Invented by Walter C. Reade, Jeff Lindsay, Buffalo Patents LLC
One of the main drivers of the RFID market for food safety is the increasing demand for transparency and traceability in the food supply chain. Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential risks associated with foodborne illnesses and are demanding more information about the origin and safety of their food. RFID can provide this information by tracking the movement of food products through the supply chain, from the farm to the processing plant to the grocery store.
Another driver of the RFID market for food safety is the increasing regulatory requirements for food safety. Governments around the world are implementing stricter regulations to ensure the safety of food products, and RFID can help companies comply with these regulations by providing real-time tracking and monitoring of food products.
The RFID market for food safety is also being driven by the increasing adoption of automation and digitalization in the food industry. Many companies are investing in technologies like RFID to improve efficiency and reduce costs in their operations. RFID can help companies automate the tracking and monitoring of food products, reducing the need for manual labor and improving accuracy.
Overall, the market for RFID system and method for ensuring food safety is expected to continue growing in the coming years. As consumers become more aware of the potential risks associated with foodborne illnesses and governments implement stricter regulations, companies will need to invest in technologies like RFID to ensure the safety and traceability of their food products. With the increasing adoption of automation and digitalization in the food industry, RFID is poised to become an essential tool for ensuring food safety and compliance.
The Buffalo Patents LLC invention works as follows
A system and method are provided to assist consumers with food allergies or other dietary concerns. Information about food products is provided to consumers using an RFID system. Smart tags are attached to food products. Tags containing food product information that may be of interest to those with allergies or dietary restrictions. Smart tags are scanned to retrieve product information. Consumers scan potential food products with the scanner, and based on retrieved information about the food product, they make an informed choice as to whether or not to buy or consume the product.
Background for RFID System and Method for Ensuring Food Safety
RFIDs are passive, low-cost devices that can be used to identify people. “Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs) are passive, low-cost’smart? They can be attached or embedded into articles, products and other items to transmit information via a scanner. Smart tags are usually small labels, or similar items with an embedded miniature antenna. Tags can be passive or actively powered, with active tags needing an internal power source. The smart tag is interrogated by a reader or scanner using an electronic signal. The scanner can read the information contained in the electromagnetic pulse generated by the tag. RFID smart tags are embedded or attached directly to the product or packaging. They can also be incorporated into the product itself. “This information can be combined with other, more detailed information.
Smart tags have been proposed for a variety of commercial uses, primarily in retail marketing and sales. RFID technology can be used, for example, to collect information about consumer trends, buying habits, consumption rates and so on. RFID technology is also said to be promising in areas such as inventory control, manufacturing processes and controls, product accountability, and tracking systems. From initial production to the point of sale, manufacturers, shippers and retailers could track a product. Other applications could include shopping carts which automatically charge your bank account. Refrigerators that use the Internet to automatically order items when they run out. Interactive televisions connected to these refrigerators will provide targeted advertisements and special offers. They Know What You Eat (See “They Know What you Eat” by Kayte VanScoy, Smart Business, January 2001). “They Know What You Eat” by Kayte vanScoy (Smart Business, January 2001).
The present invention is a novel application of RFID technology to food safety, nutrition, and dietary purposes.
Food allergies are a major health concern for many people. These allergies can lead to a wide range of symptoms including hives and nausea, rashes, headaches or migraines, symptoms similar to asthma, flushing, tremors swelling, itching, cramping and diarrhea. Anaphylactic shock can occur in severe cases. This can cause breathing difficulties, heart irregularities, low blood pressure and even death. Due to the severity of these reactions, people at risk need to be informed about food products that contain the problematic allergens. Currently, these individuals are required to read the ingredient list on the label of food products in order to avoid ingredients which may cause potentially severe allergic reactions. It can be difficult, confusing, and inaccurate for those with poor vision or other disabilities who are unable to read the printed labels.
Consumers read labels on food products for other reasons.” Many people are concerned about dietary and nutrition issues because of the increasing awareness of health risks related to obesity and excessive weight. On a mandatory or voluntary basis, individuals must track their daily caloric intake and fat intake. Some people may choose to avoid meat and its by-products due to religious, moral or other reasons. Some people may be on medication or have medical conditions that require them to avoid certain foods. For instance, people with hypertension might want to avoid sodium. For all of these situations, the only information that is used at present is the nutritional or dietary information on the packaging. This can be both inconvenient, and for some people, impossible.
The present invention is a RFID-based system and method that can greatly simplify shopping for individuals who have specific food and dietary needs.
The following description will describe the objects and advantages of the present invention. These may also be evident from the description or can be discovered by practicing the invention.
A RFID method and system according the invention involves in general aspects the incorporation with food products of smart tags, with the smart tags associated with information such as nutritional and dietary data, ingredients and other information. The information associated with the smart tags can either be preprogrammed or stored in a database and then linked to an electronic product code on the smart tag. According to the invention, smart tag scanners can be made available to consumers for a variety of scenarios to convey the information about food products to consumers. The scanners are able to retrieve data from smart tags that can be used for assessing the safety of food products. The retrieval of information can include reading the code on the smart tag, looking up the associated product information from a database and determining whether the product is compatible to the consumer’s needs and restrictions. This allows consumers who have special dietary, medical or nutritional needs, food allergies, to make informed decisions before purchasing or eating the food product.
Smart tags are used to label or attach food products in a certain method and system of providing information about food products. Smart tags are embedded with coded data about the product. The coded information can include or give access to information on the ingredients, nutritional and dietary information, such as calories, carbohydrate content, fat grams or compatibility with medications or medical conditions. Food product information, in general, is information that is important to consumers who have food allergies, dietary restrictions, or medical conditions.
Prior purchase or consumption of food products, consumers use a scanner that is configured to retrieve information about the food product associated with smart tags. The scanner decodes the information and presents it to the consumer in an easily usable format. Smart tag and scanner systems may use a passive smarttag where the smart tag transmits its coded information about food products in electromagnetic pulses when it receives an excitation from the scanner. In another embodiment, the smarttag may be an externally powered transmitter that transmits food product information in response to a scanner request. In either system, the consumer can retrieve information about the food product before purchasing or eating it.
There are many scenarios in which the scanners are provided to consumers. There are different scenarios where consumers can be?provided with? In one scenario the scanners could be individual devices such as handheld devices that consumers may own or maintain individually. The consumer could, for example, bring their scanner with them to the market. In another situation, scanners could be given to consumers by a commercial establishment. A market, for example, may have a number of scanners assigned to customers when they enter the store. The scanners can also be placed in the shopping baskets or carts of the customers. The scanners can also be placed at the checkout before the consumer purchases the food.
In certain circumstances, it may be desirable to program scanners with food product profiles specific to consumers or to connect the scanners to databases or other electronic sources containing food product profiles. A food product profile can include a person’s food preferences, allergies, medication, dietary requirements or nutritional needs, etc. It may also contain a list or food items, or ingredients, that are not compatible with an individual’s health or preferences. For instance, it could be a list or food items, or ingredients, in food products, which are incompatible or incompatible to the user. The food product profile can be stored permanently in the scanner if the food scanner belongs to the consumer or is maintained by him. In other embodiments, where scanners are given to consumers upon entry into a supermarket, food product profiles specific to each consumer may be downloaded onto the scanners. Food product profiles can be stored electronically by the business establishment or maintained for their customers using any hardware/software architecture. Consumers can undergo a “registration” process. “Registration” is a process that allows the establishment to create and store a profile of their food products.
In an alternative embodiment, a consumer’s profile of food products may be stored in a portable device. Storage device such as a magnetic stripe, smart card, computer disk or other suitable means of storage. The consumer can bring their portable device into the market, where the profile will be read or loaded in the scanner.
The scanners can be programmed to alert the customer if an item scanned is deemed ‘unacceptable. item. The scanned item, for example, could contain an ingredient which, based on the food product profile of the consumer, can cause an allergic reaction or interfere with the medication that the consumer is currently taking. The consumer could also be warned that the product exceeds a consumer’s dietary or nutrition requirement. For example, the product could contain excess calories, fat grams or carbohydrates that are in violation of a consumer?s diet preferences. In a simpler version, the scanner could simply display the ingredients and nutritional information to the consumer, allowing them to make a decision based on this information. This information can be referred to as “non-consumer-specific”. “Food product information.
In an alternative configuration, a smart tag code can also contain or act as a hyperlink to a remote data base that contains additional product information. The code, for example, may include a URL to an Internet site, or it can be interpreted in a way that generates such a hyperlink. In this embodiment, a scanner can also include an Internet Browser that uses the URL for accessing the website. The manufacturer of the product may maintain the website, which provides information such as recipes, dietary information, similar products, substitute products etc.
The following figures will describe additional aspects of the current methodology and system.
We will now refer in detail to a number of embodiments of the present invention, whose examples are illustrated graphically in the drawings. The examples and embodiments are intended to explain the invention and not as limitations. As an example, features described or illustrated as part of a first embodiment can be used with a second embodiment to produce a third embodiment. The present invention is intended to include all of these modifications and variations.
FIG. The figure 1 illustrates the conceptual aspects of an invention method and system 10. Smart tags 14 are attached to any variation of food product 12. The tags 14 are able to transmit coded information about food products 20 when triggered by an electronic trigger. Signal 18 is generated by a scanner 16 and transmitted to the tags 14. The invention does not limit itself to a particular food product. It can include, for instance, dry boxed products, liquid juices, or milk. Fresh foods, frozen food, etc. Food products include prepared foods as well. Prepared foods are also included in the term “food products”. As shown in FIG. 1, prepared food 12 can be served on a tray or container 38 that includes a smart tag 14. 1. The smart tags 14 can also be placed on menus or other devices for customer ordering that list and describe food products. Smart tags 14 can be attached, for instance, to a menu near the product identification. Smart tags 14 can be “activated” by the consumer. The smart tags 14 may be?activated?
The smart tags 14 can be integrated into the packaging of packaged food products. The smart tags 14 can be label-type adhesive tags attached to food products at an appropriate location. They are then scanned by the smart tag reader 16. The information on the food products is not limited and can include information such as the following: “All ingredients in the food product; nature and amount of preservatives or artificial colors; sodium content and cholesterol level; sugar content and nutritional information.
Consumers receive or use a smart tag reader 16. The scanner 16 can be configured to decode and retrieve the information about the food products from the smart tags 14 In conventional RFID “smart” systems, where the smart tags 14 are passive devices, the scanner 16 emits a trigger excitation signal 18 that is received by an internal antennae in each smart tag 14. In RFID?smart? The smart tag 14 generates and transmits an electromagnetic pulse that contains the coded information about the food product 20. The receiver antennae 22 receive the coded signal 20, decode it, and then present the information about the food product to the consumer.
The RFID smart tag technology has been well-known and understood for many years by those in the know. Therefore, a detailed description of the system and method according to this invention is not required. The components of conductive smart tags 14 are typically silicon or another semiconductor, an antenna that is coiled, stamped, etched or stamped, a capacitance, and the substrate onto which these components have been mounted or embedded. A protective cover is usually used to encapsulate the substrate and seal it. Motorola has introduced passive or inductive smart tags under the name “BiStatix”. The U.S. Pat. contains a detailed description of BiStatix. No. No. Alien Technology Corporation, based in Morgan Hill, Calif. (USA), also offers smart tags under the FSA technology. The FSA method involves the assembly of tiny semiconductor devices into flexible plastic rolls. The resultant’smart’ substrate is a flexible plastic roll. The resulting?smart? substrate can be embedded or attached to a wide range of surfaces. The Auto-ID Center of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing smart tag technology. The present invention can be applied to other devices. U.S. Pat. discloses more information about smart tags and related technologies. No. No. 6,451,154 titled?RFID Manufacturing Concepts? issued Sep. 17, 2002 to Grabau et al. ; U.S. Pat. No. No. 6,354,493, titled?System and method for finding a specific RFID tagged article located in a plurality of RFID tagged articles,? issued Mar. Published Jun. 20, 2002, PCT publication WO02/48955; U.S. Pat. 20, 2002; U.S. Pat. No. No. 6,362,738, “Reader for use in a radio frequency identification system and method”, issued Mar. Vega, issued Mar. 26, 2002; D. McFarlane?Auto ID Based Control? White Paper for the Auto-ID Centre Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Feb. 1, 2002, available at http://www.autoidcenter.org/research/CAM-AUTOID-WH-004.pdf; and Chien Yaw Wong, ?Integration of Auto-ID Tagging System with Holonic Manufacturing Systems,? White Paper for the Auto-ID Centre Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, September 2001, available at www.autoidcenter.org/research/CAM-WH-001.pdf.
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