Internet of Things, when objects in the real world are connected to the Internet, is adding a whole lot more data to the Web. The fascinating question is how that data will be used, by existing businesses and new startups yet to emerge. Take the food industry for example. With sensors, QR codes and RFID tags on food shipments, suppliers will be able to monitor and optimize the delivery of food from the place of production to its place of consumption. It's an open invitation for disruptive food businesses to utilize that data for competitive advantage.The
Of course, consumers stand to gain too. Data from the food supply chain will enable consumers to more easily judge food quality.
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Food safety is the primary concern of consumers. Yet according to an IBM report, only 1% of foods entering the U.S. are inspected. The report further states that imports make up "nearly 60% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. and 75% of the seafood."
Data about where food was produced and how it has traveled would increase consumer confidence about food safety. Given the choice of two similar food products, but one has more data about how safe it is - as a consumer, which would you choose? That's an opportunity for food companies to gain an advantage over their competition.
The back story of a particular food item is valuable to consumers, too, for reasons such as managing health to being able to make moral or ethical judgments. As the Christian Science Monitor recently noted, "every gadget, piece of food, or article of clothing comes with a back story."
There is already a growing movement to quantify data about the way we live - and eat. From web apps like Health Month (which enables you to set health goals and track them over a month, including dietary goals) to the self-explanatory TweetWhatYouEat. These apps will become much more sophisticated once food businesses give consumers data from the supply chain.
The web site The Quantified Self, run by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, has more tips and tools for consumers who wish to track and manage the data about their lives.
As a diabetic (type 1), I'm more careful than most people about what I eat. So I can't wait for the day when I'll be able to scan a food item with my smart phone and find out if it's a healthier option for me than a competing product.
This is a huge opportunity for the food industry. Compete on the quality of the data you provide; and win. Let us know in the comments if you've spotted some early examples of food companies utilizing sensor or similar data.