IoT (Internet of Things), cloud, big data and consumer-based technologies are transforming how companies drive more value and revenue opportunities. No market, industry or segment is immune to this effect, so much that even the instant food packaging space is evolving to become more intelligent, aware and interactive. This evolution is known as ‘smart packaging,’ and early local adapters to this include companies like Tetra Pak and Cothas Coffee.
The firm Moor Insights & Strategy defines smart packaging as a conversation between IoT, people, and brands that enhances a consumer’s experience with products. Traditional packaging for food products have played a limited role up until now but with the emergence of various IoT technologies, the opportunity for products and packaging to play a larger role has expanded. For example, a smart product that is assigned an IoT ID can change how a consumer engages with it on a daily basis. Once digitally activated, these smart products can then start communicating with the consumers.
How can IoT be leveraged by the instant food space?
The instant food industry is highly dependent on food safety, freshness, longevity and shelf life. Intelligent packaging can leverage IoT and big data to establish a dynamic connection with sensors on packaging such as RFID (Radio-frequency identification), NFC (near-field communication), Bluetooth and smart labels. Companies can use these technologies for predictive maintenance and to track and trace packages connected to a network, thereby helping them to make educated decisions on the fly. There have been numerous advances in food safety thanks to a combination of sensor information, supply chain, and big data analytics to track instant food from source to store and keep a check on its quality.
Applications of IoT in instant food packaging
On the manufacturing/packaging process side,
- Predictive maintenance: IoT technology can help machinery exchange information and improve efficiency through automation of the instant food packaging line. Sensors can collect data from the equipment, send it over the network for analysis and provide predictive and preventative maintenance, thereby streamlining the entire process. This ensures consistent packaging, can reduce payroll, and most importantly, can save many people from experiencing packaging-related injuries.
- Remote monitoring: IoT sensors and devices can monitor changes in environmental conditions and collect and transfer data over the network. Temperature sensors, humidity sensors and gas leakage sensors are some examples. Depending on the monitoring factor, these systems can be placed outside or inside the packaging or on the assembly line. They can remotely monitor these factors and send alerts for intervention in case the quality characteristics of the food stand to be compromised in case of sudden fluctuations.
On the packaging side,
- Tampering sensors: An important characteristic of instant food packaging is to identify whether the product has been previously tampered with. Via connected IoT sensors embedded directly in the packaging, customers can scan the labels with their phones, which instantly signals if the product is ‘open’ or ‘closed’. This is a great example of deepening a customer’s product experience while ensuring the originality of the product’s seal.
- Tracking logs: IoT-enabled tracking devices and sensors embedded in the packaging can track and trace the journey of the instant food product, sending the data to the handler and to the end consumer, allowing them to maintain a log of the different locations and entities it has changed hands.
- Temperature sensors: Some instant food products are easily perishable and require being stored at specific temperatures. Temperature sensors can be embedded into the packaging whereby a consumer can tap the product packaging with their phones to identify whether the optimum temperature has been maintained. Alternatively, these sensors can also be used during the transportation of the product to maintain its temperature and avoid spoilage.
- Best before warnings: IoT can be integrated with the data labels of the products to provide a clear picture to consumers. To make consumption more transparent and avoid food waste, these data labels can communicate trigger warnings regarding the quality and safety of products via QR codes or scannable data matrices to smartphones so as to ensure that the product is consumed in due time.
- Digital e-labels: Interactive packaging empowers customers to pull any information from digital e-labels which can be accessed anywhere at any time. These include all the content and information about the product. For example, scanning the digital E-Label for a flour brand can prompt customizable interactive videos and flour recipes on its app.
- Reorder triggers: By providing IoT triggers on the packaging, consumers can be alerted to lowered quantity levels and instantly scan the sensor or label on the packaging to re-order that product when needed.
IoT is therefore applicable on the packaging process side to make the running of operations smoother and cost-effective, while on the consumer side, it facilitates engagement with products, among other opportunities through interactive or technology-driven packaging. Whether embedded with sensors through QR codes, virtual reality or augmented reality options, there are numerous ways for the IoT and packaging to work together.
Smart packaging of instant foods is a wide-open field with a plethora of applications aimed to refine the customer experience as well as a brand’s presence around its products. If your company hasn’t delved into the possibilities of the IoT and packaging, there’s no better time than now.
Thingstel’s next-generation sensors, visualization platforms, and customizable analytics modules come with increased intelligence, reliability, and improved accuracy specifications. Our technologies can empower and strengthen your business, providing you with a wide array of solutions ranging from predictive maintenance to remote monitoring to real-time analytics and data visualization. Reach out to us in case you have any questions or simply want to know more!