Our framework is based on the concept of a closed-loop control system from control engineering. It employs the Internet of Things (IoT) sensor network to realize a closed-loop consumer food consumption system, and applies a dedicated control law to minimize consumer food waste.
IoT appeared in the late 1990’s and has been receiving growing attention ever since. A variety of technologies such as different type of barcode, RFID and wireless sensor network together with a new generation of smart devices including smartphone, smart meter etc. forms the infrastructure of IoT. In our framework, a weight sensitive and RFID/NFC enabled smart fridge is chosen to gather the food waste data in household. The smart fridge monitors the movements as well as weight changes of each RFID tagged food item and uploads the percentage of the food remaining in the package upon its disposal to a cloud server. Since the RFID tag is not yet commonly used on packaged food items and the smart fridge with weighting sensors and RFID function is not yet in the mainstream, a smartphone and QR code (a type of commonly used 2D barcode) based solution is also adopted as a more feasible alternative. Other than QR code, NFC enabled smartphone can interact well with RFID tag. Moreover, smartphone offers a great mobility, it can be used to monitor consumer food waste in much more occasions than smart fridge and therefore, plays a key role in our frame work.
The figure below illustrates the physical objects - packaged food items - and information flows of the closed-loop consumer food consumption system. As it shows, smartphone can be used to scan the QR code on the package to obtain essential information of the product such as product ID, URL etc. and subsequently upload the waste percentage (which would be a user estimated value) for the item manually upon its disposal.
It is arguable that the consumers may be reluctant to accomplish the manual process through a smartphone. This is comparable to the question of why households bother to recycle bottles, paper and battery etc. Currently, no credit is awarded to households for putting different rubbish into different bins; the people who care about the environment and our future do recycle while others do not. In the majority, we are sensible and responsible human beings. Given that the estimation of the remaining food for most of the packaged food products (a bottle of milk or a bag of green salad, for instance) can be done with a glance, and the submission process will not require much time from the consumers with a descent online interface, it is believable that there is fairly good commitment in this case, though further research prove is needed.
Nevertheless, IoT will strengthen the system with its continuous developments. Smartphone feedback can become fully automated when more advanced technology is in place in the future. We remain proactive in RFID technology and work closely with a number of major smart fridge manufacturers on the latest development. We believe, with the current development pace, the weight-sensitive and RFID-enabled smart fridge will soon be in the mainstream. Once the IoT infrastructure matures, the framework will be fully implemented to contribute to the food waste reduction significantly.