Monday, June 29, 2009

Is IBM the future of food safety and management?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 10:30 AM

We've heard a lot of debate about free markets in this country lately. And while we're likely to be saturated with government-vs.-market arguments about health-care reform, IBM is quietly starting another free market battle of its own.

The company has been running "smarter planet" advertisements for several months, talking about smarter cities, smarter retail, smarter this and smarter that. The oversimplified gist is that IBM has the ability and technology to solve (or help solve) problems normally left to governments. One of these problems is food supply safety and management.

In a series of cartoons, it's trying to show consumers just how bloated the food industry has become:



Its

goal is not only to reduce food waste and shipping distance but also to

track food-borne illnesses in real time. Much of these efforts revolve

around radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners, which IBM can manufacture for less than a penny a piece

and which "will reveal the origin,

delivery date, transportation mode, and destination" of any package.

The system is being tested by Norway after an E. coli

outbreak in 2006 that threatened its beef market.

Back here in America, would people

trust their food safety to IBM over the FDA? IBM just released a

study saying people already don't trust food sources: "Less than 20 percent of

consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that

are safe and healthy for themselves and their families" and "that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about the safety of

food they purchase."

The FDA hasn't been perfect but it also doesn't have IBM's budget. Big Blue is spending more than $50 billion on smarter planet initiatives. The FDA budget for 2008 was just over $2 billion. That's not being smarter, that's outspending.

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