Food manufacturers have many significant challenges to overcome to keep food from spoiling and comply with regulations. They also face tight profit edges and are required to be able to move ingredients and products quickly through the supply chain.
Like all industries, food production has revolved around information technology to help overcome these difficulties. Over recent years, the latest trend in technology development – cloud computing – has been used to support food producers in acquiring and processing huge data sets without needing their servers.
Cloud Computing is On the Rise
From the information of global accounting and consultancy firm KPMG, the Food and Beverage Industry Outlook Survey provided findings from interviews with 100 senior executives from US-based food producers with at least $1 billion in revenue.
That survey illustrated that – in the eyes of leadership at least – cloud computing was the main growth factor for the industry that had the potential to allow deep consumer interactions and increase business opportunities.
However, the executives commented that the growth of cloud-based platforms in the food industry counted as much upon organizations' capacity and desire for effective change as it did on technology's capacity to deliver benefits.
As this milestone report was published, cloud computing has continued to prominence in the food industry. Today, food producers are adopting big data and analytics to track and optimize their huge production networks – depicted by vast, dynamic data sets only processable with the results of advanced information theory.
Therefore cloud computing is becoming so important in the food industry. However, the size of these datasets – and their dynamic nature – means storing them on dedicated physical servers, keeping those servers and the IT network that gives access to them, and being confident that all the information is properly backed up and secure from bad actors are tasks big and complicated enough to need their specialist industry.
That industry is cloud computing.
Cloud-based platforms convey data through wireless connections and the internet to large, reliable servers for processing; later, they transmit processed data (instructions or outputs) back to the system or device on the ground. As a result, cloud computing offers access to huge amounts of data processing capacity and storage space to organizations that can't justify the large upfront and maintenance costs for physical servers.
The initiation of cloud computing in the food industry has enabled it to analyze data to decide market sizes, consumer habits, optimized product strategies, consumer targeting, and marketing. This innovation, especially with e-commerce technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), enables food companies to reach larger markets at a much lower cost.
As well as encouraging business objectives for food companies, cloud-based platforms can also support companies in preventing bad or unhealthy food from reaching consumers. For example, unsafe batches can trigger expensive recalls and severe reputational damage that hurts the business's earnings in the long run. Yet mechanisms to collect, trawl through, and analyze different data points in the entire global production system in real-time could find contaminated or bad food before it reaches stores.
Responding to the requirement to increase food safety – especially as food networks become progressively globalized – food producers now employ cloud-based sensors to assemble real-time information on the location of food products and ingredients, their appearance over machine vision, and environmental factors like the ambient temperature. These sensors communicate cordlessly and represent an expression of the so-called industrial internet of things (IIoT).
Such a network allows producers to identify where and when any inconsistency has arisen in the network and take the necessary steps to investigate it and manage its consequences.
In the US, regulators are also using cloud-based systems to determine food safety. Like, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a cloud-based OpenFDA platform to search quickly, query, and pull huge data sets instantly and directly from the FDA's files.
In the future, with more sensors collecting more data points and better algorithms to process it, whole sectors of the food industry could turn much more optimized, automated, and efficient. This would cut away the millions of tons of food waste generated daily. In addition, a connected ecosystem that links farm to fork could significantly decrease the impact of human food intake on the planet.
One main instance of cloud-based platforms having this all-encompassing global impact is cloud-based labeling.
Cloud-based labeling has been defended as a good solution to achieving total visibility – the capacity to track food from its source to production, distribution, and finally into the consumer's grocery bag. Traceability and asset identification – permitted by bar codes – are crucial for visibility, but not the whole picture.
Barcodes on labels can create food traceable, but producing and processing all of those barcodes is also essential. This is also best accomplished with cloud computing.