, “By connecting sensors, machines, people, and processes and applying real-time analytics to the data, food and beverage processors [will be] able to gain intelligent insights they can use to improve all aspects of the supply chain, from how food is grown, to how it is processed, packaged and delivered to the store shelf, to how consumers purchase it.”
A Cambridge Consultants slide share puts it this way: Sensors + Connectivity + Algorithms = Value-added service.
For instance, says Food Engineering: “Manufacturing execution systems (MES) tie automation and business systems together, allowing the management of labor, inventory, and equipment. Additionally, a human machine interface (HMI)/visualization system can offer the ability to monitor and control machines and processes. Providing graphical overviews of processes can make it easier for operators to understand them at a glance and manage any out-of-spec conditions.”
In the food industry, IoT holds game-changing possibilities at every stage, from farms to manufacturers to retailers to consumers.
The benefits lie in three main areas:
Because of its capabilities for collecting, processing, and transmitting information, IoT conquers both time and distance and makes all industry processes more efficient. In both farms and factories, IoT makes it possible for managers to stay centralized and to direct operations using big data that’s generated from sensors embedded in fields, vehicles, and production lines.
As robot labor grows safer and more sensitive, IoT can free human workers to monitor and adjust processes and process data, improving the safety of both humans and food. On the road and on store shelves, IoT allows for more closely monitored environments, especially for temperature, which is crucial to food safety.
Improved consumer engagement
Consumers are more interested than ever in where their food comes from. IoT technology makes it possible for consumers to follow their food through the entire supply chain, making IoT a powerful tool for generating engagement, loyalty, and trust.
Even though IoT is still in its infancy, the race is on to redesign software and systems to support the many major business processes that will soon rely on data to stay competitive.