Thursday, November 12, 2015

Smartphone Technology: Changing How Consumers Think About Food

Smartphone Technology: Changing How Consumers Think About Food
By Adam Perestam
Smartphones such as the iPhone have altered how people live their daily lives. Smartphones have changed means of communication, transmission of information, financial transactions and everything in between. New applications for smartphones are being developed that will continue to revolutionize lives and change how people view and think about food. Smartphone capabilities will enable consumers, to scan food and receive a complete nutritional and chemical profile of the scanned product. By having such information, people will be able to make more informed, real time decisions about the food they purchase. The public’s common beliefs, concerns, and questions associated with food, such as safety, product mislabeling, and allergens will be challenged and impacted by this technology. 

Scio, is a handheld spectrometer that measures wavelengths of light, collecting information about the chemical makeup of food, pills, or plants. Results are wirelessly transmitted in real-time through an app on the user’s smartphone. A miniaturized sensor at the end of the Scio device sends data to the smartphone, connects to an online server, and deciphers how many calories, grams of fat, carbohydrates, proteins, and water content is contained in the product. The nutritional information can be used to reduce food mislabeling by comparing actual product content with the information on the product’s label. Dieters needing to limit or monitor specific nutritional elements will be able to easily and accurately keep track of their diet. Early investors in Scio will be able to purchase it for only $150 when released in the near future. 

Scio can scan a food product and give feedback about the foods chemical makeup within seconds.  Picture Credit: Dean Takahashi 

A second gadget, similar to Scio in that it is also a spectrometer, is the cradle and app for the iPhone. The cradle contains lenses and filters to work with the iPhone’s built-in camera. The camera is used as a sensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, and other molecules within food. The cradle and app is a potential life saving device for people with food allergies as the cradle can detect allergens such as peanuts, milk, soy, or wheat. The cradle in conjunction with the iPhone could allow for real-time tracking using the phone’s GPS data to map the spread of pathogens among products. Real-time tracking could be crucial in the event of a product recall, by being able to quickly and efficiently locate potentially contaminated products. In addition, tests are being conducted on field-crops to detect toxins in corn and soybeans. The spectrometer typically used for the application costs $50,000, however, the iPhone is able to replicate the same functions as the spectrometer with the help of the cradle lenses and filters for only $200.