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Software is eating the food world

Mike Elgan | Jan. 3, 2017
Put down that lab-grown meat burger and slimy Soylent shake. Silicon Valley has a better idea than freaky fake food.

In a nutshell, the RFID chip, which is cheap and disposable with the food container, identifies everything about the food, including its source, who packed it, when it was delivered to and when it was purchased. The payment card system (instead of cash) identifies the buyer.

Byte Foods feeds this data into its proprietary algorithms, and amazing things are possible. For starters, individual users can set up an account. If, for example, someone gets the same cold-brew coffee drink every afternoon, the customer can be automatically notified if the fridge is running low.

The fridge is capable of flex pricing. So if a specific item is selling slower than expected, the price can drop automatically.

Fresh food on the premises is a major employee perk, and employers can make it even more of a perk by subsidizing it. For example, they can make all the food free, or they can make it cheap by offsetting, say, half the cost.

Unlike vending machines, which are stocked based on what's on the truck, Byte Foods products are determined by software at the warehouse and delivered in refrigerated trucks at most every day, and at least three times a week.

Byte can test new food items on the fly, and know exactly how popular it is and adjust inventories accordingly. Software turns food into something that can be intelligently recommended or sourced, just like, say, books on Amazon.com. Over time, the Byte fridges are stocked with the items employees really want.

Every food item has a "trigger" expiration date, often two days, at which point the food is picked up and donated to an organization called ExtraFood.org, making the food fresher for employees and eliminating food waste.

The end result is fresh, healthy, premium, customized meals, rather than stale, unhealthy junk food snacks.

Why software technology makes better food better than biotech

Futurists have been predicting the transformation of food for decades. Remember when all our food would come in a pill or would be sold freeze-dried? Astronaut ice cream, Tang and other "space food" was the future. And some Silicon Valley companies are still working on futuristic fake foods.

But the reason predictions of fake foods never came true is that futurists forgot to take human nature into consideration. It turns out people take pleasure in eating real food.

Now, extremely advanced software technology is enabling high-quality real food to be delivered to homes and offices in a low-cost, fast, flexible and customizable way.

 

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