Brew Beer from Your Smartphone
Food, like transportation, is rapidly undergoing a vast transformation. New technologies, big data, and the Internet of Things are enabling devices that let you brew beer from your smartphone, analyze any object you see, and 3D-print your next meal. And smart businesses—even those not in the food industry—should learn from what’s helping these products succeed. Here are four exciting examples.
BrewBot: Brew beer from your smartphone
The idea behind BrewBot is simple: brew beer with your smartphone. It uses sensor-enhanced hardware and a connected smartphone app to automate much of the brewing process, while feeding live updates and alerts directly to your phone. Not sure what brew to make? You can browse and download hundreds of recipes from the cloud.
- Why it matters: Much of BrewBot’s success can be attributed to its savvy use of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing—soliciting contributions and ideas from a large group of people, often customers, rather than employees.
- How to apply it: Tap into your own customers for inspiration. By starting it as a Kickstarter campaign, BrewBot’s founders were able to test the idea’s appeal while simultaneously funding its development. Once they’d established interest, they used that same community to build a larger—and more creative—database of recipes than they could have developed on their own.
GoBe: Count your calories automatically
Lots of fitness trackers promise to help you count calories—as long as you manually enter in the calories yourself with an app or scanner. The Healbe GoBe claims to automatically count those calories for you. According to its creators, the wearable device measures both calories consumed and burned with an impedance sensor that indirectly monitors glucose levels in combination with an advanced algorithm.
- Why it matters: Manual calorie counting can be a big hassle, and highly error prone. But the data gained from that counting is often essential for making informed decisions about your diet and exercise. By removing the barriers to tracking, GoBe can help people improve their health.
- How to apply it: Marketing, like dieting, can often reap big benefits from a data-driven approach. Imagine, for example, knowing in advance what each of your customers is going to want, so you could reach them with tailored messaging at the exact moment they’re ready to buy. You can learn more about implementing data-driven marketing in this article.
SCiO: Analyze any object you see
Imagine a tiny device that instantly tells you the chemical makeup of whatever you point it at, displaying information like how much fat is in a salad dressing, how much sugar is in a piece of fruit, or how pure an oil is. SCiO is a handheld spectrometer that scans whatever you place in front of it, sending relevant data directly to your smartphone.
- Why it matters: Much of the information SCiO displays about a scanned object isn’t sourced from the actual scan. Instead, SCiO’s full power comes from combining the information from the scan with a database of pre-analyzed objects to identify a match, and then correlating that match with additional information like calorie counts, pill brands, and more.
- How to apply it: SCiO’s insight is taking readily-available information and making that information available in a more useful context. Likewise, providing your workforce with up-to-date information in the field, on mobile platforms like tablets and 4G LTE-enabled notebooks, can help your staff make faster, more informed decisions.
Foodini: 3D printing, for food
It’s not quite a replicator from science fiction, but the Foodini does promise to let you print edible burgers, pizza, chocolate, and more in an array of exotic shapes and forms. After selecting a recipe, users make the individual components of the dish and put the components into Foodini’s stainless steel ingredient capsules. The machine then prints the dish layer by layer.
- Why it matters: Food technology is often seen as stifling innovation or making chefs obsolete—think throwing a frozen dinner into a microwave instead of cooking a gourmet meal. But the Foodini’s goal is to unlock a user’s creativity by enabling new forms of food, and eliminating repetitive tasks like individually filling ravioli.
- How to apply it: The right tools expand capabilities, rather than restricting them. The innovative Sprout by HP, for example, can give your employees a unique, hands-on way to interact with content—using a combination of touch surfaces and cameras to make it easier to move from thought to expression.
As exciting as these first Internet of Food products are, the changes technology is bringing to food will soon move far beyond them. In the first half of 2014 alone, food and beverage startups attracted $1.1 billion in venture funding worldwide.1 Investments like these will allow for vast systems that track every shipment of food, monitor freshness, and test for safety at every step. And you don’t have to be a part of the food industry to benefit. By understanding what’s behind the success of these innovations, you can apply key insights to your own industry and reap the rewards.
More on the future of technology
 The Wall Street Journal, Will Investors Still Back Food Startups As Competition Heats Up?, 2014