Food and drink festival uses smartphone scanner tech for crowd safety

The organisers of the Bolton Food and Drink Festival have used technology from Innotech Concepts and Libelium to keep attendees moving freely and safely around the event.

Held annually in the Greater Manchester town, the Bolton Food and Drink Festival gives attendees the chance to taste cuisine from all over the world. Last summer, over the August Bank Holiday, it broke all previous records, attracting 267,000 visitors. But pulling in such numbers comes with its own challenges in terms of keeping attendees moving around, freely and safely. 

Looking for a better way to understand and manage the crowds, the festival organisers enlisted the support of Innotech Concepts on a project focused on visitor data monitoring. The Castleford, West Yorkshire-based start-up specialises in data collection for the transport and events sectors, with an emphasis on areas including connectivity, public safety and evacuation. 

Innotech provided the event’s management team with sensor specialist Libelium’s Meshlium IoT platform, to study the behaviour and activities of visitors in real time, based on detection of smartphones via the Meshlium Scanner. 

Food and drink festival uses smartphone scanner tech for crowd safety

(Credit: Libelium)

Read more: Italian start-up Evja launches smart agriculture platform for salad growers

Data to the rescue

Two connected scanners were installed at the main entrance of the event venue and a third was deployed in the car park, as a means of monitoring the location, length of stay and individual journey routes of visitors. These scanned for smartphones every 15 minutes via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. 

To protect customers’ identifies, all information was kept anonymous and sent over a secure 4G network to Innotech’s proprietary analysis platform, Innotech Insights Crowded. Here, data can be transformed into visual charts to convey key data more easily, but the platform also offers a raw data download option, enabling users to slice and dice data in the ways that most interest them. 

From this, the event’s organiser were able to establish a number of metrics: duration of stay; visitor volume per location; visitor volume per day; most popular locations; most popular individual and group routes; total visitors.

Read more: Athens International Airport turns to IoT for environmental monitoring

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Blockchain Food Safety Alliance launched to tackle supply chain issues

Blockchain Food Safety Alliance launched to tackle supply chain issues

US retail giant Walmart, Chinese e-commerce company JD.com, technology vendor IBM and China’s Tsinghua University have teamed up to launch the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance.

The four organizations will initially work together on a project that aims to improve food tracking, traceability and safety in China and to achieve greater transparency across the food supply chain.

Together, they will create a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food, using blockchain technology to provide real-time traceability throughout the supply chain.

According to IBM, this will encourage accountability and give suppliers, regulators and consumers greater insight and transparency into how food is handled, on its journey from farms to consumers. In that past, this kind of information has been harder to retrieve and share, as a result of complex and fragmented data-sharing systems. Some of these are paper-based and, even where they’ve been digitized, the data is not always of a high standard.

Read more: IBM leads consortium promoting blockchain in food supply chains

Blockchain-based collaboration

The organizations involved have collaborated before; IBM and Walmart announced a new consortium to enhance food safety back in August, while IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University have piloted the use of blockchain to trace food items, including pork in China and mangoes in the US.

Walmart has suggested that blockchain reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds.

The use of blockchain in this new collaboration will have two key benefits, according to the partners: ensuring brand owners’ data privacy, and enabling better integration of online and offline traceability for food safety and quality management.

Other companies can join he alliance and also share information using blockchain technology. IBM said plans include enabling companies to choose the standards-based traceability product that best suits their needs and legacy systems.

“This will in turn bring greater transparency to the supply chain and introduce new technologies to the retail sector designed to create a safer food environment and enhance the consumer experience,” IBM said.

“The insights gained from the work in China will shed light on how blockchain technology can help improve processes such as recalls and verifications and enhance consumer confidence due to greater transparency in China and around the world,” the company added.

Read more: Cargo shipping tech specialist MTI completes blockchain pilot

Technology limitations must be tackled

Rob Bamforth, analyst at IT advisory company Quocirca suggested that the supply chain was a good application of blockchain.

“The blockchain or distributed ledger approach is ideal for the sort of multi-party transactions that are increasingly prevalent in highly-connected systems,” he said.

Bamforth added that the limitations of the technology are that it is very dependent on the network – so if it is intermittent or not fully robust, problems could arise.

“There is also the 51 percent problem – the technology works on consensus, so if the ‘wrong’ consensus is infiltrated and then dominates, it becomes ‘right’,” he warned.

Read more: Blockchain: transforming the IoT’s security vulnerability into a strategic advantage

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Drones help scientists keep tabs on food chain in Antarctica

drones and aerial technology used to gather data on seals in antarctica

Drones are being used to measure the length and weight of leopard seals in Antarctica.

The higher you go up the food chain, the more you can learn about the ecosystem as a whole. That thinking is behind a project that has seen marine researchers use drones to collect biological samples from whales, and it’s now underpinning similar efforts on land in Antarctica.

Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center are using drones to gather data on the predator that best reflects the health of local fish stocks: leopard seals.

Read more: WeRobotics to use drones to curb mosquito populations

Using a drone to gather seal data

Working with drone company Aerial Imaging Solutions, the NOAA SFCC team have been able to accurately determine the weight and length of leopard seals solely through the use of aerial photography.

Using a drone to hover above the animals, the research team are able to ascertain length and weight measurements accurate to within 2 percent and 4 percent respectively.

As with many drone applications, the biggest factor is the time saved. Traditionally, research teams looking to gather the same information would face hours in the cold attempting to find, capture and immobilize the seals.

A crew of five could take over four hours to catch each of the 15 leopard seals selected for the study. But with the drone, a two-person team only needed 20 minutes to gather the same data. The new method is also a lot less stressful and invasive for the animals, which can only be a good thing.

Read more: Park rangers use IoT in mission to save endangered black rhinos

Getting more done in less time

“We continue to develop technologies to gather the data we need to manage fish and wildlife in a safer, less expensive way,” said Douglas Krause, lead author of the paper demonstrating the new research method, An accurate and adaptable photogrammetric approach for estimating the mass and body condition of pinnipeds using an unmanned aerial system.

“We’re certainly excited because we can get that much more work done, in less time, and at lower costs than ever before.”

“We can get measurements that are just as good, or better, without ever bothering the animals,” Krause said. “Catching a single seal can take hours, but the drone can photograph every seal on a beach in a few minutes.”

Read more: FindMy IoT saves Nordic reindeer from train collisions

drones in antarctica, leopard seals

Data gathered from drones on the local leopard seal population reflects the health of the Antarctic ecosystem. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Drones have important role to play in Antarctica

By making the collection of data faster, cheaper and more efficient, aerial technology can free up valuable resources for researchers enable them to make a positive difference. In Antarctica, keeping track of a dynamic eco-system is the only way to make informed policy decisions.

“We’re always looking for more efficient ways to collect data that informs decisions on how to manage these important resources,” said George Watters, director of the NOAA’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD).

“The better we understand the ecosystem, the better we can ensure it’s protected for the long term.”

Read more: Scottish wildlife experts save seals with IoT

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M2M Cellular Innovation Aims to Increase the World’s Food Supply

M2M Cellular Innovation Aims to Increase the World’s Food Supply

M2M Cellular Innovation Aims to Increase the World’s Food Supply

Unearthing the IoT in Agriculture.

Increasing the world’s food supply is a major issue. Crop diseases can have a devastating humanitarian and economic impact and with sustained global population growth it is estimated that by 2050, a 70 per cent increase in food production is required to ensure the world is fed.

Against this backdrop global IoT cellular communications specialist Eseye is today announcing a new product partnership, with agricultural manufacturer Burkard Engineering, to fight against crop disease.

With 20-40 per cent of the world’s crop losses attributed to disease, the accurate prediction and prevention of diseases is a vital area to address. Burkard Engineering has developed connected real-time pathogen monitoring equipment to provide an early warning system of crop disease risk. The system uses Eseye’s AnyNet Secure global cellular data services to deliver data onto the AWS Cloud to provide farmers with tailored information from their own fields.

The Burkard Auto Sampler sits permanently within a farmer’s field remotely collecting DNA. Crop data is then transmitted back to the AWS Cloud where it is analysed and reported in a matter of minutes, enabling farmers to see exactly which fields are at risk and act accordingly to treat the crops. Once out of trials the product, which is part of the UK Government’s Innovate UK project, is expected to scale globally.

Stuart Wili, Managing Director at Burkard, says:

“We are finally giving farmers an answer to their concerns over the ramifications of crop disease. This not only provides peace of mind, but the solution also supports the environment, removes risk and saves precious time, resources and ultimately money.”

Paul Marshall, Chief Customer Officer at Eseye, says:
“Eseye’s work with Burkard and AWS is a prime example of the range of economic, social and environmental benefits which can be reaped through IoT. By using AnyNet Secure cellular and AWS Cloud solutions, the agricultural industry can harness the knowledge and foresight from accurate data in making informed decisions. We are delighted to be part of this project and look forward to seeing the benefits rolled out across the globe.”

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Zest labs brings IoT and blockchain to the fresh food supply chain

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoes

With the hype around blockchain, it’s a technology that’s still finding its feet when it comes to wide, mainstream adoption. Therefore it’s not every day when you come across a company that uses both IoT sensor technology and the blockchain to solve a common agricultural problem. Zest Labs have created a fresh food management solution that focuses on consistent food quality, reduced waste, and improved food safety and use technology to achieve this. I spoke to CTO Scott Durgin to find out more.

Durgin explained:

“We provide a solution from grower to grocer. We use sensor-based technologies to help suppliers and retailers manage the freshness and quality as well as tracking and traceability. And core to this concept is the fact that waste is a fairly big problem in the industry and in that stems from the fact that at  30 percent of products aren’t handled correctly but it is difficult to differentiate this from the 70% that are. There are literally tens of millions of tonnes of produce shipped. You can’t individually check all the pallets.”

Food waste costs the nation an estimated $ 218 billion per year according to the NRDC. Produce picked on the same day is not all equal and will not necessarily have the same shelf life, depending on metrics such as humidity and field and storage temperatures bring best by dates into question. In response, Zest Labs has derived a single freshness metric — the ZIPR code — which is based on the specific product type, growing location, and actual harvest and processing conditions, that enable significantly improved freshness management decisions.

Zest Fresh software calculates a ZIPR code for each tracked pallet, using patented methodology and sensors, ensuring inventory and shipping decisions are based on actual freshness.  Growers, retailers, and restaurateurs can benefit from intelligent routing, meaning that produce with a closer best buy date can re-routed earlier, to a nearer location or a juicer.

Testing has shown that using Zest Fresh with the ZIPR code can reduce that waste by roughly half, and significantly improve the customer experience. This provides continuous real-time visibility of the remaining freshness capacity of production and then directs intelligent routing to optimize delivery for required shelf-life.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 16.44.33

As Durgin explained:

“We see an opportunity to help suppliers in that they get paid the same amount today regardless of the freshness capacity of the product they’re putting out. So imagine if you could differentiate your product offering to be a competitive advantage in regard to its freshness.”

Zest labs introduces the blockchain

Zest Labs announced this week that they are now also offering free blockchain set up for growers and shippers using the Zest Fresh platform. Durgin believes that the blockchain creates an added layer of security and trust throughout the fresh food supply chain by creating true transparency about all key food freshness factors to all participants within the network.

“Zest Fresh quickly delivers access to blockchain technology for its customers by leveraging secure and authenticated data collection from its wireless IoT sensors, through its intelligent access points, and into the secure Zest Cloud. Further, by combining our predictive analytics, we can extend the value of blockchain through smart contracts that can automatically recognize when fresh products meet contracted specifications throughout the supply chain.”

With most industries considering how the blockchain may benefit their operations, food suppliers, in particular, are paying close attention since there’s a very real possibility that large companies may eventually require their supply chain partners to participate. This could mean many growers are forced to adopt blockchain, whether they like it or not. Forced technology adoption has happened before such as with RFID where adoption was successful until large companies mandated its use and none of the smaller suppliers could afford the tags.

Zest-Lettuce-bins-in-field

Durgin believes that the blockchain solves the problem of trust but it isn’t a replacement for conventional IoT data processing and storage:

“Would we use blockchain for our core internal processing of the system? No, it’s not designed to do that. We have the Zest platform underneath which is actually a data streaming complex event processing system and it’s designed to scale in the world of IoT and it does things in a very real time fashion and handles very complex event streams that could never be applicable to being processed in a blockchain.

If you think about quality in freshness, it’s more than just sensor data thrown into a block or a transaction in a block and so we see the opportunity to take this universal zipper code and for those folks where blockchain makes sense to their business. Given the very nature of what blockchain does it creates a very interesting information sharing network opportunity that that ensures consistency up and down the supply chain.”

Durgin also likens the blockchain’s adoption challenges to his days as Product Manager at Microsoft working on Lotus Notes :

“Back in the day we actually to license the TCAP IP protocol and the AppleTalk protocol amongst others. We had to license the protocols and include them in the product so that it could talk with a client server. Such a thing would be unheard of today. So when you think about blockchain technologies, I liken them to when we had to do extra heavy lifting to build a platform like Lotus Notes, designed to make it easy for people to solve business problems also.”

As agtech becomes increasingly automated and connected, the blockchain may just become another business tool in a farmer’s arsenal.

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