Mobile AR Application for Food Safety through Blockchain Technology
Laclary is a system that empowers the whole food supply chain by using blockchain technology. It gives consumers total confidence in their grocery purchases by verifying information independently from each participant and tracking the whole food supply chain process from manufacturing to selling. Customers in any store can use their mobile devices to scan products and check verified and comprehensive data with Augmented Reality.
Among humans’ most basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, none is more critical as food. However, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 10 people worldwide falls ill due to consumption of contaminated food. The 42000 deaths, as a result, adds up to a loss of an estimated 33 million healthy life years (DALYs). Hence, it goes without saying that ensuring optimal food safety is the need of the hour.
It requires close monitoring and easy traceability of food products along the supply chain from farm to fork. A lack of reliability, inaccuracy, and opacity of information on food ingredients and their origin is one of the most pressing problems of the modern food industry.
Consumers want to know what’s in their grocery food, whether they can trust their food entirely, from ingredient origin to quality and safety. But how?
Laclary gives consumers total confidence in their grocery purchases:
• During production, information is verified independently by each participant; supplier, manufacturer, safety lab, and audit team.
• The verified information is uploaded to the blockchain. All data must align before upload, deterring any possibility of collusion, malicious acts, or erroneous information in the food’s manufacturing process.
• A customer in any store can use their mobile device to scan the product and see in AR, verified and comprehensive data, giving them full confidence in the food they’re buying.
• They can also share their AR pics on social media, creating exposure.
I conducted a multi-methodology research effort to better understand why people care about food safety and what are the current problems and challenges in the existing food supply chain system. Besides, I would like to know their grocery shopping experience and the current use of technology, as well as how academic researchers have sought to explore these questions in their relative fields of study.
Data Analysis & Literature Review
Q1: Why Knowing the Ingredients in Your Food is Important?
There is being healthy and then there is thinking you are being healthy, unfortunately thanks to some creative wording on food labels it can be hard to tell the difference. With everything from popular cereal brands to numerous yogurts claiming to be nutritious by containing whole grains, real fruit, and vitamins to boost your immunity, it can be very confusing.
1. Advertisers sometimes trick consumers into thinking they are buying something healthier than they really are.
A product may be labeled whole-grain but upon further investigation one will find there are still many artificial and unhealthy ingredients mixed in with a whole-grain. A fruit snack may claim to contain 100% real fruit juice but what is not written in bold on the front of the box is all the sugar and artificial ingredients that outnumber the 100% fruit juice.
2. Over 70% of our packaged foods now contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
GMO stand for genetically modified organisms meaning some foods are currently modified to survive herbicide treatment and resist certain diseases. It is estimated that over 70% of our packaged foods now contain genetically modified organisms. In other words ingredients such as corn, wheat, canola, sugar beets, and soy are not the same ingredients they were when you were a child.
Q2: What are the problems and challenges in the existing food supply chain system?
As I started the initial research,I wanted to understand what are the problems in the existing food supply chain system and then I can get to know how can I improve it. I used different research methods including literature review, competitive analysis and user interview to understand the problem space.
The global food chain is complex, bringing together farmers, warehousing, shipping companies, distributors, and grocers. Involving so many different parties also means involving many different types of record keeping methods, from Excel sheets to emails to paper printouts.
When contamination breaks out, companies takes long time to trace the source of an infection and recall appropriate products due to unclear record-keeping.
For example, in 2006 three people died and nearly 200 fell ill after eating spinach contaminated with E. Coli. Because the FDA could not be sure which bags of spinach contained the infection, it ultimately recommended that Americans avoid eating any fresh spinach. The spinach industry faced $74M in losses.
According to the CDC, foodborne contamination causes 48M Americans to fall ill, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths every year. Produce causes nearly half of the illnesses (due to norovirus) while poultry causes the most deaths (mainly due to listeria and salmonella). When you buy a vegetable at your local grocery store, the brand listed on the sticker may have no idea which farm the vegetable came from. Therefore, brands may not be sure how to react when something goes wrong.
In addition to contamination, the food sector is also largely at risk from falsification and adulteration. One such instance was the infamous horsemeat scandal in 2013, wherein various food products claiming to contain beef were found to be containing undeclared horsemeat. In a Trace One survey, 68% of consumers in the U.S. said they do not have enough information about what’s in their food or its origins. More than 90% of consumers reported that it’s very important to know where their food is coming from.
Observation / User Interview / Eye-Tracking
Based on the research data, I analyzed and extracted recurring themes and patterns across research activities into 5 insights.
80% of the observed check food labels, looking for things like fat, calories and sugars.
Several interviewees also mentioned that they know they should get in the habit of reading food labels when they shop for groceries, but it's not always easy. When they are in a hurry, it's easy to grab familiar foods without checking much more than the front of the package. And with so many foods to choose from -- and so much confusing information on labels – it can be hard to make choices with confidence.
However, 40% admit that they are confused and not totally comfortable reading labels because they are boring and disconnected with health management.
Some of the claims on the fronts of the packages don’t tell the whole story, many packages trumpet the benefit of a single attribute, like no trans fat, while ignoring other important information that consumers need to know, like how much saturated fat or added sodium is in that trans fat-free product. The results of this study suggest that consumers have a finite attention span for nutrition facts labels: although most consumers did view labels, very few consumers viewed every component on any label.
Nutrition Facts labels displayed in the front received 30% more view time than the same labels when located on sides and back.
Also, most respondents viewed label components at the top more than those at the bottom, with the focus usually on the top five lines. Self-reported viewing of the label components was also higher than objectively measured viewing. About a third of subjects self-reported that they almost always check calorie content, 31 percent said the same for total fat content, and 26 percent for serving size. The eye-tracker, however, revealed that only 9% of participants actually looked at calorie count and only about one percent of them looked at each of the other measures.
Most consumers care about food safety, however they choose to trust what they buy since they don't have any clue about how to check it.
They usually limited their attention to the top five lines of the labels and considered the ones that were centrally located the most. Most Nutrition Facts labels on food packages are positioned peripherally, not centrally, and so may not be optimized for grabbing consumers' attentions. The researchers say in a news release that enabling consumers to better notice key nutrition information may influence consumers to make more healthful food purchases.
About 60% of the interviewees indicate interest in knowing more about the food origin and process.
Consumers have a right to expect that the foods they purchase and consume will be safe and of high quality. They have a right to voice their opinions about the food control procedures, standards and activities that governments and industry use to ascertain that the food supply has these characteristics. It's necessary to implement appropriate controls of the food industry - the industry that continuously oversees the manufacture and processing of foods, from raw ingredients to finished product, day in and day out.
Based on the previous research, I conducted a series of sketching sessions to brainstorm and come up with possible features and methods that could potentially help consumers to be more mindful of food safety as well as provide more interesting and engaging experiences for grocery shopping.
How might we combine them together?
Blockchain + Mobile AR + Education Platform
Blockchain technology gives consumers total confidence in their grocery purchases by verifying information independently from each participant and tracking the whole food supply chain process from manufacturing to selling. Customers in any store can use their mobile devices to scan products and check verified and comprehensive data with Augmented Reality. They can also easily learn about the product information from food origin, professor, manufacturer to nutrients.
Transparent and consistent: Blockchain acts as a public, decentralized ledger. This ledger provides a single, unified source of data, creating a transparent audit trail and consistency across parties. As shown in the diagram above, under each step in the supplychain of a food comodity, the relevant information and certification can be recorded in a blockchain network, making a permanenet tamper-proof record.
Accountable and traceable: By virtue of the system relying on a decentralized ledger, various participants across the food supply chain would be more accountable to ensure optimal food safety. Using blockchain, food companies can much more quickly trace outbreaks back to specific sources. This could help increase consumer safety while limiting financial losses, as only the products directly impacted would need to be recalled.
Faster and fairer payment: Blockchain will allow everyone to be paid more quickly, from farm to plate. Farmers could sell more quickly, and be properly compensated as market data would be readily available and validated. This can lead to fairer pricing and even help smaller outfits desperate to get more market attention.
End Users: The blockchain system can be accessd by end customers to see the quality details of the food comodity, ensuring that they are buying good quality products which have a genuine track record of the supplychain.
Prototype & Usability Testing
During the Usability Testing, I found that the current mobile AR screen is not efficient and engaging. The information that is currently displayed includes food certification, product journey and product origin, but it's not enough to cover the whole food story.
The information on the Home screen should be taken into full consideration including the information structure, content, layout...
Users still prefer using existing social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter instead of the "Community" function here.
The "Library" function could be designed more interestingly. Is there any other ratio of the photos? Any combination or layout?
To be Continued...