By Carl Weiss
As if this world wasn't
enough, there's a movement afoot to use technology
to bring the "Internet of Things" concept to the dinner table. Realizing
that consumers are obsessed with diet, weight loss, food allergies and a host
of other nutrition-related bugaboos, academics, technologists and entrepreneurs
are all looking to cash in by designing and marketing gadgets and apps under
the guise of "The Internet of Food." Everything from automated
food scanners and tracking sensors embedded in meat & produce (can you
say "Connected Cow?"), to AI-driven diet algorithms designed to help
you count calories will soon be the norm. In today’s blog, I will
endeavor to show you how your relationship with the edibles is going to go high
tech in a hurry. wired
Belly Up to the Buffet
Whether you get your food advice from your mom, your friends, the airwaves or the Internet, it’s readily apparent that Americans are a food-obsessed nation. Since the turn of the century, we have seen chefs turned into media icons and how-to divas like Martha Stewart into multi-millionaires. (Her reported worth in 2016 is $650 million.) And let’s not forget the other side of the coin where an entire multi-billion-dollar industry has sprung up for those of us who have had too much of a good thing. Dieting in the 21st century is worth more than $60 billion per year. So whether your interest in food is to eat better, eat healthier or simply to find a way to eat less, until recently each of these topics was something of a personal crusade. But as with all else in this wired world, things are about to go high tech.
By things, I am referring to the Internet of Things (IoT), a concept that has spawned
from internet-enabled refrigerators to wearable fitness
bracelets and clothing that monitor and report on everything from the number of
steps you take in a day to your vital signs.
There are even apps that allow people to scan packages in the grocery store
to alert them about nutritional content and/or potential food allergies. However, until recently, all these everything
appliances and software were simply stand-alone utilities that, while useful,
could not connect diet and exercise with the user’s health conditions and
All that changed in late 2015 when Scottish professor Maged Boulos an expert in digital health at the University of Highlands and Islands in Inverness, Scotland proposed that the same technology used to enable objects to collect and exchange information could be applied to food. That’s right, the same nation that gave us such delicacies as haggis,
and tatties is at the forefront of a
revolution that is soon going to change your relationship with the grocery store,
not to mention your favorite restaurants. neeps
Already there is a movement afoot by several industry partners, including Cisco, to create and deploy systems, sensors and devices the aim of which is to “improve the safety and transparency of the ways that food is produced, delivered, and consumed.”
|Under a project run by Dr Jonathan Amory at Writtle College, |
Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian
While you have no doubt heard of smart fridges, you probably have yet to hear about
cows. In an August 2015 post
by theguardian.com, it was revealed that, “T connected hese cows aren’t simply tweeting
their position to online followers.
Under a project run by Dr. Jonathan Amory at Writtle College, sensors
are cows to help farmers spot illnesses earlier, creating an
early-warning system for disease that hopefully cuts suffering for the animals
and improves milk yields.” tracking dairy
Even more interesting is the fact that the same technology that can be used to better our bovines is also being deployed to help save the embattled honeybee.
Bees are in trouble. Their numbers have been in sharp decline, and no one is entirely sure why. One explanation for colony collapse disorder (CCD), as the disaster is known, is a type of mite – and researchers at the University of Minnesota and a firm called
have a solution that pops the plague like popcorn while keeping bees
and hives safe. Eltopia
From the distribution perspective, everything from “Smart Seeds” to “Distribution Robots” are being designed and built to connect with and communicate to the global food production system. Faced with an ever-growing population combined with the stresses associated with global warming, it is thought that the only way to ensure the safe and economic production of food is via technology. Far from only affecting the global scheme of things, the Internet of Food will also have a profound difference for consumers as well.
The Opposite of Garbage In, Garbage Out
The past ten years have seen the emergence of a global food chain where products are sourced from around the world. Some of these products are genetically modified, some are grown using questionable standards. As a result, many US consumers are concerned about the safety of food purchased in grocery stores and restaurants. (The 2015 media storm caused for the Chipotle restaurant chain is certainly not an isolated incident.) A recent
foodtechconnect.com entitled “Reconnecting Diners & Chefs to ensure a
Better Food Future” sums it up nicely. blogpost
Today’s rising obesity and diabetes rates are accompanied by growing
and environmental concerns as a result of our food choices. And as the al healthcare arming
economic forecasts loom, government-led initiatives continue to emerge.
Mandatory menu labeling is going national, and new dietary recommendations for
the first time, take into account environmental sustainability. While the
long-term impact on consumer demand and quality of such measures remains
to be seen, it’s clear that the intention is to amplify consumer awareness
around food choices. food
Obviously tracking of products from spawn to spoon would be one big leg up on this health-related issue. Technology also provides a number of ways for consumers to cut out the middleman by growing their own produce either indoors or out. Check out one such innovation from Grove.
If like me, you have been saddled with a brown thumb, there are other options that will soon be coming to a kitchen near you. One of them would be food printers, like the Foodini. Introduced
a Kickstarter campaign by
Natural Machines, the $1,000 contraption is programmed to deliver ready-to-cook
meals such as pasta and pizza at the press of a button. An excerpt an article on Foodini explains how
the machine makes ravioli. in
Speaking of cuisine, in the near future consumers will be able to shop for diet plans the same way they
That’s largely due to the fact that like our web-enabled, sensor laden
automobiles, the tech tools that will help you count calories and stick to both
a diet and exercise plan will soon merge into an integrated off-the-shelf
package. currently shop
Imagine what it would be like to be able to walk down the aisle at the supermarket with a smartphone app that would not only assist you in selecting the products that have the right nutritional value for your specific needs, but that would also assist you in planning your weekly menu. Then couple this with an exercise monitoring device such as FitBit that would be integrated into the system and that has been tasked with helping motivate you into burning off the calories. It would come down to a high tech case of cause and effect. Here’s what Professor Boulos as quoted in
ablog foodmanufacture.co.uk has to say about this concept. on
“Such an Internet of Food could provide context, user-specific insights and intelligent recommendations based on an individual’s health needs, circumstances and profiles at any given time. Such an application could also help to advise users about
essential ingredients lacking in their diet.” any
So what you will eventually be able to take advantage of is an intelligent system that will customize a diet and exercise plan to your exact needs and wants. Plus, you will have a feedback protocol that will motivate you into sticking with the program. When coupled with smart appliances, this should make for a lively discourse concerning who or what is ultimately in control of the situation.
“Open the refrigerator
, Hal.” door please
“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”
“Give me a damn popsicle before I rip your guts out, Hal!”
In this article I have discussed how the food industry is entering the Internet of Things age. This article explores how the food industry starting to utilize sensing devices and internet connectivity to monitor food growth, production quality and safety the implications of these new usages will have repercussions for a long time to come.
If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you
like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this
blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 1/19/16.
I recommend checking out "Has the Internet Made Us Smarter?“, "Hector the Connector Predictions for 2016
and Beyond!", "Is The Internet of
Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be?" would and
“The Basics of Biohacking” You can
also search for other related articles by typing in “IoT or the Internet of
Things” in the search box top of this blog.
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Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses.