How Verizon helps food producers maintain freshness through IoT: A Q&A with Jennifer Gibbings

Facing strict regulations and demanding consumers, food shippers need a better way to track their products at every step of the journey.

Man in warehouse pushing boxes

As Verizon’s Global Internet of Things (IoT) Product Development Manager, Jennifer Gibbings is quite literally building the future. Her team designs, prototypes and evaluates the devices in Verizon’s IoT sensor-tracking ecosystem. “So I’m actually building the product,” Gibbings says. “I am responsible for the vision and execution of our IoT asset management solution — ensuring our world-class standards are met for all our customers across all industries.”

With environmental monitoring services that support perishable food distribution globally estimated at nearly $250 billion, Gibbings and her team are doing work that impacts not only food safety but also food producers’ profits.

Here, she discusses the future of IoT, the potential impact of sensors on food safety and how some remarkable oyster farmers are rewriting history.

In Verizon’s view, how does IoT intersect with food safety?

The goal is to leverage information about what’s happening to cargo in transit to drive better business decisions. It’s about interfering before there’s a loss in product quality, helping to prevent diversion or theft and, ultimately, improving customers’ operational efficiencies.

Verizon’s Track and Trace asset management solution uses tracking devices with 4G LTE connectivity and a cloud-based management platform to provide real-time alerts, improving how businesses track inventory in transit. It helps producers maintain freshness along the way — and it’s all made possible by our Internet of Things (IoT) solution.

Is Verizon more invested in the device itself, or in the sensor technology packed inside?

This is not a device play. What matters is understanding what the asset is, what its environmental sensitivities are, and sending meaningful sensor data and real-time alerts to our cloud-based portal. The wireless devices are controlled by our platform, which means the customer has more power.

This is really about getting the right supply-chain data analytics to help avoid spoilage, prevent losses and improve operational efficiencies for our customers across all industries.

If you have technology that can relay what’s happening from moment to moment, you now have a digital record that you can reference.

Jennifer Gibbings, Verizon’s global manager for Internet of Things product development

Food sensor in palm of hand

Verizon is developing solutions in the oyster-shipping channel. Can you describe how IoT sensors and supply chain technologies are impacting this area?

Many companies are scrambling for a better way to track what’s happening to high-value or perishable cargo during shipment, including seafood farmers that supply fresh oysters to restaurants and supermarkets all across the country. Once the product leaves their custody, they can’t see what happens during the shipping process before the oyster shows up on your plate. If you’ve ever had one, you know that one bad oyster can spoil more than a meal; it can ruin a reputation. For companies that live and die by the freshness and quality of their seafood, that’s a big risk to take.

Suppose someone got sick from an oyster at a restaurant. Right now, the finger-pointing leads back to the oyster farmer: “You gave me a bad product.” That's because there's no way of knowing where the impact actually happened in the supply chain. But if you have technology that can relay what’s happening from moment to moment, you now have a digital record that you can reference.

With our Track and Trace solution, oyster farmers can monitor the location and temperature of every oyster bag shipped as it travels across the country, helping to keep the oysters fresh along the way.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 ushered in sweeping changes to U.S. food safety laws. How do Verizon’s IoT sensor solutions help keep food purveyors on the right side of regulators?

Essentially, FSMA was about switching the federal focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. And our technology fits perfectly into that story of prevention. By getting real-time alerts, you're able to respond and intervene — in effect, to course-correct quickly, before there's a loss.

Our technology fits perfectly into that story of prevention.

Jennifer Gibbings, Verizon’s global manager for Internet of Things product development


FSMA impacts food manufacturers, processors, transports, distributors — basically anyone who has their hands anywhere in the transport of human or animal food. And that's where the temperature control tracking comes in. Our goal is to continue to build on our product, so that our clients aren’t just satisfying FSMA regulations, but outpacing them.

How can a nickel-sized sensor help stop food poisoning? Find out how. 

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