Apple invention uses RFID tags, Apple Watch to track food nutrition

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2017
As Apple wades further into health industry waters with products like Apple Watch, the company on Tuesday was granted a patent for technology that would allow food vendors to embed nutritional information in device-readable RFID tags. The solution presents a unique and partially automated solution to calorie counting, one of the more laborious aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Source: USPTO


Granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,640,088 for "Electronic tag transmissions of custom-order nutritional information" describes a method of encoding RFID tags with details regarding one or more food items. The tags then transmit nutritional variables, such as caloric value, fat content, sugar content and more, to a waiting NFC-capable device like iPhone or Apple Watch.

Importantly, the invention allows retailers, or electronic vending machines, to assign nutritional information on a per-item basis, meaning users can mix and match foods as part of a larger order.

For example, a user might order a hamburger with extra cheese and no mayonnaise, a small order of fries and large soda. In some embodiments, the electronic vendor device is capable of combining nutritional variables for said hamburger -- bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments -- to generate an RFID tag. The process can be further refined by assigning nutritional variables to particular ingredients.

Once the tag is generated, an employee places it on a food order package or receipt, which is then read by an Apple Watch or iPhone.


Illustration from Apple's related U.S. Patent No. 9,396,369, of which the '088 patent is an extension.


With the nutritional data stored on a user device, specific metrics can be applied to a health monitoring app responsible for maintaining user-assigned variables like a daily calorie budget. In some examples, the assigned nutritional value is deducted from a daily allowance, better informing users of what they should eat at their next meal.

Going further, Apple's invention also specifies techniques of estimating whether a user consumed part or all of a particular food item. An app might poll onboard motion sensors to determine whether a user moved their arm to their mouth, for example. Alternatively, data from biometric sensors measuring a user's heart rate might indicate that they were eating.

The technology presents an ideal alternative to current app-based solutions that rely on static databases of commonly consumed foods. Some systems also estimate the nutritional value of generic meals, while others require users to input metrics manually.




Whether Apple intends to include the invention as part of a future value-added service remains unclear, though the company would have to overcome substantial hurdles to implementation. Like any new service technology, wide adoption would be a major concern for a fledgling nutritional tracking product. Restaurants, grocers and other purveyors would have to invest not only in Apple's RFID technology, but also in the maintenance of a food nutrition database, employee training and other considerations.

As it stands, the invention smacks of technology Apple might roll out for employees at its campus, perhaps at an Apple Park cafeteria or restaurant.

Apple's interest in health technology has steadily increased over the past few years. Starting with the introduction of HealthKit, then biometric hardware on Apple Watch, Apple has pushed deep into the sector and now positions Apple Watch Series 2 as a dedicated fitness wearable.

Aside from shipping products, Apple has long been rumored to market a full-fledged health-tracking device, and those whispers gathered steam last year. Moving far beyond Apple Watch's heart rate monitoring functionality, Apple is purportedly developing hardware capable of tracking changes in user blood sugar levels. Specifically, a report last month claimed the company has for the past five years been working on noninvasive glucose monitoring sensors, widely considered a "holy grail" of modern medical technology.

Apple's RFID-based food nutrition tracking system patent was first filed for in April 2015 and credits Todd Whitehurst, Zachury Minjack, Zachery Kennedy, Dennis Park, Dylan Edwards and Anton Davydov as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    fotoformatfotoformat Posts: 283member
    I've been using 'MyFitnessPal' as a calorie/fat/carb/vitC counter for more than two years so it's become automatic and easy to log three times/meals a day. But friends I show it to are quite sceptical thinking it would take too much time to implement thrice daily. However, bar/info codes are becoming universal and I see this Apple initiative taking off... certainly if/after it's field tested on 12,000 employees at that oval office situated in Apple Park.
    watto_cobramike1StrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 30
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,003member
    Good idea as a crutch for the 'over eaters', personally I eat just about anything I want, in moderation, and keep my BMI spot on.
    edited May 2017 SpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,872member
    I've been using 'MyFitnessPal' as a calorie/fat/carb/vitC counter for more than two years so it's become automatic and easy to log three times/meals a day. But friends I show it to are quite sceptical thinking it would take too much time to implement thrice daily. However, bar/info codes are becoming universal and I see this Apple initiative taking off... certainly if/after it's field tested on 12,000 employees at that oval office situated in Apple Park.
    Yes, I used "MyNetDiary" on my IPhone to do the same -- and it worked very well.  Not only was it easy to use -- but I learned a huge amount about my diet and was able to escape from many common dietary myths.

    And, we need to do more of this in conjunction with Apple's new(er) Research Initiative because:  We have an epidemic of lifestyle (i.e., diet & exercise) related chronic diseases like:  heart disease, diabetes, various cancers and dementias.  And, it is estimated that 80% of our $3trillion in annual healthcare spending goes to treat those chronic diseases -- that were caused mostly by poor diets and sedentary lifestyles.

    Yet, when somebody tries to research those causes, they are dismissed saying that studies based on user recall are not valid.   Apple's research initiative is the single best way to overcome that argument and track lifestyle behaviors real time.
    pscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 30
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,820member
    I've been using 'MyFitnessPal' as a calorie/fat/carb/vitC counter for more than two years so it's become automatic and easy to log three times/meals a day. But friends I show it to are quite sceptical thinking it would take too much time to implement thrice daily. However, bar/info codes are becoming universal and I see this Apple initiative taking off... certainly if/after it's field tested on 12,000 employees at that oval office situated in Apple Park.
    Yep. It's only annoying for the first few weeks. After you finish creating your common meals and recipes, it's really quite simple to log your food.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,830member
    MacPro said:
    Good idea as a crutch for the 'over eaters', personally I eat just about anything I want, in moderation, and keep my BMI spot on.
    No, it's not just a good idea for over eaters. If you're into training and have specific goals then having a concrete inventory of your daily intake and budget is crucial. I log my meals daily. Some times I'm cutting for a caloric deficit, sometimes I'm bulking and want only a 10% surplus, and sometimes I wish to maintain. Only by counting calories can I target these specific goals. 

    Plus us most Americans eat too much (we're a fat people) and could use the data to get a handle on
    the behavior. If calories are out of sight they're out of mind, clearly. We are too fat and it's costly to our healthcare system. 
    edited May 2017 supadav03pscooter63GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 30
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,988member
    This is a good start but will take some refining, especially when one person purchases the food and another, or multiple people, eat it. It's better than nothing or trying to read labels that don't make sense. Putting an RFID label on all pre-packaged items seems like a no-brainer. Way too many things have those stupid theft deterring stickers on them and many stores don't even bother clearing them after purchase but the manufacturer still puts them inside the package. They can do the same thing with nutritional labels. As for bulk vegetables and meats, I'm sure the markets could include labels right next to the bags. These could also be used to identify the product, making it quicker at checkout time. Of course, people will abuse these and markets will not want to pay for the additional hardware required to use them (just like they continue to refuse to upgrade their POS systems to take chipped cards and ApplePay) but there will be places that will use them like co-ops and stores that only sell packaged products. What I'd like to see, however, is an RFID reader connected to my Mac so I can track all items coming into the kitchen, then identify each item that goes into a meal and split the nutritional information among multiple people. Is this overkill? Not for people like @StrangeDays ;
  • Reply 7 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,830member
    rob53 said:
    This is a good start but will take some refining, especially when one person purchases the food and another, or multiple people, eat it. 
    A good start is the best place to begin any endeavor.

    As for one person buying, and another eating -- well it's unlikely any solution will cover every use case. But a very common one is a person taking a packaged item and then consuming it. If we can cover that, that's major. MyFitnessPal serves this use case but it's based on visual scanning of barcodes which are looked up in a database. This data is mostly accurate but not always. But it allows you to scan ingredients as you combine them into a recipe and then generate per-serving nutritional info, which you can even share with others. It's pretty versatile.
    edited May 2017
  • Reply 8 of 30
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,345member
    Food companies, like most companies want to make as much money as possible. They aren't going to spend any unnecessary money adding RFID chips to their products. You might get a few but not enough to make it worthwhile.

    What happens when you go shopping? Is it going to count everything you pick up? 200,000 calorie day.

    The only sensible option is to scan the unique bar code and have a database of contents for each item. It'll be easier, quicker and available as soon as they add a camera to the watch.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 30
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 703member
    If you can read a package label you don't need this. It is already bad enough that retail chains collect information on everything we buy to either sell to a third party for personalized advertising or worse help insurance companies and bank determine if we are living risky lives and raise our rates or deny us loans. 

    I try to use cash as much as possible until it is taken away by congress at the bequest of their corporate sponsors. If you are an adult you should be skilled enough to ready about nutrition and make informed decisions regarding what you eat and how much of it you eat. Here's a tip: don't eat processed foods. Avoid products with more than 3-4 ingredients, don't eat late or within 3-4 hours of going to bed. Use your brain and don't depend on your phone or watch to save you from obesity and bad health. 
  • Reply 10 of 30
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 383member
    Exactly what I was thinking about long time ago but had no idea how to put into life. Good luck Apple.
  • Reply 11 of 30
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,505member
    evilution said:
    Food companies, like most companies want to make as much money as possible. They aren't going to spend any unnecessary money adding RFID chips to their products. You might get a few but not enough to make it worthwhile.

    What happens when you go shopping? Is it going to count everything you pick up? 200,000 calorie day.

    The only sensible option is to scan the unique bar code and have a database of contents for each item. It'll be easier, quicker and available as soon as they add a camera to the watch.
    When you buy things, the seller should provide you with a detailed receipt containing an unique, universal bar code and price for each item *  at a minimum -- the seller can include its own stock code as an option.  The detailed receipt should be transmitted to your smart phone as part of the transaction.

    Yeah, the system could be smart enough to reflect, coupons, rewards, discounts, mix-and-match margins, etc.

    Then the buyer has all the info needed for tracking spending, budgeting, comparison shopping, and things like diet, nutrition analysis, etc.

    A database needs to be created/maintained that contains all the info for each unique, universal bar code.

    Pie in the sky, you say:

    Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, had such a tough time finding government data for his philanthropic work that he's created his own database -- called USAFacts.

    He told Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times that he spent $10 million creating the database by hiring a team of researchers in Seattle and providing a grant to the University of Pennsylvania. 

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/18/technology/ballmer-usafacts/index.html

    I think that most big sellers will resist providing these electronic, itemized receipts... But, some will see the advantage and customers will be incentivized to shop at these sellers.

    Boom!


    StrangeDays
  • Reply 12 of 30
    It's a good idea but I think QR codes would be more likely to be implemented. Manufacturers could just add the code to the packaging and restaurants (including fast food) could print the code on the packaging / receipt. QR codes really are severely underutilized mainly because no one knows what the heck they're supposed to do with them... With modern phones, they also don't have to be big at all, they only need to be about 1/2 inch to be scannable.
  • Reply 13 of 30
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    MacPro said:
    I eat just about anything I want, in moderation, and keep my BMI spot on.
    Just an assumption on my part but those who eat fast food and packaged snacks where an RFID would apply generally aren't concerned with nutrition anyway and most likely don't care about calorie or fat intake.

    I really don't see the usefulness of this invention, especially for people like me who go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods to prepare family meals at home.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 14 of 30
    christopher126christopher126 Posts: 4,254member
    Or it could just flash..."Eat vegetables, less meat (a lot less or better yet, none), no dairy and no added sugar!" There, done! :)
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 30
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,591member
    Hmmm.... color me sceptical. Most health conscious people don't eat commercially prepared foods. At least not very often. And who knows how much of anything I eat at any given sitting. And who trusts a) the manufacturers to be accurate, and b) that the 'average' will be an accurate reflection. If I eat an Apple and a bun with butter and cheese (that I made at home) for lunch, how will this work. What is needed is an app that let you search by voice, and then flip through the results (with images) with a swipe. If I could say "raw Apple" and a list pops up and I can swipe through until I get something pretty similar, and then tap on that, I think that would be a quicker and more comprehensive way of recording dietary intake. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 16 of 30
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    paxman said:
    What is needed is an app that let you search by voice, 
    You can just ask Siri. "Raw apple calories." (about 9)
  • Reply 17 of 30
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,137member
    volcan said:
    MacPro said:
    I eat just about anything I want, in moderation, and keep my BMI spot on.
    Just an assumption on my part but those who eat fast food and packaged snacks where an RFID would apply generally aren't concerned with nutrition anyway and most likely don't care about calorie or fat intake.

    I really don't see the usefulness of this invention, especially for people like me who go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods to prepare family meals at home.
    I eat fast food occasionally and I care about nutrition. Eating fast food once in a while isn't going to hurt you. 
    StrangeDaysSpamSandwich
  • Reply 18 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,830member
    evilution said:
    Food companies, like most companies want to make as much money as possible. They aren't going to spend any unnecessary money adding RFID chips to their products. You might get a few but not enough to make it worthwhile.

    What happens when you go shopping? Is it going to count everything you pick up? 200,000 calorie day.

    The only sensible option is to scan the unique bar code and have a database of contents for each item. It'll be easier, quicker and available as soon as they add a camera to the watch.
    Wanting to make money is why food companies will add features their customers want. If I had two packages to chose from, i'd pick the one with easy-to-obtain data over the one without.

    I don't think any released system would be so stupid as to think a person ate all the food they bought at the store. Solvable problems. 
  • Reply 19 of 30
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,505member

    Don't need no QR Codes, RFID Tags...

    Say, I want to set up a tete-a-tete with mon ami Jaques at the local supermarket...

    This:



    along with this:




    gets info from the store's db that is used to print a receipt...

    So, the store already has the UPC and Price for each item (among other things).

    Send that digitally to the customer's iPhone -- Printed Receipt Optional --  Paperless?

    iPhone or Mac App (or web browser app) scans the UPC Database giving this:





    So, the infrastructure already exists at the seller:
    • scan a UPC
    • look it up in the Seller's UPC db
    • present a printed receipt with the Item's UPC and Price
    • What's missing is the capability to transmit the digital receipt to the iPhone.

    Then, at the user's convenience, he can use the digital receipt to query the Public online UPC db for item details...

    What's missing is the nutritional information in the Public online UPC db.


    And...

    Most sellers with UPC Scanners already have the means to communicate with your iPhone -- so software is needed at the checkout terminal and the iPhone to exchange the digital receipt and store it in iCloud.

    The Public online UPC db would need to be updated to include the nutritional info for each UPC.

    Then an app, like Numbers, could access the  Public online UPC db  and get the nutritional info -- and much more... No change needed to the Sellers' UPC db!



    BooYah!

    edited May 2017
  • Reply 20 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,830member

    spice-boy said:
    If you can read a package label you don't need this. It is already bad enough that retail chains collect information on everything we buy to either sell to a third party for personalized advertising or worse help insurance companies and bank determine if we are living risky lives and raise our rates or deny us loans. 

    I try to use cash as much as possible until it is taken away by congress at the bequest of their corporate sponsors. If you are an adult you should be skilled enough to ready about nutrition and make informed decisions regarding what you eat and how much of it you eat. Here's a tip: don't eat processed foods. Avoid products with more than 3-4 ingredients, don't eat late or within 3-4 hours of going to bed. Use your brain and don't depend on your phone or watch to save you from obesity and bad health. 
    Pull yerself up by the bootstraps, yada yada. Great advice but impractical in reality. Do you use a calculator, despite knowing how to do math? Why? Oh yeah, because it's easier. Same thing. 
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