How Will the IoT Improve Cold Chain Monitoring


Megan R. Nichols,
Freelance Technical Writer

IoT and connected technologies allow for more robust streams of data, which in turn offers detailed information about day-to-day operations in the enterprise world. The real benefit earned through these innovative technologies is the opportunity to leverage real-time data.

The term “real-time” means what it implies. The information presented is the most up-to-date you can get, streaming in via live feeds. Retailers, for instance, can see how many people are within their store, where they’re located and what they’re doing. Manufacturers can see the bulk of their operational equipment and identify which systems are malfunctioning. Most importantly, these monitoring systems are accessible remotely, meaning the necessary parties don’t have to be on-site or nearby.

Real-time information is invaluable in the supply chain, especially with perishable goods that must be stored under strict, consistent conditions. The more data that’s available about shipments, goods and processes, the better teams can react. Removing contaminated goods from the main supply can now happen at unprecedented speeds.

The combination of real-time data and advanced analytics is how IoT will help to improve and modernize the cold supply chain.

Staying in the Know With Wireless Sensors

Certain goods — perishable foods especially — must be handled, stored and transported under stringent conditions. Meats, for example, even after treated and preserved must remain in cold storage throughout their supply chain journey. Any transport vehicles, storage locations and units, handlers and beyond must preserve the appropriate temperature. If a refrigerator or cooled transport malfunctions, then the meat may become contaminated. If it’s not pulled after that, then when it hits store shelves that could potentially introduce foodborne illness to customers, among other issues.

Naturally, supply chain providers and vendors have survived thus far without the use of IoT. But the argument isn’t necessarily that they cannot make things work without the technology. Instead, it’s that these devices will revolutionize efficiency, controls and monitoring. Imagine a distributor referencing their transport vehicle, at any time along its route. Managers can see the current conditions of goods stored within, view alerts — perhaps about a temperature drop or coolant leak somewhere — and then take action if needed. That’s exactly the kind of solution that IoT and “smart” connected sensors will allow for.

IoT can combine with more coolant systems like industrial chillers, which are designed to cool water or air to keep the surrounding environment cold. In doing so, the systems become incredibly efficient, and monitoring solutions become equally capable. It’s the ultimate solution if you will.

Thanks to IoT, everyone along the supply chain can now remain in the know, at all times, thanks to advanced wireless sensors. The information is collected, reported and processed by remote systems — machine learning and AI may even play a role.

These solutions also help to foster automation and efficiency in the field. Manual checkups are not necessary because the information is streamed in real-time to everyone that needs to know. If and when anomalies are detected, alerts or notifications are sent to the appropriate contact who can take action. A driver, for instance, might see an alert that they left their truck cargo door open. A property manager might see that a refrigerator or cooling solution is malfunctioning. Because they receive these alerts almost immediately upon detection, they can react faster to help preserve the goods and prevent future issues.

Demands Are High for Efficient Cold Storage Systems

Statista estimates that the global food and beverage market willgrow by 10.3% annually,eventually amassing $153 million in revenue by 2023. At the same time, more and more consumers demand access to fresh produce and organic goods. These trends increase the need for refrigerated and cooling systems significantly.

But the food and beverage industry isn’t the only field that relies on cold storage. Pharmaceutical companies must also store their goods under similar conditions, and the need for cold storage in the field also increases.

Therefore, the shared demand for more efficient and more capable cold storage systems across these industries continues to rise, which helps spur the demand for IoT-powered solutions.

Not to mention, there have been several scares recently related to supply chain events — such as the recent e.coli outbreak. Even though these situations weren’t caused by cold storage failures, they highlight the need for greater controls and operational efficiency, at least when it comes to eliminating risk.

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