Food Engineering

Editor' Note: The future is now, for most people

May 1, 2010
The food plant of the future is coming soon to a smart phone near you. Expect to see packaging equipment operational and troubleshooting instructions streaming to you over the phone in the near future.

In this issue, Food Engineering covers some of the more high-tech and futuristic trends affecting our industry. The food plant of the future is coming soon to a smart phone near you. Expect to see packaging equipment operational and troubleshooting instructions streaming to you over the phone in the near future (please turn to page 32).

As we were preparing this issue, a news story came across my desk about a new iPhone application from FoodEssentials that scans and compares food labels. Using it, consumers can access additive, allergen, ingredient and nutrient properties of food products in-store by scanning food label barcodes; customize their food label view to focus on particular ingredients, food intolerances, or dietary needs; and compare products side-by-side to help them to choose which products to buy.

Food Engineering covered a related application in March 2009 concerning Norway’s largest meat processor, Nortura. Once its products are on a retail shelf, Norwegian shoppers with smart phones can scan a 2D code on the label. Within a few seconds, the shopper receives a text message detailing the farm where the animal was raised, its slaughter weight and its medical and feed history.

I think most American consumers are too busy to use these applications. In addition, only two people I know actually own an iPhone. Perhaps that’s a result of being middle aged, but my bet is that they own an iPhone because of their higher disposable income level.

When voicemail debuted back in the ‘80s and the previously extremely slow Internet landed on my desktop in the ‘90s, I wondered why anyone would want to use the technologies. I certainly see the value of smart phones for plant-floor applications, but not for my current personal shopping habits-at least not today.

Please check back with me in 2015. Just text me on my iPhone while I’m scanning tonight’s dinner at Wegmans. Or leave a voice mail.