Smart sensors seek to improve food safety

Posted Jul 14, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Smart sensors can help the food industry keep produce fresh by ensuring that important environmental parameters like temperature and humidity are being maintained. Such sensors are increasingly part of the Internet of Things.
A McDonald s Happy Meal
A McDonald's Happy Meal
Calgary Review (CC BY 2.0)
Smart sensors are devices that collect key information from the environment and turn these inputs into digital data. The sensors then use computation power to process the data and to provide the analyzed data to users, so that important decisions can be made.
More sophisticated sensors form part of the Internet of Things, so that data from multiple sensors can be drawn together and more meaningful insights gathered. Data from sensors can be sent to cloud servers and the data can be accessed by all stakeholders in the food supply chain.
The types of information collected by smart sensors includes important environmental parameters that have a bearing upon whether food stays fresh, such as temperature and humidity. Sensors also assess time, especially the time held at certain steps along the food chain. The sensors digitally record time and data stamps, which cannot be tampered with. The data can be recorded into a digital ledger, forming part of a wider blockchain.
According to the website BioExpert, food companies Monnit and Delta Trak are integrating smart sensors and devices into their refrigerators, freezers and the shipping process. This established an e-tracking that ensures that food, designed to be chilled or frozen, remains cold.
Many smart sensors can not only be fitted to storage containers, they can also be embedded into food packaging. Here other measurements critical to food quality can be taken, such as gas concentration (where variations can be indicative of food spoilage microorganisms) or pH. These types of smart sensors come in the form of a label that be affixed to the outside of the food package.
These sensors generally consist of an oxygen sensitive luminescent dye held within a polymer matrix. The most important properties of the matrix are dye compatibility, oxygen permeability, mechanical strength and chemical resistance. Getting these correct is important since they influence the sensors final operating parameters.
Furthermore, sensors can collect information to determine whether packages have been damaged, allowing a complete picture to be developed about the interactions between the food and its environment.