Thursday 8 March 2012

Better than sell-by dates - Edible RFID tags to monitor your food?

Andrew Sullivan’s blog pointed us at the idea of edible RFIDs. Pasted onto eggs, stamped onto fruit or floating in milk, they can warn you when your fruit is ripe, or when your milk has gone sour.
Scientists at Tufts University have now engineered silk into fully chewable food sensors.
The flexible sensors are made of gold antennae embedded in a purified silk film support. The gold bits are as thin as gold leaf found on some extra-fancy desserts, and can pick up the chemical changes of decomposition or ripening. The silk substrate--made of pure protein--is easily digestible. The whole sensor is flexible, and can curve according to the shape of the fruit.
The working principles behind the sensors are based on existing RFID technology--the difference here is that the sensors aren’t hard electronics, they’re flexible, edible stickers.

Apart from being able to track, monitor and accept/reject individual items throughout the supply-chain, the edibility factor means there is no risk to either health or the freshness-image of the store. Cross-contamination of other food will be eliminated, thus removing one part of the shrinkage issue for retailers, leaving more time to concentrate on reducing the numbers of shoppers who regard food stores as personal larders, a source of free food… 
Creativitywise, the real advantages of edible/flexible RFIDs have to be potential applications in other categories.
Ideas, anyone? 
NB. For starters, how about this Healthcare application?
Last year the team collaborated in publishing a paper in Science magazine showing how flexible electronics in the form of an "electronic skin" could stick to the skin and wirelessly track vital health was it worth reading?

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