The Internet of Things (IoT) is a category of objects or devices—things—equipped with electronics and online capabilities that let them communicate data to computers and other networked devices. In the home, this may take the form of smart locks that can be controlled via the homeowner’s work computer or a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, allowing the user to monitor and control the temperature of their home from a smartphone app. While the in-home applications of IoT may get more consumer attention, many of its most interesting applications are happening in the business and industrial world.
You may have seen TV ads from General Electric or IBM promoting their work on networks of connected trains, semi-trucks and warehouses that communicate precise tracking of cargo and packages in shipping. As more industries begin to see how big data and instant communication can improve their efficiency, IoT is quickly catching on in many fields, including the food business. Indeed, those involved in shipping raw materials or finished food products are likely familiar with the IoT’s impact on the supply chain. The rest of the food industry isn’t far behind, as more than 57% of respondents to a recent survey of food professionals conducted by Quocirca indicated IoT has already impacted their organization.
From farm to fork, connected devices are collecting data and sharing it through centralized networks that help the industry better manage supplies and finished food products. Sensors in the ground can measure moisture levels and regulate irrigation systems to ensure no crops receive too much or too little water and keep farmers informed on soil conditions in real time. At the warehouse level, incoming and outgoing food products can be tagged and scanned to automatically track data like the farm of origin or any other information required by law. In any phase of the supply chain, IoT may take the form of smart pest control devices specifying when they need service or when something has been captured in a trap.
We’re still in the early stages of IoT’s deployment throughout the food industry, but its benefits are already showing up in better food safety practices and a more efficient supply chain, both of which help to cut down on waste and reduce risk. This network of connected devices and centralized hubs for data analysis will only grow in importance as the technology develops and drives innovation in how we can use this data to improve every aspect of the business.