The Internet of Things (IoT) has been one of the most exciting advancements in the 21st century, and something that lets us believe that the futuristic world we saw in “The Jetsons” is starting to become reality.
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Jim Cerra, CEO of PlanetTogether, notes in the not-so-distant future, all technologies will be integrated and will cooperate to create a smarter, efficient whole.
“To the manufacturing world, that means that facilities will become smart factories,” he says. “When all aspects of the plant—from shop floor to sales—are interconnected digitally, the data gained from IoT creates transparency into manufacturing operations. Management and IT departments work in harmony within blended data and production areas, transforming the manufacturing process from a complex of isolated silos into a seamless production environment.”
Tech research firm Gartner has predicted that by the end of 2017, there will be nearly 5 billion “things” connected to the Internet, and that number is expected to increase to more than 25 billion in 2020.
IoT is moving from customer applications into professional industries with one heavy adaptor being those in the food industry, be it food manufacturers or those who work in food service or retail.
Steven Kronenberg, an attorney for The Veen Firm, San Francisco, Calif., who focuses his practice on food safety, notes food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are increasingly implementing IoT to promote food safety and quality.
“IoT products can improve food safety because critical data like storage temperature can be accessed on-demand from anywhere,” he says. “This helps companies prevent and respond to problems before they become health risks.”
Some examples of how IoT can assist in food safety include an IoT refrigerator door sensor that can send an alert when the door is left open, which minimizes the food safety risk of temperature abuse and saves energy; and IoT temperature sensors that can monitor and record data to confirm that hot buffet foods and cold salad bars stay within safe temperature ranges.
Werner Linders, global director for food safety at Diversey Consulting, notes the data and insights the IoT provides will revolutionize how companies clean and perform food safety tasks.
“Many employees, especially millennials, are not only accustomed to, but also expect user-friendly mobile technologies at their fingertips to aid in their daily work tasks,” he says. “The use of technology is also a matter of being agile and increasing productivity to be more competitive. Therefore, employing digital mobile technologies for staff is a necessity and not a luxury anymore.”
Diversey Care’s food safety innovations are geared toward retail/food service rather than manufacturing. For instance, its IntelliDish solution, a cloud-based monitoring system that makes a customized, connected approach to industrial dishwashing across industries a reality, is powered by the IoT and used in restaurants.
The 411 on IoT
Although it’s a phrase that’s thrown around quite a bit these days, not everyone understands exactly what the “Internet of Things” really means. In its simplest definition, IoT is defined as devices that collect and transmit data via the Internet. These devices could include everything from cellphones to wearable devices to coffee makers. The term is closely linked with RFID as the method of communication, although it also may include other sensor technologies, wireless technologies, or QR codes.
The IoT helps companies utilize data to understand and improve their work processes. Analysts at International Data Corp., or IDC, predict the proliferation of advanced, purpose-built, analytic applications aligned with the IoT will result in a 15 percent productivity improvement for manufacturers in terms of innovation delivery and supply chain performance.
Cold Chain Stays Cool
One specific area in the supply chain where IoT is gaining in popularity is in the cold chain.