Thirst for data: Nutrition apps and software to be revolutionised by semantic technology

Apps, software and services that provide us with in-depth information about the food we eat have never been more popular. From calorie counts to gluten content, we want to know a phenomenal range of information about their food, and developers have been falling over themselves to create systems to provide us with this information.

However, getting this information has always been a challenge, with the majority making use of the US’ Food and Drug Administration database, which lacks the detail and range that many consumers crave.

“When it comes it nutrition, the quality of the data is low,” explained Massimiliano Del Vita, CEO and co-founder of Klappo, speaking yesterday at a demo day at Techspace, a London-based startup hub.

Klappo, a company just eight months old, is set on changing that by collecting in-depth nutritional data from a vast range of sources, including recipes, restaurant menus and packaging labels. The result is far more information that you would get from a typical food label.

They make this information available to developers, who can then use it to make more sophisticated nutritional apps and software, such as apps that tell you if a product contains lactose or gluten, or if a recipe suits a specific diet.

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Klappo’s system is far more sophisticated because of its use of semantic technology. This means it can ‘read’ the data to extrapolate advanced nutritional information.

“This is really powerful as it allows us to know what food i made of, what ingredients it is made of,” explained Del Vita.

For recipes, for example, it doesn’t just use the list the ingredients but instead semantically reads the instructions to create an accurate picture of what the cooking process is and what the resulting nutritional information will be; a factor that will change depending on how food is prepared.

For recipes the company can calculate 160 macro and micronutrients, a vast improvement on the majority of products that only tell you the calorie count.

The system will be immensely valuable to existing food blogs and recipe sites, with a leading Italian blog set to start using the technology within the year.

From the 4th July, when Klappo launches in the US, the company will also have data on 400,000 pre-packaged food products.

“This, I would say, is the vast majority of packaged products in supermarkets,” said Del Vita.

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The company are targeting the US and Europe, where data is accessible, although hope to expand further over time.

Klappo is keen to keep the data they collect clear and without bias so that it can be easily used by a vast range of developers.

“Our idea is to be as unbiased as possible for companies to use the data,” explained Del Vita. “There’s a lot of things we can do to map the information that can be used externally.”

Despite Klappo’s small size – just five employees – the company is reaching for the stars.

“We want to be the Google of this,” said Del Vita.


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