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March 22, 2017

Smart Technology For Sustainable Food Practices

Posted by Aniket Maindarkar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:20 AM

Smart Technology For Sustainable Food Practices

In the food services and logistics industry, it's all about quality, flavor and delivery: customers want their food fast and natural. Advances in technology are altering the farm-to-table journey and the food experience. As Peter Diamandis points out, an average American meal travels 1,500 miles before being consumed. With discerning customers watching their carbon footprint, interest is deepening on where food is grown, how it travels and when it is processed. The way forward is to make sustainability central to food production, adopt automation and robots for cost-efficiency and shift towards smart machinery for efficient farming.

All the goodness of nature

The food industry can be a high risk, low reward business. Unpredictable weather, challenges in food logistics, perishability of food, and transient trends contribute to a perfect storm. Could an innovative enterprise convert these factors of uncertainty into a sustainable food business?

Froozer, a Colorado-based company, is one such example. It offers a range of frozen fruit and vegetable snacks. The company sources freshly harvested fruit and vegetables, then uses technology to freeze, blend, and package the produce. It means consumers get natural, preservative-free frozen foods.

Their approach focuses on sustainable business practices as Froozer sells 'ugly produce', fruits and vegetables that look less than perfect, and mitigates food waste. The brand also supports the 'slow food' movement, which seeks to promote local food production and traditional cuisines which retain natural flavors.

Spot the bad apple

Automation is the buzzword in upstream food packaging and processing. Robots using machine vision, imaging-based automatic inspection and analysis, have dexterity, speed and accuracy for inspecting produce and foods.

Key Technology Inc., a Washington-based company, uses vision guidance technology in its multi-sensor, pixel fusion platform. It identifies irregularities while processing voluminous supply of food products in chutes and belt sorters. Accurate sorting delights food companies that uphold stringent quality standards. Its vision technology also automates palletizing as well as depalletizing in food logistics. It ensures that the appropriate shipping label is placed in the correct orientation.

Robots also collaborate with humans in areas where the strenuous effort is done by machines. Universal Robots, a Danish company, has a robot that fetches food products from a conveyor and deftly places them in a carton for a carton erector and sealer to take over.

As sanitary design is increasingly incorporated in robots, automation will become a force multiplier in the food services and logistics industry.

Here comes the rain again!

Big data, smart machinery, and climate science are set to usher in a high yielding farm without a farmer actually being out in the fields.

Picture a manager navigating a tractor on the farm using a tablet. Sensors in the soil deliver data about moisture while the local weather channel provides updates about humidity and temperature. All of this data comes together to increase the yield of arable land. A smart harvester can be calibrated to harvest crops, monitor crop quantity every hour, and identify the most fertile patch of farmland.

CNH Industrial, a manufacturer of advanced farming machinery, envisages precision farming on a connected farm without a human stepping on the land. Agri-tech is paving the way for farmbots to replace legacy farming machinery for undertaking complex tasks. Drones are being used for crop monitoring in South America and spraying pesticide on crops in Japan.

Indeed, the farm of the future will be digital. The row after row of produce on a farm will represent streams of data that influence the current harvest, which in turn will serve as a catalyst to plan the next harvest.

Smart farming technology like blockchain can support crop insurance. It can prevent fraud and significantly reduce the cost of insurance in agriculture.

Growing consumer trust, nurturing consumer confidence

Consumer trust in the food industry is critical and providing transparency through the supply chain is key. This can be made possible with robust technology like 'trustless trust' or permissioned blockchain networks. Tracing a product right from the farm to the packer who transported it, all the way to the quality certification of the product is now possible. For example, a consumer buying coffee from a specialty retailer scans a QR code through their mobile phone to trace the origins of the coffee bean, even while the coffee is steaming in their cup. We can see this trend towards traceability in other products as well, be it organic meat from China or air fresheners from Korea. Smart contracts in blockchain can trigger alerts to warehouses and trucks on product expiry and initiate an auto recall with all the participants in the supply chain real time.

Voglio la pizza! (I want pizza)

The United States has a big appetite for pizza. Pizza delivery is a US$ 9.7 billion industry with domestic brands establishing global franchisee models. The industry is being disrupted by Zume Pizza, a Californian pizza delivery startup that blends robotic automation with a patented delivery and logistics system.

In Zume's kitchen, a robot applies sauce on flatbread, it then moves on a conveyer for pizza handlers to add cheese and toppings. Another robot picks up the flatbread and places it into an oven. Zume Pizza seeks to take pizza delivery up several notches. Robots load ovens with menu items in patented delivery trucks. Minutes before the truck reaches the customer, the oven is switched on remotely by a command from the headquarters via the cloud.

While the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana guarantees the authentic pizza experience in Italy, across the Atlantic Ocean, robotic efficiency and a ping-fired oven may give an artisanal twist to the humble pizza.

Cream rises to the top

In the 21st century, the food industry has a pressing challenge: the mismatch between the rising global population and food production. As millions of people migrate to cities for employment, urban areas lack the acreage required for commercial farming.

The Floating Farm in Rotterdam, Netherlands is taking a leap of faith. It envisions a dairy farm on a floating structure by a riverbank. The farm raises 60 cows to produce milk, cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt.

This high-tech laboratory-cum-dairy farm is collaborating with Philips for LED lighting to ensure maximum grass for the cows. The permeable 'floor' uses technology to recycle waste. Robots dispose manure to be converted into energy and fertilizer.

Sustainable farming practices backed by technology such as artificial intelligence is the way forward across the food value chain. More so for its ability to offer higher transparency into the production process, lower the carbon footprint and still deliver quality, tasty foods.

March 20, 2017

How Entertainment Will Be All About Experiences

Posted by Anurag Vardhan Sinha (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:45 AM

BBC Frozen Planet Augmented Reality - created by INDE [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv71Pe9kTU0]

Technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have empowered entertainers to immerse their audiences into intended experiences. What is even more powerful is that the rate at which these new technologies have proliferated in the last decade is far higher than that of the entire previous half century of developments.

About deep immersive experiences

See-through AR device such as the Microsoft HoloLens is becoming mainstream. It has been effectively used in public relations and marketing initiatives for motion pictures, television and other promotional campaigns.

For example, as part of the release of the DVD, Frozen Planet, BBC partnered with augmented reality firm Appshaker to create an AR event at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Here people could play with polar bears and dolphins as they stood on polar ice. As part of the promotion of Batman vs Superman, Roadshow Films and JCDecaux used AR to set kiosks in malls where shoppers could choose their favorite superhero and play competitive games that were immersive. An example of gamers enjoying the potential of AR is ZenFri, a Winnipeg (Canada) studio that pioneered AR in 'Clandestine: Anomaly,' a location-based AR game, which turns the player's home into ground zero for an alien crash landing. And, last year's global phenomenon Pokémon Go exploited AR to a whole new level.

Real-world application of virtual and augmented realities

Gamers have truly adopted virtual reality. Owlchemy Labs recently announced that their VR game Job Simulator made $3 million in sales last year . Survios, another VR gaming company said their game, Raw Data grossed over $1 million per month in paid downloads in its first month alone.

20th Century Fox used VR in movie advertising for their blockbuster The Martian - an adventure that puts the viewer in the shoes of Matt Damon, the marooned astronaut. Subsequent films like Ghost in the Shell, Assassin's Creed, and Independence Day perfected the use of VR for movie advertising.

Until late 2015, VR was still in its hype cycle, as business conversations and investments were mainly on hardware like Google Daydream View, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. In 2016, however, significant investments in VR software took off. For example, Verizon's AOL purchased startup RYOT to bring VR news to its Huffington Post property. Mixed reality start-up Magic Leap added $800 million in 2016 as C round funding led by Alibaba, which took the company's valuation to $4.5 billion. This segment of the tech industry is able to rapidly take concepts with viable economics and scalability potential to consumers.

A next big platform shift is taking place

The shift to augmented and virtual realities is the next major one after that to PC's, web and mobile. Like in these previous shifts, the initial focus and investments are often dedicated to the hardware and platforms. Media companies have realized the potential in this and are backing start-ups by the dozen. For example, Comcast led the seed funding for Spaces, a start-up developing VR and mixed-reality experiences. And Disney is investing heavily in multiple startups through their renowned accelerator program.

Traditional media giants have lost the race to over-the-top companies like Google and Facebook during the last major platform shift, as they held on to traditional business models of monetization, while new competitors radically disrupted the industry; one such example being Netflix. In the case of AR and VR too the first source of revenue will be mainly through inbound advertising campaigns.

The potential for yet-to-be-discovered business models and revenue streams remains a great white space. Companies that can crack the code here will be positioned for market dominance as this platform shift matures in the years ahead.

March 13, 2017

The Uber Effect On The Food Industry

Posted by Amitabh Mudaliar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:02 AM

The Uber Effect On The Food Industry

Startups with a loyal user base are entering the food delivery business. Digital enterprises such as Uber, Sprig and Good Eggs are combining accessibility and cost-effectiveness with unique offerings, such as healthy meals, organic ingredients and fine-dining experiences. On-demand food delivery companies provide an interesting learning for the operations-intensive food services industry: strike a balance between simple ordering and prompt fulfillment.

Technology to better the customer experience

The pioneers manage orders as well as customer expectations with technology as the main ingredient. Customers have an appetite for quality, but not at the cost of convenience. A digital order management system built on responsive design principles and mobile-friendly frameworks makes it easy to place personal as well as bulk orders via any device. It offers intuitive navigation, anticipates the consumer's tastes, and recommends products. When a customer orders seared fish and salad, the system can suggest a sauce that enhances the meal. A hospitality enterprise placing an order for weekly supply of poultry, vegetables, flour, oil, and cling wrap film, will save time, and maybe even another order, with an alert for drinks, fish and spices.

Advanced digital systems combine simulation tools, geospatial analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to curate shopping lists and fill gaps in a shopping cart based on purchase history or macro buying patterns. It can also help chefs plan a menu by presenting themes based on preferences, ingredients or nutritional value. Operations managers can analyze customer sentiments on social media and respond with a revised menu and better service. Robust order management platforms support chatbots and natural language processing to simplify ordering as well as payments.

Doing more than serving meals

A digital ecosystem delivers more than nutritious meals. An elaborate menu can incorporate distinctive features for each customer segment. A nutrition calculator app can allow health-conscious consumers to select items best suited to a specific diet plan. An interactive display of food colors will appeal to small bakers, who need to focus on presentation as much as taste. Consumers loyal to products sourced responsibly can be offered sustainability information along with product descriptions. Restaurant procurement specialists favor food shopping apps that blend the virtual and physical environment for on-the-move purchases.

Digital food ordering systems unify data from the kitchen, suppliers, customer service, accounting, point-of-sale, warehouse, and promotion plans. Seamless data flow across business processes helps food distributors better manage inventory, services and resources. It reduces errors in accounting, while enabling diverse payment methods for online orders. Deliveries can also be planned ahead of actual orders by anticipating demand for specific items, zip codes and time-frames. It helps optimize delivery routes, accelerate turnaround, and rationalize inventory and logistics costs.

A centralized order management platform automates performance management and facilitates automation. Visibility into order frequency, demand patterns, cuisine preferences, and abandoned carts helps streamline the menu / product list, and sourcing as well as supply chain strategies.

Restaurants and food services enterprises need to take the lead in data management to make dining choices more accessible. The 'Uber effect' will help restaurants deliver what, when and where diners want to be served.

March 8, 2017

Revolutionizing the Food Supply Chain with IoT

Posted by Shravan Nagarajan (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:16 AM

Revolutionizing the Food Supply Chain with IoT

Food for thought: food services enterprises should have elasticity in inventory of produce while minimizing food waste. The business imperative: cater to the demand for processed food while ensuring food safety. The operations dynamic: maintain food quality while rationalizing costs.

On-demand distribution of huge volumes of products across diverse categories requires food services enterprises to capitalize on advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics to integrate the supply chain and improve efficiency in packaging, warehousing and logistics. Solutions for real-time asset tracking and mobile workforce management boost productivity and streamline operations; however, they do not adequately raise service levels or minimize order lead times in complex shipping flows.

IoT supply chain management tools mine useful data within and beyond the enterprise to maximize asset utilization as well as customer value. Moreover, an IoT-enabled supply chain offers contextual intelligence. Analytical models use big data to predict demand for a certain time of day, recommend product pairing to avoid multiple orders, determine how many drivers are required in a shift, and schedule inbound as well as outbound vehicles to minimize truck rolls. Trimming even a few minutes from the dwell times of a delivery truck leads to substantial savings for the entire fleet.

In summary

An IoT ecosystem simplifies the business across several dimensions. It automates asset control, statutory compliance, and reconciliation of products and assets. In addition, it addresses the issue of hidden costs associated with loading equipment and returnable packaging. Predictive maintenance of trucks, forklifts and conveyors, and timely repair and maintenance of returnable containers, racks and pallets rationalize warehouse inventory and material handling costs.

IoT-driven logistics systems ensure the integrity of the cold chain. It adjusts discrete systems in the network automatically to avoid breach in threshold levels of humidity and temperature in warehouses and trailers. Device-generated data provides real-time audit trails for food safety professionals, and helps supply chain planners identify and analyze the root cause of issues in the cold chain.

IoT devices that communicate with each other as well with enterprise systems enable autonomous response across warehousing and logistics processes. An integrated data-sharing framework is the foundation for an intuitive supply chain - smart bins that auto replenish supplies, drones that undertake stock checking, autonomous vehicles that plan loads and schedule routes without human intervention, intelligent storage racks that monitor quality of produce and expiration dates, and robots with 3D vision to remove wilted greens from the shelves.

The future of the food services landscape looks bright. IoT and big data analytics will help food services enterprises operate with clockwork precision.

March 6, 2017

Is Your Enterprise Ready For The Growing AI Opportunity?

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:07 AM

Is Your Enterprise Ready For The Growing AI Opportunity?

'Digital' has been pushing enterprises across industries to relook and reinvent themselves. Let's take the example of the launch of Jio, a mobile network operator in India. It has technologically leapfrogged traditional investments in 2G and 3G networks, to create an operating model that offers dramatically different products to customers at a fraction of the cost that it would take traditional telecom companies. So how can enterprises compete in this disruptive marketplace?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to establish itself as one of the enablers in a number of industries such as banking, retail, healthcare, manufacturing and telecom. It has become a competitive differentiator, and enterprises are now asking if AI can help them go a step further from being 'the solution', to helping them 'identify complex problems worth solving'. Recently, Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google Deepmind, pointed out that "If we can solve intelligence in a general enough way, then we can apply it to all sorts of things to make the world a better place,"

Continue reading post on Medium>>

March 1, 2017

Harvest Data. Make Money.

Posted by Madhu Janardan (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:16 AM

Harvest Data. Make Money.

Can you predict the most popular menu items across upscale restaurants in New York, in the next quarter? Do you know how many fish fillets can be delivered by supplier X next week? Are your fleet maintenance engineers minimizing vehicle downtime by evaluating vehicle repair history and component replacement trends across equipment classes?

Digital technology has radically altered the market dynamics of the food industry. It now offers more choices and enhanced convenience to customers. It allows chefs to personalize the dining experience with insights into tastes and order history. Technology also helps restaurant owners foster customer loyalty by analyzing past behavior including visit patterns, spend on appetizers and beverages, and customer recommendations of a new main course to friends on social media. Most important, it offers real-time visibility into operations and ensures sustainability across functions -optimizes replenishment schedules, enables accurate forecasting to reduce wastage, and shrinks the carbon footprint.

Data tools help food service enterprises simplify operations. Robust data solutions enable the enterprise to become a reliable supply chain partner by connecting data end points and maintaining data quality. A unified ecosystem ensures seamless data flow across the farm-to-fork value chain. Cloud-based platforms use simple protocols for secure exchange of large volumes of data between the ERP, point-of-sale, warehouse, transportation, and inventory management system. In addition, it supports unstructured data from mobile devices, sensors and social platforms.

Scooping insights from data

A well-defined big data strategy converts qualitative and quantitative data into a revenue-generating asset. It helps analysts identify sources of valuable enterprise and third-party information, select tools to enrich primary data, and develop analytical models to gain contextual insights by analyzing data from diverse perspectives. For example, a weather alert can be used to predict the effect on the harvest of a region, sales of supplementary products, and logistics to or from the area.

Big data solutions integrate disparate sources of data into a data lake for real-time analysis and actionable insights that influence business outcomes. Advanced analytical solutions correlate disparate datasets. For example, customized algorithms map a tweet about a snack with socio-demographic attributes of 'followers' and the season to uncover business relationships, this helps in preparing a bottom-up sales plan.

Adopting analytics tools that are ready for innovation

Analytical platforms monetize both big data and granular information. The food map of 'hot-sellers', cuisine, dishes, ingredients, and flavors in a city or community is essential for strategic and operations planning. A drill-down analysis of products, categories, customers, and suppliers ensures the plan is always updated and relevant. For example, an accurate analysis and simulation models can help replace fresh produce with an enhanced frozen version, eliminate an unprofitable non-food supply item, or reallocate a work schedule among warehouse employees. A big data platform automates onboarding of new data streams to address business and regulatory requirements, and incorporates analytical insights into operations.

A self-service analytics tool empowers business analysts and planners, besides others in an enterprise, with a nimble approach to innovate. User-friendly tools can quickly predict scenarios, analyze the root causes of unexpected events, and locate actionable insights.

One of the pre-requisites of a holistic lifestyle is healthy food choices. Just as a diet plan provides data about calories and nutrients that need to be consumed, the food services and logistics industry too needs to harvest data across its supply chain to get lean and fit.

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