IBM Debuts Food Traceability iPhone App


Today at the IBM Information on Demand event, IBM will demo a new app that will bring the Internet of Things to the iPhone. The as yet unreleased iPhone app is called Breadcrumbs and it will give consumers access to information about grocery food items. The app will be able to scan barcodes and deliver a summary of the ingredients in a food item, along with when it was manufactured. That data is usually on the food label, but Breadcrumbs goes a step further – it can provide extra information such as product recall data. If a product has been recalled in the past, this app will tell the consumer all of the relevant details.

Breadcrumbs is able to scan barcodes using the iPhone’s camera. The consumer simply points their iPhone at a food item and gets back relevant data. Other than product recall details, the information returned to the user is mostly the same as what’s on food labels – only it is pulled from the Web.

IBM told ReadWriteWeb that when 4G becomes common place in mobile phones, then apps such as Breadcrumbs will become more powerful and be readily used on-the-fly by consumers when grocery shopping.

The larger trend here is the convergence of smart phones with the Internet of Things (i.e. Internet-connected real world objects). Devices such as the iPhone essentially become sensor and RFID readers, which allow consumers to interact with real world objects in a much more detailed manner.

Breadcrumbs is a glimpse of what we’ll see in the near future, when information will literally – finally – be at the consumer’s fingertips when they’re shopping for groceries or any other goods where data is plentiful. Up till now, data such as product recall information has largely been inaccessible to consumers – at least when at the grocery store.

In the long term expect to see apps like Breadcrumbs provide data on where and when food items get consumed, together with how long they were on the shelf before being consumed. Apps like Breadcrumbs may even be able to tell who consumed the items (privacy advocates, start your engines!). These apps will also be useful in determining counterfeit items, for example when buying an expensive luxury good.

The date that Breadcrumbs will be launched on iPhone has not yet been announced by IBM.

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