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The Internet of Food – Improving Lives

September 24, 2015 - 4 Comments

A sense of great pride came over me as I entered the Expo in Milan­ to attend the Cisco Internet of Food international press event. This event is where Cisco brings food and digital technologies together in a world of apps, services and technologies that are changing the way food is produced, distributed, consumed and depicted. My home town hosted this significant conference that focused on two of the most important factors that make our lives better: food and the Internet. What better place than Italy? This country is the world’s food voilà and has one of the highest number of mobile phones and Facebook users – to talk about building bridges between technology and food.

While there, I met with a group of international press and together with a few colleagues and industry luminaries, we discussed the Internet of Food, a natural offshoot of the Internet of Everything.

Cisco and THNK.ORG  have been working for the last 12 months to reimagine how the Internet of Everything changes the way we grow, manufacture, distribute and consume our food. In simple terms, food, from farm to fork. Bas Verhart, THNK’s CEO, inspired me a year ago when he commented that we can easily find out where our mobile phone was manufactured, while we often have no clue where our food is grown and sourced.

Together we envisioned what would happen if we made access to data seamless across the entire food value chain. The food value chain is generally defined as a network of people involved in growing, processing and selling food that consumers eat. By making food data seamless across the value chain it is easier to detect issues that contribute to food-related illnesses and costly product recalls, making food safer, more resilient, efficient and sustainable.

Bas and I also wondered what would happen if we were able to know and connect with the person who grew or prepared our food, the same way we enjoyed watching the chef who prepared our pasta at the open kitchen restaurant in Milan.

The next day, we were joined by 25 students from all over to world to talk about the relationships that could be forged between farmers, chefs, and consumers. Retailers like COOP are using data and analytics to build better relationships with their customers while securing their value chains via data exchanges. COOP recently showcased the supermarket of the future, a concept that was developed in collaboration with Carlo Ratti of MIT, and ran on Cisco infrastructure.

COOP supermarket of the future

COOP supermarket of the future

Forward thinking companies, like Barilla Group, the makers of Barilla brand pastas and sauces are taking the lead with Cisco and use data and analytics to break information siloes across the entire supply chain. Recently, Barilla Group announced that they will provide consumers the ability to trace the entire chain of production for the ingredients in their food, from where it was grown to how it arrived on the store shelf.

With more and more objects becoming connected, data becomes available, processes can be transformed and people can get access to the information they need to make informed decisions. The connected world has far-reaching promise beyond food value chains and into manufacturing, logistics and chemical worlds.

Bringing the Internet of Everything to life in the food sector makes our lives healthier and our choices easier. This new digital revolution merges technology, sustainability and wellbeing – in one of the world’s cradles of civilization…great food. Do you know where your food is grown and sourced?

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  1. And with all this pollution in the world it is also important to add packaging in this loop to be able to force correct recycling and lover pressure on landfills.

    • Hi Ana, you are totally right. That is another value chain – intersecting with food itself – that needs to be made sustainable and economically efficient by exposing data sets and creating actionable insights… On a convergent platform.

  2. Hi Nicola, I was wondering if with some modifications and enhancement this can be applied to neighbourhood / farmer’s markets – for example consumers want to visualize not when physically inside the store but in their devices and decide which market to visit today.
    We provide what we call “City as a Service” and we work with Municipal Councils of cities .

    I have had some interaction with Carlo few years ago , but now we are ready.

    • Hi Saibal,
      I think it can. The focus in my opinion needs to be put on enabling effective data management – both at the center as well as at the edge of the network and its value chain – so that data can be effectively and rapidly accessed, treated and then transformed into insights that are immediately actionable. Through data virtualization software. With a growing number of use cases – you propose a very interesting set here – that continuously get created and rolled out on top of a city platform…