Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Machine Learning, all are rapidly developing technologies as we race into the 2020s. What will these disruptive technologies mean for the future of the brewing industry? And what trends could we expect to see emerge?
The last few years have seen a consolidation of the craft beer market. The trends show consumers have moved to looking for quality original products, with many old school hops seeing resurgences in popularity. Many small brewers can easily produce different types of beers, with different hops, yeast, and malts used. To ensure consistency and quality, pursuing an adequate technological level is critical in maintaining high standards over time.
For many who have been in the industry long enough, the advent of automation through relay logic technology helped ignite the computer age with programmable logic controllers (PLC) technology now commonplace in almost all sized breweries. V-Brew have specialised in automation in the brewing industry for sometime and implemented many PLCs. These small rugged computers are the preferred method of controlling, measuring and carrying out tasks in many industrial settings, including brewing. As technology progresses and we move into the data age, it’s likely these PLC are not going anywhere, but we could see a difference in their possibilities.
As an Electronic Engineer by trade, of particular fascination to me is the rise of open source PLC models based on Arduinos and Raspberry Pi. These rely on high level programming languages such as Java, C and C++ rather than the IEC 61131-3 standards like ladder logic, which has started to become dated. These new programming languages open up a range of possibilities that aren’t available on older systems. The Internet of Things (IOT) is one example of change, the principle of this is that everything is connected to everything, literally everything. Amazon’s Alexa is just one example of where the IOT has been applied. Data lives in everything and if used properly has the potential to tell us so much about the processes in brewing.
Brewers used to have access to sensor data in isolation, but now more and more data is being brought together through the whole process. This has come about as a result of increased adoption of low-cost IOT sensors and devices, coupled with more powerful processing power in PLCs. This combination has created a digital dashboard that gives near instant information on the health of a product and how the various processes are related. New machines produced at Devon based V-Brew are aimed at just that, collecting the data and displaying it to make sense for the brew. The latest products, such as smart pasteurisers, feature touch screen machine interfaces, which can display tables, graphs and even email all this information after each cycle. This data driven brewing has uses in decision making, with optimal sampling times and reductions in fermentation times all possible through enhanced data collection.
This enhanced data collection will be what drives forward brewing into the future. There are already signs of the potential for data in brewing starting to emerge. Little Lion World Beverages have developed an app that is used to buy and sell craft beer, the app uses an AI algorithm to make recommendations to their clientele, which has helped them boost their profit margin.
Brewing is both an art form and a science. It is the science part that could see huge change, with data used to improve the beer itself. Beer has thousands of compounds, but current analysis relies on the content of only several important processing parameters such as gravity, bitterness or alcohol. New technologies such as infrared spectroscopy could predict hundreds of compounds simultaneously at different stages of the brewing process.
Again data lives everywhere and data processed by an artificial intelligent (AI) algorithm could take this data and make recommendations based on user preferences based on the hundreds of compounds and parameters. A head brewer would still be able to accept or decline these changes. It’s unlikely these systems will replace the brewer, but instead help inform the decision making processes.
Get In Touch
Interested in what V-Brew can do for your brewery? Why not get in touch to discuss? Give us a call on (+44) 01395 233031 or drop us a message via our contact page.