Best in Category - Product Design 2023

PPB Technology - CYBERTONGUE® Food Testing System: Laboratory Quality Results in Minutes™

PPB Technology / Tricycle Developments / Xentronics

PPB Technology's CYBERTONGUE® revolutionizes food testing, enabling rapid onsite analysis, improving quality and safety, reducing waste, and extending shelf-life.

PPB Technology’s CYBERTONGUE® is a revolutionary food testing system. Food processors use it to analyse samples on site in minutes, instead of sending them to an external laboratory and waiting days for a result. It allows processors to improve food quality and safety, reduce waste and increase supermarket shelf-life.

Design Brief:

All processed foods are tested for safety and quality before they reach the consumer. Testing targets include pathogens, toxins and undeclared allergens. Early detection keeps food safe and reduces waste.

Currently testing is conducted by external laboratories. It takes days to deliver results, which is incompatible with continuous production and just-in-time supply chains. A food technologist complained: "Our products are on the supermarket shelf before we know they are safe".

We set out to develop a system that provided Laboratory Quality Results in Minutes™, was always available and was a joy to use, even for non-specialist operators.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Over several years, the team followed a methodical, iterative design process, leveraging human factors studies, scenario testing, and continuous customer feedback to evolve the product into an intuitive, modular, and user-friendly system. Feedback from food technologists influenced the modular, customizable architecture, providing adaptability to diverse spatial and ergonomic needs.

The final design involved seamlessly integrating various components to deliver an intuitive experience. This includes a portfolio of shelf-stable reagent tubes, a preparation station, the testing device, and an operator interface. From the sample preparation station to the user interface, every element has been tailored for intuitiveness and functionality.

The CYBERTONGUE® system, enabled by our patented molecular biosensors and novel shelf-stable binary reagent system, delivers accurate, real-time analysis, a significant leap from the capabilities of conventional off-site laboratories. Our design breakthroughs allowed us to accommodate precise, traceable results and immediate analysis within the same framework, providing on-the-spot decision-making power to food companies.

The final design's implementation emphasizes safety, compliance, and sustainability. The device carries the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM), conforms to IEC standards for Lab Instrumentation, and integrates a recycling scheme for single-use plastic tubes. The structure, featuring machined aluminium and state-of-the-art components, ensures durability and reliability.

CYBERTONGUE® not only significantly reduces costs, waste, and food-related risks, but also enhances quality, effectively redefining food testing practices. This cutting-edge technology, embodying PPB Technology’s commitment to design excellence, is a testament to professional design and its transformative potential. Our team exceeded the design brief by creating a product that provides Laboratory Quality Results in Minutes™, empowering food companies with real-time decision making and quality assurance.

Design Excellence

The CYBERTONGUE® has a visually distinct, clean and modular form that fits into the environment of an on-site Quality Control laboratory. The product demonstrates excellent visual appeal and invites user interaction. The white and silver colour scheme is preferred by users and is easy to keep clean.

The system delivers verified quantitative results that enables users to make real time decisions in a food production facility. It does this while delivering best in class user experience.

The device is electrically safe and compliant and carries the RCM. All chemicals in the quantities and concentrations used are non-hazardous. The device is customer, lifecycle and compliance tested, conforming to IEC standards for Lab Instrumentation. There is an agreed scheme to recycle the single use plastic tubes via 180 Waste Group.

A premium product, the instrument uses a combination of machined aluminium for structure, durability and heat dissipation. It includes the quality of the components such as cutting-edge solid-state photon multiplier tubes and interference optical filters.

The CYBERTONGUE® takes out both "costs of failures" and "costs of control" that are currently costing producers and stakeholders millions of dollars. CYBERTONGUE® testing reduces costly brand damage due to product failures, noncompliance and recalls and helps them optimise value-adding of raw materials. It will reduce waste and illuminate best practice from farm to consumer.

The CYBERTONGUE® establishes a new benchmark for design excellence not just in Victoria, but across Australia and on an international scale. By integrating cutting-edge technology with intuitive usability, it emphasises the potential of thoughtful and innovative design. It effectively redefines food testing by offering an in-house, real-time analytical solution, a concept that was previously inconceivable, thereby setting a new standard in the industry.

Design Innovation

The CYBERTONGUE® brings together two previously incompatible sets of requirements:

One is the need for accurate, traceable analytical measurements of food samples. (These could previously only be made by highly trained staff working in NATA-accredited analytical laboratories. The workflow started with shipping large samples, work up to remove a range of interfering substances, followed by time-consuming separations on extremely expensive equipment).

The second need is for results in real time, so that food companies can make on the spot decisions. Food companies’ QC staff do not have the training or equipment available in the external lab. We aimed to deliver an experience that was as simple and fool proof as baking a packet cake.

The molecular biosensors are patented and new to science. The shelf-stable binary reagent system is novel and subject to a patent application. These biosensor proteins can be tuned to measure almost any trace component of food and provide a result within minutes.

Over a period of 8 years, the ease of use was driven by evolution of the test protocol, human factors studies, scenario testing and regular customer trials. The system comprises of a sample preparation station, the re-agents, the analytical device, and a customer display. The architecture is deliberately modular with a small footprint, allowing users to tailor and customise the systems arrangement for their space availability and ergonomic needs. From the sample preparation station to the UI, the system has been designed to be intuitive and straightforward. A key part of the lid design is to seal off external light sources. The unique self-closing lid ensures it's shut and allows for single handed operation.

Design Impact

The CYBERTONGUE® is redefining food testing. It provides food producers an inhouse tool with an accurate, traceable analytical food measurement tailored to just-in-time supply chains.

The CYBERTONGUE® helps customers reduce waste, prevent food recalls, increase food shelf-life and reduce production costs. At the extreme it reduces harms such as hospitalisations and anaphylaxis due to contamination of food with undeclared allergens.

The device will support biosensors for food allergens to enable a wider range of food products to be processed in the same factory, safely and without cross contamination. It will support the mandatory phasing out of "Precautionary Allergen Labels "such as "may contain", which is widely regarded as unhelpful even to allergic consumers.

Customers in the dairy sector have said:
- It will allow them to completely redesign the way they stream, store and process raw milk. This will allow more milk to be processed into high value long-life milk and less into lower value powdered milk. This is positive for food exporting countries like Australia.
- Another customer told us they will be able to expand their production of high value-added products in rural centres where the access to external labs is poor.

The CYBERTONGUE® Technology is the sole focus of PPB Technology. The investment in design, evolution of protocol, and ease of use, culminating in the positioning of CYBERTONGUE® as an “easy to use tech leader”, reflects the raison d'être of the company and propels its growth into a high value, globally significant Australian export business. This innovative development demonstrates Victoria's ability to produce technology that redefines industry standards, by merging technological advancement with practical, user-centric design.

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