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Barilla Uses RFID to Automate Home-Cooking

The Italian food manufacturer is marketing an RFID-enabled oven that captures instructions from a passive tag, then automatically mixes and cooks the ingredients; the company also has RFID plans in the works for its Safety for Food program.
By Claire Swedberg

HF RFID provided these options, the company reports, since high-memory HF chips are available that can store a large amount of data. What's more, HF RFID readers were comparatively inexpensive to build into an oven.

ID-Solutions selected NXP Semiconductors' iCode SLIX chip with 1 kilobit of memory, and designed a customized Smartrac BullsEye RFID tag and label that could be attached to the exterior of the product packaging. The firm encodes each label's tag with the appropriate recipe data, and then sends the labels to Barilla's manufacturing site, where they are applied to the packaging. ID-Solutions also designed a quality-control testing station—featuring an NXP reader chip and a reader antenna designed by ID-Solutions—with which Barilla reads a kit's tag before shipping that product to a customer.

For the Cucina Barilla system, ID-Solutions designed a customized Smartrac BullsEye RFID tag that could be attached to the ingredients' packaging.
The ovens also come with an HF reader chip and an antenna (customized by ID-Solutions) to interrogate a kit's tag when it is placed within short range of the oven.

To cook a meal, consumers must order an ingredient kit from the Cucina Barilla website. While the ovens are sold at most large electronics stores in Italy, the kits (which consist of packages including all necessary ingredients) cannot be purchased in stores.

When a consumer wants to cook an item (pizza, for example), he or she places that kit's tag close to the reader antenna, near the oven's display screen. The oven reader captures the tag's ID number, along with all the information for making that recipe. The screen can then display instructions, such as "pour ingredients into a bowl and insert into mixing chamber."

To begin the food-preparation process, a consumer places the kit's RFID tag close to the reader antenna, near the oven's display screen.
The user follows the displayed instructions, while the oven's built-in computer follows the detailed steps encoded on the tag, such as mixing, adding water or cooking at a specific temperature. Once the food is finished cooking, the oven displays the words "Buon appetito" on its screen.

The Cucina Barilla system was released to the public at 400 Italian stores this summer. While the company currently offers 20 RFID-enabled recipes, that number is expected to rise during the next two years to about 100.

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