Last week I was at the Canadean, Innovations in Non-Alcoholic Beverages in London. While most of the discussion was on the products themselves I was quite surprised that there was not more discussion about process. I gave a talk on my take on “what does IoT mean for the food & beverage industry”, and judging from the responses I got from the audience the talk seems to have hit a note. A copy of my presentation is included at the bottom of this blog.

Perhaps the most widespread hot topic for the last couple of years has been that “everything is connected”. Almost everything these days is interconnected, from bathroom mirrors to high resolution TVs to sidewalks to medicine jars. The term IoT has been used as a buzz word and many people have different definition and views on what it means. But do people really know what it means to their industry and the opportunities it may bring? From Farm to fridge, how will IoT affect the food and beverage industry?

The Internet gets Physical

Definitions can be confusing as there are many of them on the web. Therefore, it can be confusing to figure out what IoT can bring to your industry. However, there are number of common concepts in all the definitions, such as objects, sensor, embedded, data, network, connectivity and obviously internet. Essentially the Internet of Things brings the physical device into the internet, opening up the data it produces so that other devices can talk to us and each other. Making things easier for people is one of the main drivers for IoT. Therefore, if IoT is going to grow as fast as is projected, the industry will need to start by tailoring products to existing consumer needs.

Sports and fitness racing ahead

IoT in other industries such as medical and sports and fitness sector are much further ahead in terms of implementing it when compared with the food & beverage sector. At Cambridge Consultants we have developed an award winning connected insulin pen, KiCoPen, which uploads the dose and the time of injection to a smart phone via BlueTooth Smart. The idea is that the information will then be forwarded to a server where healthcare professional can give the patient live feedback.

Being clear on the value

There are of course concerns to be addressed, and top of the agenda is security and data protection. Therefore organisations need ask themselves, what is the value of the information to the company and the individual, then make the decision to implement it the appropriate security system. It is also important to establish the value proposition for your business. Implementing IoT for sake of implementing could end up wasting lot of time and money.

What does IoT means for the food industry? A simple food & beverage supply chain would be the farm – manufacturing – retail – consumer and logistics across all these. It is important to explore what could be improved or the opportunities IoT may bring to these sectors. Much of the IoT discussions are focused around the retailer and the consumer sectors. However, by implementing IoT in the farm and manufacturing sector can bring additional functionality such as traceability.

Key Considerations:

  • Find the right value proposition and make sure that IoT can enhance the offering and add value.
  • In such a fast moving field, design a system that can adapt to short term technology trends.
  • Think long and hard about the cost point.
  • Think carefully about the data security and its value to the business.

In the next section, I will discuss some examples that we see today.

IoT - From Farm to Fridge

The Farm



Opportunities that IoT can bring to the farm are for example: the farmer could be centrally located and could be directing the operation using big data generated from sensors located in the farm. For example:

  • Autonomous vehicles using holographic radars with GPS guides to avoid hidden obstacles
  • Drones used for asset inspection (storm damage assessment, livestock tracking)
  • Monitoring corps that is ready to harvest
  • Precision planting, being able to plant the right crop at the right place to maximise yield



In the manufacturing sector the humans are becoming a vanishing breed, the machine to machine communications will therefore grow in importance when food manufacturers seek to leverage the IoT. Opportunities that IoT can bring to the manufacturing sector are:

  • Real time tracking of inventory, having inventory bins that can automatically indicate when they need to be replenished, and trigger materials to be retrieved
  • Predictive maintenance – pre-emptive alerts to equipment malfunctions and can even enable the machine to automatically fix the problem before it occurs
  • Enabling personalisation
  • Being able to remotely monitor conditions to ensure the safety and the quality of the final products



Opportunities are endless for the Retailer. The retailer would know when the consumer walks in to the shop and start pointing out the products that the consumer is interested in:

  • Real time stock control, based on the local and national events and weather conditions
  • Smart interactive labels that shows conditions of the product
  • No checkout – automatic payment as the customer walked out of the supermarket with shopping



What IoT can bring to the consumers are for example:

  • Improving consumer engagement with the product
  • The retail can also understand where the products are going and even how it’s been consumed,
  • Enable healthy eating for busy individuals,
  • Smart devices that know the consumer has iron deficiency and recommends iron rich food and beverage

Addendum: Amazon launches Amazon Go - is this the future of retail?

If you like help to understand what IoT can bring to your industry please get in touch.


Sajith Wimalaratne
Head of Automation & Autonomy

Sajith heads up our automation and autonomy capability which encompasses smart robotics, novel sensors and artificial intelligence. His focus is to identify new automation opportunities for some of the world’s largest corporations from many different sectors.