IoT & Food Tech

James Lai
MyIoTA: IoT For You
9 min readJan 13, 2021


Food Glorious Food! ” one of the more memorable songs from the award winning musical “Oliver!” sung by the protagonist in an obviously whimsical homage to fine cuisine something that was just as obviously in short supply for workhouse boys in Victorian England. To some we “eat to live” to some others “we live to eat!”. In today’s fast pace lifestyle we no longer need to hunt gather or grow our food. But have you ever wondered how food ends up at supermarkets restaurants or on your dinning table? What is the supply & value chain of the food industry? From farms & plantations to food processing factories & all the way to the consumers ,the food industry value chains involved a large network of producers, processors, government agencies or regulators large & small companies and complex distribution channels.

Today we can easily get fresh Norwegian Salmon, California apples, Kobe Beef or even our world famous “Musang King Durian” regardless of where you are in the world through the web of supply chain logistics & the internet. Integrated with current advancement in eCommerce electronic cashless systems & social media marketing ,the process of selecting ,buying or consumption is made the more effortlessly & highly efficient with the internet-of-things. The application of IoT in the “Food Value Chain” helps consumers in getting the freshest food , help retailers to reduce waste , enable high quality products, optimize logistics & food processors & reduce cost while increasing efficiencies in their operations.

With the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 experts expect agricultural consumption to increase by nearly 70 percent over the same time period. In addition extreme weather events are

on the rise creating additional obstacles to productivity. With new emerging technologies made available through the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” such as drones we are seeing more innovative applications being used for food industry. One of the application areas for drones or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) is Soil and field analysis: Done at the start of the crop cycle. With sensors like LIDAR (Light Detection & Ranging — a type of sensor using non-visible light to detect depth ) & GPS (Global Positioning Systems — used to find location of objects in an open area) you can produce precise 3-D maps for early soil & terrain analysis , useful in planning seed planting patterns. After planting , drone-driven soil analysis provides data for irrigation and nitrogen-level management by measuring critical parameters to promote growth using sensors. Other areas of applications are in irrigation pesticides spraying & early detection systems. To find out more about IoT applications using drones , check out Asia Drone IoT. Another application is using IoT & AI to predict the weather within a certain area or radius so that farmers can plant at the right patch or time for much improved yields. One such solution is offered by Envision Digital

Another area that you can apply IoT would be in the Food processing industry. With the trend of Smart Manufacturing & Industry 4.0 food processors are able to reduce waste lowering cost of labor along with increased output & yield. By collecting data through sensors installed in the process flow (or even throughout the whole supply chain until the consumer level) organizations can prevent machine downtime costly repairs or even predict failures & improve reliability. Data collected throughout the supply chain can provide valuable insights & identify problems before it occurs through user interfaces running on cloud services ( & deployed on IoT platforms). With the data collected, HACCP(HACCP certification is an international standard defining the requirements for effective control of food safety) can be used to improve quality & comply to regulations. One of our members, Hexa IoT transformed a traditional food processing plant & augmented their digital transformation journey with applications of IoT throughout their food processing supply chain, from automated weighing solutions for batching recipes to an IoT & AI-powered chili sorting machine. (HEXA IoT bring AI to Spice Production)

Manufacturers are now looking at new ways to build flexibility into their plant s & create visibility into the supply chain and add transparency into processes to meet government regulations and corporate sustainability goals. Experts can help you integrate multiple different propriety sub-systems & enable data sharing to IoT platforms & SCADA solutions. See list of experts & system integrators who can help you in this journey.

In today’s global economy, with infrastructure improvements within countries ,trades are improved along with shipping & transportation of finished goods of food to buyers. Be it buying food from your local open wet market, or modern hypermarkets, customers demand the freshest ingredients & widest of variety. With advancement in technologies in “Cold Chain Logistics” on top of traditional 3PL services available around the clock , IoT plays an important role in customer satisfaction. With the lowering costs of semiconductor chips & sensor technologies like MEMs you can really monitor & implement a “Farm to Fork” solution to gain a competitive advantage. Also this will alleviate & solve food safety concerns which according to the World Health Organization about 420,000 people die each year due to food poisoning. One of the major cost of transportation storage or display of produce is the energy usage to provide optimum cooling or refrigeration. Companies like RDM,iCEE & Reneontech provide energy savings & monitoring solutions for facilities & cooling systems with built-in analytics. Example case study for a supermarket chain “”Combined Expertise Pays Dividends for Sustainable Retailer

Another area in the food industry that is occurring a lot of wastage is “clean water” . i2O provides a suite of smart water network solutions employing IoT for detecting leakages & ensuring delivery of clean water. Other areas of the food supply chain that can be digitized includes POS (point-of-sales) labeling/barcoding & integration to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution. Solution providers in this area includes E-tech, Able Enterprise & SNS Networks

For IoT applications at the consumer or front-end facing , we’re seeing innovative solutions being created. With rapidly changing of consumer experiences & how they select purchase or consume especially in this era of social media & availability of information & choices digital trends are taking over these experiences. You can search research or even purchase any type of produce or food using your smartphones. Regular menus are replaced by e-menu using tablets & apps. Wait times in restaurants are reduced through automated queue management & in some cases waiters are being replaced with robots!

Traditional brick & mortar shops or companies selling food products are challenged to find new innovative ways to compete with digital services or to bridge the experience. One such company is Eyeport which provides autonomous retail kiosk digital retail technology that radically redefines shopping experience by combining ordinary shopping and internet shopping perfectly with providing the convenience of online shopping together with the instant gratification of in-store shopping and at the same time giving shoppers a rich and personalized

shopping experience.

To enable collection of data to improve retail IoT-based solutions for people counting crowd management & analytics through facial recognition technologies are integrated & deployed. With outdoor location aware solutions you can deploy a GPS-based system. Ever wondered why “Google Maps” does not work for underground car parks? However getting location data in-doors is a bit tricky as GPS does not work without line-of-sight to the positioning satellites. One innovative solution for indoor people & asset tracking using existing Wifi infrastructure is Indoor Positioning Services from MIMOS Malaysia’s premier Applied Research and Development Centre in Information and Communications Technology Industrial Electronics Technology and Nano-Semiconductor Technology.

Embedded PC’s with displays for kiosks are used as part of improving customer’s experiences & providing dashboard to services & human to machine interactions in Smart Factories. In most cases these systems need to have extreme ruggedness & reliability especially if installed outdoors & in vehicles. Axiomtek provides such solutions for extreme environments.

Furthermore with emerging technologies in Distributed Ledger Systems such as “Blockchain” & integration with various sensor data from the full supply chain data will flow transparently (and immutably) through the internet. You can trace the source of the ingredients from location of the farm which fruit tree & the different processes that it went through & recorded in a distributed digital ledger open to all stakeholders in the value chain. Information stored in the Blockchain can also be used to create smart contracts that will get executed when “certain tasks or conditions are met”. Another possible application is to enable fully autonomous digital services to exchange or barter services provided by smart devices — from consumer all the way to the supplier or farms — without any human intervention whatsoever other than pacing an order.

At the heart of IoT-powered solutions Big Data & AI (Artificial Intelligence) plays an important role in providing value to enterprises. Big Data needs data from sensors & AI needs the data for learning algorithms & creation of models to automate the “thinking” & action processes. To run these computational intensive AI tasks powerful servers based on GPU are needed. AMD being one of the leaders in microprocessors & GPU are driving this space. Other uses of computational intensive applications are in areas such as food safety & molecular finger printing & also AR (Augmented Reality). Fancy having an IoT device that can measure the molecular make-up of the food you’re consuming & having the ingredients appear in AR? For solutions in VR or AR applications Cap360

With the growing population & middle-class that is becoming more sophisticated consumers there’s growing concern not only on the nutritional value of certain food but cleanliness & food safety as well. “We’re what we eat” goes the saying. Previously to find out the ingredients & chemicals in your food you’ll need to send some samples to a lab that uses equipment that costs millions & you might receive the information or report weeks is not days later. You’ll die of starving by then rather than the risks of food poisoning! Thus we rely on trusts of reputable suppliers (usually more expensive). With SCIO a handheld molecular analyzer you can instantly get the results in seconds! The device (slightly bigger than a matchbox) has an accompanying app that is connected to servers storing the “finger print” data that compares with the current reading to identify the type of food content & chemical make-up. There’s also a sensor only version that you can use to integrate to any IoT device. Hmmm… seems that Science fiction is becoming more & more a fact any Trekkies reading this? remember the Tricorder?

Seriously, we still need to monitor our health & watch our diet. With IoT you can easily do that through bio-sensors & apps. SmartOptz remote health vitals monitoring solution focuses on providing support to people with diabetes and hypertension problems.

Digital Transforming (DX) your business processes factories & creating new monetizing opportunities can be a very difficult process involving all departments of your organization. You can engage consultants like EY or Panda Consultancy

If you need to upskill or retrain your technical team to deliver IoT solutions for training on IoT prototyping & development SG Academy & Steerix are your ideal partners.

At the heart of IoT devices especially sensors & micro controllers from STMicroelectronics are frequently used due to their complete portfolio of semiconductor components & market leader in cutting-edge IoT technologies.

One of the most common features of IoT sensors are wireless networks & battery powered. Some IoT edge nodes uses 2G/3G services to transfer data wirelessly but these solutions have very poor battery life. More IoT-ready wireless networks like Sigfox have ranges up to 20–30km & battery life up to 5 years or more are used instead due to lower costs & long battery life. For more information on Sigfox we have Xperanti Malaysia’s first Sigfox infrastructure operator.

MyIoTA or Malaysia IoT Association is an NGO where its members are made-up of companies & individuals from the IoT eco-system championing the use & deployment of IoT-solutions & talent development for the industry. For a full list of our members please go to our members directory