It’s almost impossible to imagine the amount of food Americans throw away each year. The number is likely in the billions of pounds, and every time you toss out forgotten leftovers or trash rotten produce, you’re part of the problem.
But all hope is not lost. Chicago startup Ovie Smarterware is out to help people change their behavior with smart trackers that indicate when the food in your fridge is on the verge of going bad.
“To improve the usage of the food that gets thrown away, what we really need to do is alter people’s habits,” said co-founder Ty Thompson. “Our product uses visual reminders to help people locate their food and use it before it expires.”
When you open the door to your fridge, your smart tags will light up and show you the stage of your food.”
Ovie is a half-dollar sized tracker that can be placed on food or affixed to one of several products made by the company, which include a band, chip clip and containers. The sensor changes colors from green (good) to yellow (eat it soon) and red (past its expiration date). The startup is building a database to track food expiration dates, with information sourced from a variety of entities, including the FDA.
“We believe consumers need visual cues to change their behavior,” Thompson said. “It’s almost like tying a string around your finger. When you open the door to your fridge, your smart tags will light up and show you the stage of your food.”
Ovie is designed to work with smart home assistants from Google, Apple and Amazon. To track an item, users simply press the Ovie’s button and say something along the lines of, “Alexa, this is lasagna.”
“No one wants to go into an app and type in lasagna,” said Thompson. “Our research shows most people who own smart home speakers keep them in their kitchen, or nearby. When we look at our early adopters, we have to look at the people buying smart home speakers.”
People without home speakers can manually track items using the Ovie app. The app issues notifications regarding the status of food and also provides an overview of the shelf life of everything being tracked. It can also suggest recipes based on what’s tracked, a feature designed to encourage people to use the food they have as opposed to eating out.
Ovie is exhibiting at CES 2018, and its next steps include launching a Kickstarter campaign. In addition to funding, the company is excited to gather feedback from some of its earliest adopters.