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Defrosting cold-chain product development

By Nathan Wrench - Last updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monitoring temperature-sensitive items is not new. We rarely see it being done, however, as by the time we tuck into our fresh bananas, or receive the latest vaccine, any evidence of temperature and condition monitoring technology has long gone. And therein lies the problem.

Tracking how food and pharmaceutical products have been treated is possible, it just isn’t particularly cheap or convenient. The solutions that are available right now typically involve an electronic sensor device that gets inserted deep inside the logistics consignment. Only when it reaches the unpacking depot does the device get removed, and the staff then can plug it in to their computer, whereby it creates a PDF report of the journey and automatically sends the information back to HQ (HQ being whoever paid for the temperature logger in the first place).

At best the current process is a bit open-loop. At worst, it doesn’t work. At the unpacking station, there is little or no incentive for the team to find these devices, to stop what they’re doing and upload the data. Often the devices get lost. And, even more crucially, as soon as the pallet is unloaded and the contents repacked for their next onward journey, there is no further temperature logging currently possible.

The nurse administering the vaccine has no way of knowing what temperature excursions the drug has actually seen, even if it was delivered in good condition to the main processing depot.

That’s why we developed DropTag®CHILL. As you’d expect from Cambridge Consultants, it doesn’t try to incrementally improve any of the above issues – it delivers step-change improvements on all fronts:

  • It’s about a tenth of the cost of any comparable device. This means that multiple tags can be fitted to each pallet – so we’re able to give a true end-to-end solution. The tags stay with the products all the way to where they’re used
  • We use Bluetooth Smart, which enables the tags to connect wirelessly to any compatible smartphone over a range of about 30m (user permissions allowing)
  • This is not just a data logger, this is a proactive alerting platform – one that can provide alarms to any system HQ, warning them of an imminent temperature excursion, for example
  • The DropTag platform includes a host of other sensors, so we’re also able to alert if an item has been dropped or shaken violently – useful for soft fruits and molecularly fragile drugs

We’ve just published our latest white paper on the subject. Download your copy here.


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AuthorNathan Wrench


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