Could your smartphone scan your food for freshness? Dutch startup MantiSpectra is working on it!

By Rob Blaauboer

Photo from: MantiSpectra

The English have a saying ‘there is more to see than meets the eye.’ This of course means that something is more complex than you think when you take a quick look. For the Dutch start-up MantiSpectra (a spin-off of TU/E) you can take this actually quite literally.

Why is that? Well because they created a small sensor that you can embed in, for instance, a mobile device like a smartphone that can tell you the composition of a material or object.

That really does not sound too exciting, I can hear you think. But, when you read about the use cases it suddenly becomes quite interesting for a number of businesses but also for the consumer.

Photo from: Mantispectra

Near infrared spectroscopy

Before we start talking about the use case of this exciting new technology let’s first take a look at how it works. The sensor uses near-infrared light to take a good look at the object at hand, let us say it is a tomato.

They are using near-infrared spectroscopy, a technology that uses the not visible (to us humans) part of the spectrum of light (the near-infrared) to look at the tomato to determine to what extent it is ripe. Reflected light from the tomato is captured by the sensor sixteen detectors that will, together with algorithms be able to tell if the tomato is ripe, should be given more time or even if it is deteriorating.

Use Case: farmers

The video explains it from the use case of farmers who with sensors can determine the right time to pick the produce and, together with advanced logistics, have it in the supermarkets at exactly the right time.

In the future, a consumer with a smartphone that has a sensor (and I believe that is just a question of time) can test the tomato themselves to see if it is indeed ripe and ready to eat.

Embedding sensors in smartphones will enable people to potentially scan a multitude of food products to determine if it is still suitable for consumption. Imagine never drinking a glass of sour milk again. If the milk is still good, you can safely drink it and you will contribute to less food waste which is also a big problem. Food is thrown out because we are not sure if we can still eat it, but it is better to know for sure.