Can the Internet of Things help reduce food wastage?

The ‘Internet of Things’ will soon change our everyday lives, whether for private or professional use. From now until 2020, 50 billion connected devices will help improve production processes and efficiently combat against general wastage, including food wastage.

With 50 billion connected devices on the horizon from now until 2020, the ‘Internet of Things’ is the new Eldorado of innovation. The demand for these connected devices will soon affect almost every sector and revolutionise not only private use but also professional use. Whether it is about health, textiles or transport, these smart and capable communicating objects will be able to generate roughly 7000 billion dollars of sales revenue in 2020.

Beyond sales revenue, it acts as a real godsend for worldwide growth; the connected devices will generate large sums of money and will optimise the management of resources in the world. Thanks to the optimisation of the supply chain and shorter distribution lines, it will soon be possible to resolve topics like food wastage but also improve the traceability and the quality of the food which we consume.

Reduce food wastage

Food wastage has never been as important as it has been these last few years: according to a study by FAO (United Nations Organisation for Alimentation and Agriculture) which was taken out in 2011, almost a third of worldwide food production is lost, which represents 1,3 billion tons of food thrown away or 14km² of ground – an area bigger than Canada – which has been cultivated to feed no one. If the causes are multifactorial, the losses linked to the inefficient supply chains represent more than 25 per cent of total food wastage, and those linked to use by dates exceed almost 20 per cent in France.

Today, reading barcode labels fixed to products, or RFID labels fixed to pallets allows locating the food products at each stage of their journey down the supply chain, from farming to the distribution sites, to going through the treatment sites and into the wholesale stores. Thanks to the connected labels and portals which are able to read them, it will be possible to reduce the storage and transit time of products in the supply chain, and therefore lengthen the expiry date by several days. There will then be less food products which will have to be taken off the shelves or thrown due to being out of date.

As well as the positive effect they will have on food wastage, the Internet of Things still contributes, several years after the horse meat scandal, to reassure consumers. As a matter of fact, the information which is contained in 2D bar codes provides more information to the consumers such as the origin of the product, its production date or even the way it was produced.

Finally, the Internet of Things will allow organisations to respond to food issues linked to the increase in the population of the world which will, according to the UN, rise from 7.3 billion individuals in 2015 to close to 10 billion in 2050. Thanks to the network of smart sensors, it will be possible to determine with precision which plots of land need watering and which need fertilisation – and will therefore conserve water resources. The benefits of the Internet of Things to preserve the earth’s natural resources are just starting to be measured.

Thierry Vasseur,Vice-President and Sales Director France & Benelux, Zebra Technologies