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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

Food Safety Project
Barilla is also undertaking a large project for tracking the food supply chain, says Michele Festuccia, Cisco Italia's system engineer leader. The S4F project, he explains, aims to introduce a globally adopted platform to improve food safety and enable decision-making by companies for improving the supply chain. Such food-safety decisions are typically made by directors of the company's quality, food-safety and regulatory corporation department, as well as by the head of the anti-fraud department and the manager in charge of external relations. "The main objective of the project," Festuccia says, "is the digital evolution of the food supply chain in compliance with international and Italian regulations, in terms of safety, quality standards and origin of the raw materials."

Cisco is providing Barilla with its Intelligent Industrial Network. This will enable the company to collect, aggregate and forward data, via a Wi-Fi connection, from areas throughout the supply chain when QR codes are scanned on products or on raw ingredients for those products. In the future, however, RFID tags might also be used.

The system employs Penelope SpA's Business Intelligent Platform, known as ValueGo, for real-time supply chain monitoring, says Francesco Marandino, Penelope SpA's chief executive.

Cisco Italia's Michele Festuccia
According to Belli, Barilla chose to start the pilot with the Safety for Food initiative, which is focused on the customer experience portion, to showcase at the Expo 2015 world's fair in Milan. With Expo 2015 running from May to October, Barilla selected the special-edition pastas and sauces that would be a part of this pilot, based on the raw materials available in March, as well as each operation plants' ability to produce the special-edition stocks in time for the event.

Penelope SpA developed the ValueGo software platform that enables real-time supply chain monitoring, as well as vertical features for compliance checking, tracking and tracing of all food ingredients along the supply chain. The companies worked together to build an Open-Loop Controller Platform for aggregating and analyzing the data, in order to extract information related to the end-to-end chain.

The S4F project, which began in May 2015 with the launch of Expo 2015, is only a pilot at this time, involving limited-edition packages of Barilla pasta and sauces. The special Barilla packages were sold at the event's "Supermarket of the Future" exposition, and are currently being sold at COOP grocery stores throughout Northern Italy.

To access data about a particular product and the origins of its ingredients, consumers can use their smartphone to capture that product's QR code. In the future, however, RFID could be used in multiple ways to capture more information automatically throughout the supply chain, Marandino says. Belli adds that Barilla is now investigating several RFID-based options. For instance, he says, passive RFID could be used to identify goods and their movements at each company, both within and outside the supply chain. Barilla is also investigating the use of active RFID tags with embedded environmental sensors and possibly GPS receivers, to ensure the automatic and continuous collection of data and thereby improve the monitoring of food processing and warehousing.

The information and results gained from this pilot will be incorporated into Barilla's manufacturing plan during the next several years, Festuccia reports.

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