THE LAYER CAKE: WHAT YOU SEE IS (NOT) ALL THERE IS
Digital information becomes essential when it uniquely guarantees and certifies authenticity, origin, production methods, tracing along the entire supply chain
Today, markets have new priorities, such as “brand protection” and “consumer trust,” to mention just a few. Digital information is crucial for assuring and certifying the authenticity, origin, production methods, and traceability of products throughout the supply chains transparently.
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A NEW NEED FOR DIGITAL INFORMATION ACROSS ALL SECTORS:
Previously, this demand concerned “vital” products intended for the treatment and preventive treatment, such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices, or valuable products, such as luxury fashion products.
Nowadays, it spans all sectors, partly because consumers are increasingly aware of their purchases because they are becoming more and more careful and informed.
This is the case with food and beverages, in particular, to fight imitations of products that have no connection with the originals but are made to look the same. Or even cosmetic products, key components, and spare parts. The same goes for bio-sustainability, circular economy, and virtuous recycling, which are no longer intended as a warning or just a trend but are absolute musts, improving the chances of receiving public funding.
THE CAKE’S LAST TWO LAYERS: BLOCKCHAIN AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE – THE IMPORTANCE OF VERIFIED DATA
The two “magic words” most often used when discussing such topics are Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. These technologies are undoubtedly essential and offer untapped opportunities, assuming that they concern the cake’s last two “layers.” In fact, before “laying them out,” you need to be able to gather data right from the primary production stage, that of raw materials, for example, and we must be able to do so throughout the distribution chain.
- Blockchain allows information and transactions between parties to be stored securely, verifiable, and permanent. It is a shared, unchanging general ledger as if we were filing a document with a notary, making it easier to record transactions and trace assets in a commercial network. However, it must be based on reliable and verified data.
- The same goes for Artificial Intelligence: it delivers performance that seems to have the same quality but is superior to human capacity in terms of quantity, for instance, when it comes to planning activities and operations autonomously and in areas such as computer vision, anomaly detection, and predictive and preventive maintenance, as long as it can rely on appropriate data.
A saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out”: if you feed garbage into the system, a lot of waste will come out of it, no matter how much computing power you have.
THE CAKE’S BASE LAYERS: METHODS TO GATHER VERIFIED DATA
Instead, the base layers of the cake, where everything else rests on, are the inspection, quality control, and monitoring methods. There are many of them, and they are not only digital:
- they can be chemical, for example, for the chemical and analytical fingerprinting of raw materials or growth mediums;
- they may also come from computer vision and various types of sensors for measuring all the parameters and critical variables involved in production and processing.
Therefore, only those who can ensure end-to-end traceability in all production, processing, and distribution stages will have access to programs and platforms for analyzing, comparing, and managing all the data gathered, checking correlations and constraints, as well as for final certification.
CONCLUSION: DIGITAL INNOVATION GOES IN TANDEM WITH TECHNOLOGY AND MEASURABLE DATA
Digital innovation offers a strategic opportunity to become more competitive. Still, it should always go hand in hand with a cross-technology approach, which we are pursuing at the Antares Vision Group’s Innovation Centre.
Innovation – in its broader, intrinsic sense – is all about enabling technologies, which push the conventional boundaries of what is visible and enhance processes and products throughout their life cycle by measuring sizes and seeing reality with new eyes. Impedance testing, Chemical Colour Imaging (CCI) in the Near Infrared (NIR), gas spectroscopy with the TDLAS technique, and analyses performed with single- and multi-energy X-ray imaging: these are just some of the cutting-edge technologies explored, developed, and integrated by the Innovation Centre and currently used by Antares Vision Group.
So, on the one hand, “What we see is all there is” (a sentence by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002). We tend not to look for what we do not see, believing that our information is relevant and available.
Still, on the other hand, our mantra is “what we see is not all there is“: we use it every day at the Innovation Center, and it maintains, in our daily work, the tension towards the knowledge of innovative technologies for a more transparent, safe and sustainable world.
Alberto Albertini and Francesco Brazzarola
Innovation Centre and Technology Scouting