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12 August 2016 | Mike Hanson & Jason Kay
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises interconnected devices working to make processes more intuitive and efficient. We spoke to two specialists about the IoT's potential for dealing with food waste
I've collected billions of data points now - what can I do with them?
MH: Understand the source of the waste and attribute the value and environmental impact to it. This will allow you to put programmes and training in place to encourage behavioural change and drive efficiency.
Jason Kay, chief commercial officer, IMS Evolve (JK): There will be large volumes of data available to you that now need to be processed and actioned. It is important to establish which of that can be pushed up immediately and which of those environments require analytics at the edge, only pushing up the required data so as not to overload servers.
Where has food waste been an issue, and how would IoT help?
JK: Take the food retail industry, which candidly admits that supply chain complexity has meant it is easier and safer to chill all food to the lowest temperature required (by meat), meaning an annual over-chill by millions of degrees. The result is not only additional cost, but also some impact on food quality, with watery yogurt a familiar by-product of over-chilling.
By integrating the data from the existing machine sensors with supply chain and merchandise systems as well as the fridge control systems, each machine can be automatically set at the temperature to suit the specific contents to stop over-chilling. As a result, not only is energy consumption reduced, but food quality is actually enhanced and food wastage minimised.
What information should I consider collecting?
JK: The IoT unlocks the ability to manage this granularity of data, making a significant difference to the life span and quality of food produce. This enables both mitigation and eradication of unusable or unsafe food in store and throughout the supply chain. Even small variances in optimal temperatures within the cold chain will shorten the life span of food, leading to waste.
What does the FM need to know/do to install such a system?
MH: The cloud-based system we are trialling is available online via an app. It can be downloaded onto a tablet device, so no installation is required. You just need a login to access the dashboard and enter the relevant data.
Anything else to be aware of?
MH: We are in very early trial stages. Our main challenge will be in ensuring new food items and costs are entered onto the app on a daily basis. Our business model means our teams have full autonomy over menus, suppliers and ingredients so a hugely flexible system is required to enable us to enter a wide range of food items and costs.
I've reduced food waste - what can I consider next?
MH: Cloud-based systems are giving us a single access point for energy and waste data, supply chain sustainability, social engagement, employee volunteering and management systems. The list is almost endless so there will always be new ways to measure and manage data via IoT.