An RFID in a cake could tell you how many calories it contains (Image: Image Source/Getty)
newscientist.com | Jun 10, 2011
by Jesse Emspak
For tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are the greatest thing since sliced bread. But what if the RFID chip was actually in the sliced bread?
A student at the Royal College of Art in London, Hannes Harms, has come up with a design for an edible RFID chip, part of a system he calls NutriSmart. The chip could send information about the food you eat to a personal computer or, conceivably, a mobile phone via a Bluetooth connection.
The idea is that it could send nutritional data and ingredients for people who have allergies, or calorie-counting for those on diets, or maybe even telling your fridge when the food has gone off. It could even be used to market organic food, with a chip holding data about the origin of that tuna steak you just bought.
The idea still raises a lot of questions. First is safety. People ingest electronic cameras often enough – the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first ones a decade ago. But those cameras are used to diagnose serious conditions, not eaten daily. Then there’s privacy. Do you want the whole world to know about your food allergy or diabetes? Are you comfortable telling unknown parties your eating habits?
Last is cost. RFID chips can be made cheaply, but adding a dollar to the cost of a dollar food item is a leap many people might not want to make.
It isn’t clear whether Harms could commercialice this – he has presented designs for interactive furniture and a small, portable ultrasound unit, but they seem to be industrial design concepts more than anything else. That said, the idea itself is intriguing and is a nice example of just how far we can take the concept of a wired world.