Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are being used in industries across the spectrum, and their potential is far from being realized. The data provided via IoT asset tracking technologies, in particular, can enhance traceability and product integrity, leading to safer food and reducing costly losses. Following are six ways IoT tracking sensors support food safety, traceability and accountability.
Adulteration occurs more often in the supply chain than any professional cares to admit. Some experts estimate it has a $50 billion annual impact on the food industry. Whether motivated by financial gain or product shortages, opportunistic intermediaries will take advantage of poor food traceability and make substitutions, dilutions or falsifications.
To prevent bringing adulterated products to market and keep consumers safe, manufacturers must hold their third-party vendors accountable at every stage of the distribution process, and IoT asset tracking sensors can help. They have the ability to record shipment movements in real time, so companies can ensure that their products and raw materials arrive and remain in the right places at each step in the chain.
Further, manufacturers can reduce the chances of product tampering by using IoT sensors that alert you when someone damages packaging. Bad actors are much less likely to commit food fraud when they know highly sophisticated technology is monitoring their actions and movements.
Food products, especially those in the cold chain, can bruise, break and flatten relatively quickly, causing financial losses. For instance, grain loses significant value when damaged due to improper handling. Through a combination of IoT sensors and sensing nodes that can track the condition of products and provide relevant, real-time updates, companies can ensure their shipments stay intact throughout distribution and transportation.
Cargo theft is a significant problem that’s relatively new to the food industry. According to the FBI, it costs supply chain vendors and retailers up to $30 billion annually. While thieves have historically targeted electronics or high-cost imports, food inflation is making food products a top target as of 2023.
Industrial IoT sensors improve food traceability by tracking a shipment’s movement through the supply chain. They can provide real-time location data or update food-manufacturing professionals when the product reaches a particular destination. Companies can use this data to pinpoint sources of cargo theft, delays or mishandling, increasing product safety and reducing loss.
Spoilage claims 33% of food products manufacturers produce, resulting in over $1 trillion in losses annually. This figure probably isn’t surprising for professionals working in the cold chain, as transportation condition management is incredibly complex and expensive.
Even if food appears fine for human consumption, undetected issues can be catastrophic down the line. A single recall costs a food company over $10 million on average, not accounting for lost sales or reputational damage.
With IoT asset tracking, industry professionals can monitor temperature, humidity and chemical compounds to improve the integrity of their products and ensure safe distribution. They can place sensors inside their vehicles or in packaging to monitor all changes.
Since these sensors provide a complete temperature and humidity account, professionals can even collect data for future use to forecast potential losses when conditions become abnormal. This allows companies to take action quickly to prevent spoilage, dramatically reducing the chances of a recall.
Enhanced Data Collection
An IoT sensor utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID) can collect a massive amount of data on distribution and transportation conditions that industry professionals can gather and store for future use. This information provides insights into route optimization and/or sources of contamination. With the addition of artificial intelligence, these sensors can maximize food traceability by validating everything passing through a gate.
If retailers wish to make some of this information available to end users, they can publish it or use specialized barcodes. Customers will get to review the origin of the raw materials and products, providing increased awareness of where their food comes from and the path it took to get to their store.
One in six people every year become sick due to a foodborne illness. It is up to manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ensure product quality and prevent these illnesses. When outbreaks do occur, it is up to manufacturers—both morally and legally—to trace that product and remove it before others are affected.
Luckily, IoT devices meet all the necessary regulatory criteria. RFID and other technologies can trace products in real time and alert the relevant parties of any significant changes. For example, they could track a perishable produce shipment and notify retailers and manufacturers of an extreme temperature spike.
Since these sensors can send out instantaneous alerts, nearby professionals can immediately respond before product becomes contaminated or spoils. Whether they are alerted to temperature fluctuations, suspected tampering or imminent spoilage, they can move quickly to address the concern.
IoT asset tracking is an innovative approach to common industry pain points. It addresses the food sector’s unique needs, taking perishables, food compliance and adulteration into account. With such significant food traceability improvements, manufacturers, distributors and retailers will have a much easier time coordinating their operations to increase safety, speed to market and the quality of their products.