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Using Blockchain, IoT to Boost Meal Programs for Schoolchildren

Accenture Labs and Akshaya Patra use AI, IoT and blockchain technology to increase the number of meals served to India’s schools.

India, the second-most populous country in the world with over 1.2 billion people, boasts one of the fastest-growing economies bolstered by the youngest workforce in the world. Despite this, India ranks 97th out of 118 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). While millions of dollars are spent every year on tackling malnutrition, 3,000 children die every day due to hunger.

In a bid to combat this problem, Accenture Labs has teamed up with Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal program, to use disruptive technologies such as the blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to boost the number of meals served to children in schools in India that are run and aided by the government.

Since 2000, Akshaya Patra has been working toward reaching more children to provide them with wholesome food every single school day. When it first started it was serving 1,500 schoolchildren in five schools. Now, it reaches more than 1.6 million children from over 13,500 schools across 11 states in India.

By teaming up with Accenture Labs, Akshaya Patra aims to feed even more children by expanding its reach through Accenture’s Tech for Good initiative. As the two organizations worked on their “Million Meals” project over a six-month period in Akshaya Patra’s Bengaluru kitchen, they illustrated how technologies such as the blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence can be utilized to help address significant challenges in mass meal production and delivery.

Akshaya Patra employs unskilled workers in its operations and the data is recorded manually; however, as the data needs to be collated on a routine basis, it can have a direct impact on the planning and kitting process.

“We realized that having real-time data on the cloud would be beneficial as it will enable traceability and decision making in limited time frames during emergencies,” said Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

By analyzing the daily demand for meals on an Android phone, the location-aware artificial intelligence system can predict the demand requirement for each school each day by reviewing all the historical transactions, thus enabling quick decision-making on the spot and enhancing efficiency.

In Akshaya Patra’s Bengaluru kitchen, cooking is improved by working from more than 15 recipes while IoT-based sensors, which are installed in the cookers, facilitate real-time monitoring of the cooking process. Whenever there is a deviation, workers are prompted to take immediate action.

On systematic review of the collected information, it is possible to identify gaps in the system and put in control measures, thereby optimizing the resources, Venkat explained.

“When the production starts, the supervisor updates the sequence of activities for which the time and temperature gets captured from the cloud,” he added. “In case the requisite temperature is not met, one has to wait to attain the right temperature, which ensures real-time monitoring of time and temperature.”

A further key component of Akshaya Patra’s operations is its invoicing and audits. To achieve transparency in both fields, the blockchain is used to create data trust networks to ensure accurate reporting and invoicing.

“Authentic feedback is crucial for any organization to improve its services,” said Venkat. “The use of [the blockchain] facilitates real-time feedback from the stakeholders directly on the application without being influenced and helps in initiating appropriate corrective actions.”

Through the use of disruptive technologies such as IoT, the blockchain and artificial intelligence, Accenture Labs’ Tech for Good initiative leads to 4,500 more meals produced by Akshaya Patra for every paisa saved (a monetary unit in India).

“We are running a unique partnership with Akshaya Patra, which will allow us to give a million more meals per year with the combinatory power of all the latest technologies: AI, IoT, blockchain and industry 4.0,” said Sanjay Podder, managing director of Accenture Labs in Bengaluru. “This is an Akshaya Patra 'Tech for Good' story.”

Rebecca Campbell

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