There’s a lot of buzz out there right now about the Internet of Things, and how connected devices are increasingly touching our daily lives. The growth of this nebulous Internet of Things will also impact how the food and beverage industry operates, as the capture and transfer of different types of information becomes easier.
If you’re like me, you might find the concept slightly confusing. After all, the term is used to describe processes we take for granted today – like wireless network connectivity between office equipment – or it can refer to technology that even a decade ago would have still been considered sci-fi material. Consider, for example, business automation systems that allow an operator to monitor and control heating, lighting, security, processing equipment and much more all from their smart phone.
In an article for foodincanada.com, Eric Simmons, general manager of IoT & Wireless at Rogers Communications, describes the Internet of Things simply as “the connection of devices to send and receive information.” As more devices are equipped with sensors, software and network connectivity, says Simmons, the food and beverage industry will see significant benefits throughout the supply chain, from farm to fork. For food and beverage manufacturers, the ability to monitor operators and capture data quickly and seamlessly should translate into more efficiency, reduced costs, greater traceability, less food waste and more accurate food safety monitoring.
On the consumer side, the “connected kitchen” is already becoming a reality. Think about “smart” refrigerators that tell you when you’re low on certain foods, then email you a grocery list as a reminder. Or consider kitchen scales that can track the nutrition of different ingredients, as well as provide you with recipe instructions. Conceivably any kitchen appliance could be enhanced with software and network connectivity. In the future, connected kitchens could even be a direct point of contact between manufacturers and consumers, especially as the latter continues to demand greater transparency in the food system.
According to IT research and advisory company Gartner, Inc., there were 4.9 billion connected things in use in 2015. That number is predicted to jump to 25 billion by 2020. It’s not too early to consider how this type of rapidly changing technology will affect your business.