Perhaps the most overused buzzword in the past several years is IoT – Internet of Things. We’ve even seen IoE (Internet of Everything) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) emerge – but this year at SKS 2017, we were introduced to another Internet of phrases – one that has a chance to completely transform how we interact with food in our lives.
IoF stands for the Internet of Food, an effort to create a digital language and infrastructure for food. At the 2017 Smart Kitchen Summit, Dr. Matthew Lange of UC Berkeley and IC-Foods presented on the beginnings of IoF, describing it as “bring[ing] a common data language and ontology to the world of food and the impact on activities, such as food shopping and cooking.”
Despite its name, the Internet of Food is not just about food; it’s about every process and industry related to food, such as the environment, agriculture and health. The idea is to create a language to operationalize all food-related data pertaining to these subjects and impact every industry that may touch the food chain.
This means thinking about food outside of the kitchen—before it gets into the kitchen, and after it leaves the kitchen before we eat it. Lange explains that IoF is about annotating these processes and building a vocabulary that can explain the likes of flavor components, nutrient components, energy usage, etc. By developing an ontology about how food moves through the supply chain, farmers, for example, can be given more appropriate advice about how to best grow, store, and deliver food.
When it comes to smart things in the kitchen, most people immediately jump to thinking about appliances. But Lange insists we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Suppose, for instance, you have a sensor that measures the precise humidity and temperature of a drawer in your refrigerator. Seems handy, right? “But this doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know at what humidity and temperature that spinach should be stored,” notes Dr. Lange.
This is where the Internet of Food comes in. When we bring smart into the kitchen, we have to think one step before appliances and gadgets and get smart about food itself first—and we have the data to do it.
There is already a plethora of food data available: there are traditional data sets harvested from governmental and private researchers, and there is data about food sourced from the Internet of Things. The vision for the Internet of Food is to combine all these data sets and develop an ontology to tag the data, making it interoperable between scientific disciplines and different people on the supply chain.
Beyond technical efficiency, the IoF also aims to improve perhaps the best part about food: its flavor. The question is: How can we know which flavors go well together? Lange makes an analogy to musical notes; if you dissect a musical scale, you’ll see that C plays in harmony with E, but no so much with F#. What if we can apply this systematic principle to food and food flavors? According to Lange, with a developed ontology for food, we can find an algorithm to make sense of why certain flavors are in harmony with one another.
The Internet of Food expands “smart” out of the kitchen into every process related to food harvesting, shopping, and cooking. Watch Dr. Matthew Lange’s full talk from the 2017 Smart Kitchen Summit: