It’s undeniable that our world is becoming increasingly digital, interactive and connected. Over the past few years, some amazing progress has been made that allows us to bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital one. We can expect that one day everything we know in the physical world will have a parallel existence in cyberspace.
Hannes Harms, a student at the Royal College of Art in London, has an idea for a way to do this with food. He wants to implant food items with edible radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. RFID tags are often used to catalog and track various objects, ranging from merchandise inventory to casino chips. They are made out of a small integrated circuit with an antenna and are generally not edible. However, in 2007 Kodak developed a safe, ingestible RFID tag to be used in medical imaging.
Harms' so-called Nutrismart concept uses these edible chips in combination with a "smart plate" that acts as an RFID reader. When tagged food is placed on the plate, the plate reads it and then sends the information via bluetooth to a computer, laptop or smartphone.
Harms points out several ways in which the Nutrismart system might be useful: by providing nutritional information about an item, transmitting information about allergenics and expiration dates, or communicating whether the item is organic and where it was produced.
For now Nutrismart remains a conceptual design because of the extra cost associated with manufacturing the RFID chips. New Scientist points out that “RFID chips can be made cheaply, but adding a dollar to the cost of a dollar food item is a leap many people might not want to make.”
Credit: Hannes Harms