Best known for its fingerprint and facial recognition software, NEC’s new invention could revolutionize the global produce industry. With a simple digital picture, NEC’s Fruit Identification System will be able to tell you the original date the fruit was picked and shipped, as well as it’s type, like a delicious Honeycrisp apple. The photo will be compared to the wealth of digital pictures in NEC’s database to identify the type of fruit and its age. According to NEC’s research, the colors and wrinkles found in each fruit and vegetable are unique indicators of when it was picked. A test of 1,800 Andes melons found the system’s error rate to be 1 in 1 million.
Eliminating the need for RFID and bar codes, this technology is projected to significantly reduce the costs for produce businesses. With the potential to also save companies through out the supply chain from investing in bad produce, the market opportunities for this technology are expected to grow with its recent release into the press.
Once the technology is released commercially, consumers will be able to shop for fresh food, literally, on their phones at the grocery store. This technology has the potential to reach the ranks of GoodGuide and some eco-labels with it’s ability to place instant and credible information in the hands of consumers. Yet there is some concern over whether removing bar codes will also disguise GMOs and other products that customers were learning to decode. There is no information at this time as to whether NEC’s software will identify GMO varieties, but it may be possible given its database’s filing system. With a 2-3 year commercial release date, there is quite a bit of time for business and consumers to evaluate this technology’s potential uses.