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New network supports smart tech for food


A new project has been launched to examine how the Internet of Things (IoT) could transform the food industry through innovations such as ‘smart’ cooking appliances, data-driven supermarket refrigeration networks and enhanced food traceability systems[3]. The project is funded by a £1.14m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to nurture and grow the UK’s food manufacturing digital economy.

The Internet of Food Things (IoFT) Network Plus will bring together data and computer scientists, chemists and economists to investigate how artificial intelligence, data analytics and emerging technologies can enhance the digitalisation of the UK food supply chain.

The network, led by the University of Lincoln in partnership with the universities of Southampton, Surrey, East Anglia, and the Open University, will examine the application of the IoT in connected homes of the future – for example smart refrigerators that trigger a grocery order when food items run low, or cooking devices that could help us live healthier lives.

It will also examine the traceability of food and how machine learning and artificial intelligence could be utilised to extract value from the vast amounts of data available across the whole food supply chain, improving efficiency and reducing food waste.

Businesses and researchers nationally will be able to participate in workshops, run annual conferences to share best practice across the sector and bid for funding for pilot studies, projects and reviews. Collectively these initiatives, which will run until May 2021, will contribute to progressing the digitisation of food manufacturing in the UK.

The aim is to specifically engage with the whole food and digital innovation chain. The project will combine interdisciplinary contributions from food science and technology practitioners, policy makers, engineers, management specialists and colleagues in social and behavioural sciences.

The inclusion of food retailers like Tesco within the consortium provides access to data sets demonstrating consumer behaviours.

Alongside academic expertise, the project will involve industry specialists from a range of areas, such as the global engineering company Siemens, IoT and machine management solutions’ firm IMS Evolve, supermarket chain Tesco, the rural agricultural consultancy Collison and Associates and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Regulators, such as the Food Standards Agency and GS1, an international agency that sets data standards for bar codes, will also have input and consumers will be engaged through representative bodies.



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