Impact of IoT in Restaurants

By Steve Barrow, Principal, Sagiens Advisors | September 22, 2016

The promise of IoT describes a future where common physical objects (things) are connected to the Internet and are able to communicate and react to one another.  Connected things become more valuable as their state and context is digitized and becomes relatable to other things.  Controlled interactions between these things leads to ambient intelligence, which allows a network of things to react and adapt to the changing environment around them.
Pros of platforms

IoT is implemented as a platform, typically platform as a service (PAAS).  Platforms are typically industry domain specific and a restaurant IoT buyer should look for a purpose-built restaurant specific platform when making a buying decision. A well-rounded platform should have offerings in three key areas: developer tools (SDKs and APIs), out of the box integrations (BI, POS, ERP, other platforms), and connections management (sensors and gateways).  Data will flow through the platform through one of those modes. 

The power of the platform lies in that once a connection to the platform is made for a particular system, then connections to all platform-enabled systems are available through the platform. For example, consider a platform with 15 systems.  Without a platform, interconnecting all 15 of these systems to each other would require 165 integrations (15x15) to be written.  Using a platform would only require each system to be integrated once to the platform, resulting in 15 integrations (15x1) to be built.  Further efficiencies can be realized when the platform handles data management and security globally, rather than requiring each system to manage and enforce its own data management and security policies. 

IoT applications in foodservice
IoT currently has a relatively slow adoption in restaurants, but platforms are being developed and the technology is poised to be disruptive. IoT can provide measurable efficiencies to restaurant operators and will begin to define interactions among vendors, employees, and customers with applications that are scalable, durable and have a reduced time to market.

Commercial kitchen equipment market. In this area, IoT provides opportunities to collect operational data from sensor-equipped devices and deliver this information to a platform where rules and analytics can be applied to make the data actionable.  IoT benefits include optimization of equipment usage patterns for efficient energy utilization and reducing unplanned equipment downtime by predicting failures and service outages and recommending proper corrective actions. 

Food safety.  There are many time- and temperature-tracking software vendors available to restaurant operators which can reliably track temperatures on kitchen equipment, log entries for audit review and alert operators when an out of range temperature event occurs.  However, these systems could become more powerful if exposed to an IoT connected infrastructure.  For example, an RFID tag on a case can be tied to temperature sensors in the distributor’s truck to insure the case is in temperature during its entire life cycle.  The platform can then tie a restaurant’s inventory back to temperature logs from the distributor to give a complete picture of the temperature controls around the product.  Additionally, the platform can tie USDA recalls and product advisories directly into the restaurant inventory, providing further assurance that products are safe.

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