How IoT projects can benefit the beverage industry (and why they often fail) | Panda Anku

Over the past 20 years, the value of data has skyrocketed as companies across all sectors look to leverage siled data or create new streams to reduce costs and expose inefficiencies.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a collective term for networks consisting of a number of electronic devices, all connected and communicating with each other via Wi-Fi, cellular networks or Bluetooth. Smart devices are at the forefront of data collection for IoT developments. This suite of sensors and cameras, which are often inexpensive individually, collect data and provide businesses with a live picture of consumer purchasing behavior. On the production side, the devices can monitor everything from the stove’s internal temperature to vehicle repair schedules or help track carbon emissions.

According to James Brand, software engineer at Intelligent Industries, the IoT is a tool that can provide organizations “valuable, rich data” that enables them to use the information to increase efficiency, reduce costs and “… to understand himself as never before”.

“The days of vendors offering end-to-end solutions that are effectively black boxes and data difficult to consume elsewhere are coming to an end,” he adds.

However, deploying these intelligent networks can be time-consuming and costly, leading some organizations to view them as a daunting task.

Henk Schwietert, CEO of IoT solution provider Evalan, which has worked with breweries like Heineken, said Drinks only that “IoT is a solution or a concept that requires a whole bunch of different people with different expertise to work together.”

“Often there are sensors or devices involved, there are devices that manage communications, there is firmware, there is knowledge of wireless, wired communications and cellular networks. There is a cloud backend system, there are applications in the clouds, there is data processing, there are user interactions and elements.”

“All of that together. Each of these is quite manageable on its own, but together they form a complex project.”

Use in the beverage industry

Many companies in the food and beverage industry are often far from the end consumer, so the ability to get live data on how and when customers use products is a huge benefit. IoT systems offer ways to bring this data indoors remotely, where it can be analyzed and manipulated, or even blended with other datasets the company already owns.

In the beverage industry, smart liquid dispensers are one of the most common examples of public-facing IoT rollouts. These not only serve the customers, but also generate valuable consumer data for their operators.

British soft drink manufacturer Britvic has developed The Flavor Tap, a smart dispensing system for retail, hospitality and the workplace. Capable of dispensing flavored sparkling or still beverages, the tap is also connected to the internet and sends data back to Britvic’s via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.

Beyond the Bottle Product Director at Britvic Noel Dickson explains the innovation can tell the company “how many and what types of drinks are being served” and give them the ability to remotely update recipes stored in the cloud. Using AWS, the IoT sensors on faucet aroma cartridges also help simplify operations and maintenance by sending automatic alerts when a cartridge needs changing or when the faucet is having problems.

One company that has had notable success with its IoT systems is the Costa Coffee chain, owned by The Coca-Cola Co. She founded Costa Express, which has installed over 10,000 self-service kiosks in workplaces, retail stores and high-traffic public areas.

The Costa Express machine is capable of producing standard caffeinated beverages, including iced beverages. It also acts as a connected data point for Costa, learning consumer behavior and providing insights into sales patterns. All data is sent back via mobile networks and processed by Costa Coffee. Feedback on machine stock levels and maintenance requirements is also fed back to Costa, helping to keep system downtime to a minimum.

Paul Borrett, Costa Express systems and data director, said the cellular network (provided by IoT technology company Eseye) “provides a managed connectivity service with a global footprint.”

“This means we can use connected devices and deliver high-quality beverages virtually anywhere in the world,” he adds. “This is a real advantage as the company aims to expand rapidly in international markets.”

Leveraging IoT to achieve ESG goals

Many companies use IoT solutions to meet their ESG goals – bearing in mind that the devices themselves often have built-in technology that consumes energy in an amount that actually contributes to the company’s net carbon emissions .

The green advantage of an IoT infrastructure lies in its ability to provide detailed insights and records. This data can be used to understand equipment and vehicle maintenance schedules to ensure optimal performance and efficiency over longer periods of time. An efficient maintenance schedule can have a major impact on a company’s carbon emissions by reducing the labor and energy required for repairs, not to mention the financial savings from replacing parts.

IoT projects can also be used to reduce emissions in sectors that rely heavily on chillers by providing constant feedback on temperature levels, thereby reducing the likelihood of malfunctions. The same applies to production lines and fermentation tanks. So while IoT devices themselves reduce emissions, they can help beverage companies implement more efficient practices while creating an environmental benefit.

IoT projects are not without risk

Cybersecurity concerns often top the list when addressing the risk elements of IoT projects. Louise Bulman, GM of EMEA at cybersecurity firm Claroty Drinks only that IoT devices are “very vulnerable” to hacking due to the technology they contain, and warned that companies need “complete transparency” to understand the risk these devices pose, especially when they are outdated.

“These assets are often decades old and difficult (if not impossible) to patch, making them very vulnerable to cyber threats…if they’re not properly secured,” she says. “The situation is also compounded by the fact that some food and beverage organizations do not have effective vulnerability management strategies in place. A quarter of food and beverage companies admitted they are reactive or not at all assessing security vulnerabilities.

“There’s no point in fixing an IoT device’s vulnerabilities if they’ve already been exploited by cybercriminals, and it’s even worse if there’s no attempt at all.”

To mitigate these risks, enterprises can segment IoT networks so that they have limited connections to outside operators. Isolating the network can help nip a cyberattack in the bud if one does occur.

Another risk factor – and one that often leads to failure of IoT projects – is fatigue, as many projects end up abandoning before the benefits of implementation are felt.

“What you often see in companies is that a team is assigned to launch this IoT innovation, they are all full of energy, they expect, okay, in half a year we will start showing the first results,” says he’s in trouble. “Half a year becomes a year and a half, a year and a half becomes two years. When the results come in and show that the project was successful, the people who originally set it up are gone. They have already been transferred to other jobs, so there are new people with new ideas and new agendas.”

IoT projects face three critical problems when they start. First, the project never leaves the planning table because of a lack of interest or bad pitching. Second, the technical complexity of the solution is not fully appreciated, and problems flood the project, driving up costs and creating frustration. Eventually, companies lose interest in the project and don’t complete it when it can provide insights and real benefits.

A well thought-out approach to an IoT infrastructure can open up tremendous opportunities for beverage companies – reducing costs, providing consumer insights and lowering carbon emissions. But getting a project off the ground takes patience and a clear end goal in mind.

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