This week part of my desk research focused on existing products/ technology that help people monitor quality of purchased food over time in homes. Here are a few products I came across and my thoughts for each:
a) Connected Fridge: Internet-connected fridge use tech like, the bar code scanner, RFID tags, proximity sensor to monitor when the food is taken-in or out of the fridge to monitor and control food wastage.
Thoughts: The tech is not yet integrated in the complete household food consumption system yet, perhaps it requires a lot more user input, failing which it does not achieve its goal. For example, not all food items come with a RFID/ bar code scanner.
b) CloudFridge, Smart fridge concept, developed by a team from KAIT Daejeon, South Korea, integrates a camera in the Smart fridge that uses an object recognition system to identify what items are taken-in or out of the fridge. The system also monitors the position of objects in the fridge using infrared sensors. This system is capable of monitoring the ‘use by’ dates on the items and spotlighting items that are close to/ past ‘use by’ dates to bring them to user’s attention.
Thought: This concept neatly addresses shortcomings of existing smart fridge using tech that’s yet not mature. I wonder how this system could enhance food planning/ cooking part in the consumption flow. Also, it might be interesting to think of the other use cases that might emerge if a group of people started using it in their homes.
c) Color-Changing labels, developed by Insignia technologies, the label is embedded into a film lid (packaging) which changes color when exposed to external influences such as oxygen, UV light and humidity levels. The label gets activated when the consumer opens the packet and triggers a timer to show a strong color change as the food within loses freshness. The label is aimed at cold meats and cheese, but could be used for anything flushed with CO2.
Thought: Helps people to identify food quality and safety levels based on the food itself and not the date labels, which is great. Also, helps people to develop their own senses by informing how the food smells, tastes, looks at various levels of freshness and quality. I’m curious to learn if & how something like this would work for fresh produce?
d) TimeTemp, a Norwegian company has developed a shelf-life indicator that can be attached to any products to precisely measure the freshness of food items. The indicator gives a running countdown of food item’s remaining shelf life based on time elapsed and it’s temperature environment, all the way from the production line to the consumer’s refrigerator. The indicator will even help consumers to store items properly at home.
Thought: Can this be used for products without 'best by’ or 'use by’ dates? Also, how does it warn/ inform the user if the food is not placed in the correct temperature and what’s the idle temperature?
e) Food Chemical-Sensor film, developed by Fraunhofer, a german based institute, the film changes color based on the biogenic amines produced by the food, primarily meat and fish when they decay. The sensor film is incorporated within the packaging. A food safe barrier layer, permeable only to gaseous amines ensures that the other chemicals from the film do not come in contact with food.
Thought: Cost effective, Information based on an estimate on actual state of food itself and not the expiration date printed on the food.
I’ll keep updating this as I progress in my ideation and research work. If you come across any product, solution, technology that you think could be useful or have a suggestion, drop me a note.