Food and IoT: the Advantages of Traceability in the Food sector

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Food and IoT: the Advantages of Traceability in the Food sector

Technology in the food sector assumes an increasingly pivotal role, allowing the implementation of innovative solutions and optimisation of processes. Discover Now!

03/11/2021

Food and IoT: the Advantages of Traceability in the Food sector

IoT (acronym for Internet of Things) is a set of technologies making it possible to “give a digital voice to objects”.

Thanks to innovative solutions, objects and devices are able to “speak”, and thus able to generate and share data.

To make objects and devices “smart”, it is necessary to use a set of sensors able to register and store data, and communicate with each other in an interconnected network. All this in real time, by breaking down distances.

This is a global phenomenon characterised by increasing use of these technologies worldwide, with strong expansion recorded in a diverse range of sectors. Investments in IoT technology, for example, grew by more than 80% between 2015 and 2018. 

Even in Italy, investments in IoT are a growing trend, recording a 32% increase in terms of market value from 2016 to 2017 (Obs. Polytechnic of Milan).

The sectors involved in this digital revolution are highly diverse, ranging from smart metering (suffice it to think of smart gas meters) to smart cars.

But even the food sector is involved in this phenomenon of transformation, an innovative wave that facilitates processes and allows accurate and complete traceability.

The growth of IoT in the Food sector

IoT is a technology with multiple fields of application in various sectors, offering advantages to all figures involved: companies, consumers, institutions.

In the industrial sector, the use of IoT technology is particularly focused on the field of product development (in the manufacturing sector) and logistics.

A particularly interesting application, for example, can be found in the preventive management of system maintenance.

Even the food sector has been swept up by this wave of digitalisation, implementing smart solutions for the most diverse needs.

Suffice it to think of coffee machines connected in real time and able to supply and receive. A solution allowing the optimised management of maintenance operations, thus gaining a competitive advantage with respect to other manufacturers of coffee machines. 

Technology in the food sector is assuming an increasingly pivotal role, allowing the implementation of innovative solutions and optimisation of processes.

FoodTech, the new frontier of innovation

The introduction of IoT technologies in the food sector, similarly to artificial intelligence systems, has opened the door to that which is now defined as FoodTech, an ever-growing phenomenon which is seeing the most modern technologies applied to the food industry.

The integration of these technologies in the FoodTech sector allows the development of new assets, including:

  • quality and traceability;
  • food safety;
  • food quality;
  • sharing economy;
  • food waste;
  • sustainable packaging;
  • digital restaurants;
  • omichannel;
  • agritech.

New solutions, for example, relate to the production of alternative proteins and the design of smart tools to monitor the quality and traceability of products.

FoodTech therefore implies the use of innovative digital technologies applied to food production, preservation, processing, packaging, control and distribution.

According to DigitalFoodLabs data, European investments have experienced a sharp rise, increasing from 900 million in 2018 to 2.4 billion Euros in 2019.

Food technology enterprises are giving life to new areas such as vertical farming, meat substitutes and reduced food waste. But also smart solutions, such as those that remind you when a food in your fridge is about to expire, even suggesting recipes to cook it before it goes to waste.

Even the Italian market boasts a good average in terms of FoodTech investments. A report by DigitalFoodLabs confirms Milan as the city most active in this sector, with a 65% share of the country’s investments.

RFID and the Advantages of Traceability in the Food sector

RFID and the Advantages of Traceability in the Food sector

According to ISO 8402, traceability implies “the ability to trace the history, application or location of an entity by means of recorded identifications”, a definition subsequently taken up by UNI EN ISO 9000.

The definition of “traceability in supply chains” is therefore “the ability to reconstruct the history and follow the use of a product by means of documented identifications relating to material flows and supply chain operators”. 

Specifically, material flows are “raw materials, additives, semi-finished products and packaging materials, which at any point in the supply chain, enter the production process”. „

In this specific scenario, RFID tags are becoming increasingly popular in the food sector, offering a genuine contribution to supply chain traceability.

RFID technology effectively assures the origin of foodstuffs, certifies the relative controls and simplifies stock management. 

Insofar as raw food materials however, RFID tags intended for the food sector need to satisfy specific requirements, that is, be ISEGA certified. This certification protects consumer health, certifying that the tag can come into direct or indirect contact with foodstuffs.

Moreover, RFID tags used in the food sector must naturally be resistant to temperature fluctuations, being able to withstand temperatures from -30°C up to 140°C.

RFID technology (natural evolution of bar codes) improves the intrinsic quality of products, quality assurance, and the efficiency of business processes. 

Specifically, the main advantages of using RFID technology in the Food sector are:

  1. possibility to read information at a distance;
  2. possibility to read through coatings and coverings;
  3. possibility to simultaneously read “multiple reading” labels, up to hundreds of tags per second;
  4. possibility to update the information based on any transformations and transfers of the materials along the supply chain;
  5. possibility to uniquely identify every single item of the same family of products;
  6. animal identification with injected transponder (standard ISO 11784/11785);
  7. supply chain control and agrifood quality;
  8. registration and control of characteristics of origin;
  9. protection of typical products, anti-counterfeiting;
  10. unique identification of animals and plants;
  11. slaughterhouse automation.

A genuine revolution guaranteeing greater safety for the consumer, and automated processes for food businesses.