Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Food Industry. Technology is a restaurant’s greatest ally. From robotics to IoT (Internet of Things), advances and innovations are improving business performance in the sector. Among all the technologies on the market today, none has the same potential as AI or artificial intelligence. Using machine learning, code, and neural networks, software developers are looking for ways to make our systems learn and evolve to solve everyday problems. As a result, AI is spurring the digital transformation of restaurants by leaps and bounds.
But although we are all clear about the role that this technology plays in the sector, what are the specific applications that are receiving the most attention for their success? In this article, we break down the 10 most interesting uses of AI in the hospitality and food industries.
1.- Search for alternative foods
With supply chains damaged by the coronavirus crisis, restaurants have turned to alternative protein sources. Some of which are being optimized using artificial intelligence-based techniques.
For centuries we have turned to the same foods over and over again, selecting seeds or offspring based on the characteristics of the parent organisms. This same selection process can be orchestrated by computers, provided they have extensive databases on which to base their models.
With the climate control crisis on the horizon, a much shorter time frame, and much at stake, these new techniques will help us find sources of proteins, vitamins, and minerals never before explored and, moreover, resistant to the new thermal, hydrological, and, in general, climatological rigors of tomorrow’s planet Earth.
2.- 3D food printing
3D food printing has one of its cradles in Catalonia. We are at the forefront of these machines, with leading models already operating in the market. 3D food printing makes use of AI-based software to design personalized diets, search for tissue printing patterns and control the efficient use of ingredients. This last point leads us to the next section.
3.- Smart fight against food waste
Some analysts indicate that more than a third of the food produced on the planet ends up in landfills. This is a loss that we cannot afford. Food waste occurs at all levels, and AI-enabled procurement systems are our best chance to put an end to such waste.
4. – Automated kitchens
The advent of robotic cooking, catering, and delivery comes hand in hand with artificial intelligence and the internet of things. While the IoT will ensure that all elements of the restaurant of the future operate in command, artificial intelligence will be the brains of the operation, the core that makes decisions at any given moment depending on what the existing parameters are. Even now, when fully automated restaurants are little more than an attraction for the diner, artificial intelligence is already in charge of managing different systems within the restaurant.
5.- Waiting and delivery robots
Artificial intelligence will not only be responsible for the management of robotic restaurants but will also be an integral part of the automatons. This is already the case with the navigation systems that are implemented in the waiter robots, which have to recognize objects that block their way through the room, as well as identify the table where the food is to be delivered and the diners moving through the aisles. Slightly more complex are the needs of delivery robots, which have a similar function – only they are immersed in the chaos of the streets – and autonomous driving vehicles, such as drones or pizzeria gastro nets.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that originated in Wuhan (China) shows how weak human life is. A small virus can destroy our body, especially when we do not take proper care of it. The health crisis we are experiencing has led to an increased interest in eating well. Nutraceuticals are natural ingredients that improve the health of individuals who consume them. Most of them seem to be related to the oxidation and senescence processes that take place in the body. Complex programs powered by artificial intelligence are used to find new products with these characteristics.
7.- Forced osmosis
Forced osmosis makes it possible to preserve perishable products for a longer period of time without the use of chemical compounds. Thus, preservatives are left in the background. Unfortunately, controlling this physicochemical process is extremely complex, which is why it is simplified using AI-based models. Thanks to these, scientists are developing new packaging methods which, in addition to saving money for the food industry, also lead to reduced use of additives.
8.- Ghost kitchens or dark kitchens
To avoid competition, maximize the delivery range and minimize costs, the location of ghost kitchens can be selected automatically using mathematical models. These are operated by artificial intelligence.
A very similar system is also used by large players in organized catering to avoid cannibalization of clientele between brand establishments. This is the case of the Starbucks coffee chain, for example.
9.- Conversational chatbots with spoken speech recognition
Although they are not yet widely adopted, remaining below 10% in the U.S. -the cradle of consumerism, where fads catch on quickly-, virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant use AI to converse with the owner of the systems almost as if he or she were another person. The potential of these machines in the future is very high; but, for the moment, McDonald’s seems to be the one that is getting the most out of them: it has included this technology in its self-ordering kiosks.
10.- Vertical farms
The big problem with vertical farms is scalability. A small initiative can produce efficiently. However, to get a whole crop is a challenge whose difficulty is orders of magnitude greater. Artificial intelligence is used to control humidity, luminosity, temperature, and other conditions in which the crop is immersed, always with a view to minimizing losses and energy expenditure.
These are the main uses of artificial intelligence today. However, we have no doubt that, as systems evolve over the years, new and interesting applications never seen before will emerge in both the food and hospitality sectors.
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