How To Track Temperature Anomalies & Get Alerts For Cold Storage

How To Track Temperature Anomalies & Get Alerts For Cold Storage

Disruptive Technologies
13. Oct 2020 | 7 min read

How To Track Temperature Anomalies & Get Alerts For Cold Storage

One of the most important concerns for manufacturers and retailers is to preserve the quality and ensure the safety of their goods. This means monitoring, controlling, and maintaining the appropriate temperatures of all perishable products. The optimal temperature should be maintained end-to-end i.e. from the point of harvest or production until the product reaches the consumer. Failing to do so can harm the quality and environmental footprint of the production, along with added costs.

For example, if the temperature in food products increases beyond the threshold, it can destroy their nutrients, lead to their discoloring, and cause microbial growth. Furthermore, fresh products (e.g., fruits and vegetables) that become too hot must be discarded, which results in increased food waste and reduced environmental performance. The importance of monitoring temperature goes beyond the food chain. For instance, many medical products (e.g., drugs or vaccines) are very sensitive to temperatures and humidity excess.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • The benefits of cold storage management
  • Reliable temperature alarms
  • Capturing temperature anomalies using Disruptive Technologies sensors

The Benefits of Cold Storage Management

To safeguard the quality of temperature-sensitive products, manufacturers and retailers integrate temperature auditing processes in their value chains. These processes are integrated into all phases of the modern supply chain, including production, preparation, storage, and transport. This integration results in enhanced supply chain and logistics processes, which are commonly characterized as cold chain management.

Within the cold chain, cold storage management enables a rich set of value-added use cases, including:

  • Product Quality and Safety: Cold storage management ensures that product temperatures remain consistent within specified margins. This is a foundation for ensuring product quality and safety. Specifically, cold storage actors are provided with timely and accurate information about temperatures that may compromise the quality of their products. They can take relevant actions accordingly, like recalling palettes affected by high temperatures.
  • Energy Efficient Cold Storage: Cold storage is associated with high energy use. Energy consumption increases as enterprises attempt to ensure consistent temperatures during the transport of their products. Cold storage management solutions facilitate the optimization of energy use considering the relative costs of cooling, heating, and temperature monitoring activities (e.g., cooling is usually more expensive than heating). Energy optimization is more challenging when logistic processes involve multiple products because each requires different temperature conditions.
  • CO2 Reduction and Environment Performance: Cold storage management activities also contribute to improved environmental performance. First, they minimize waste by reducing the number of products that need to be recalled or discarded. Moreover, they avoid “unmanaged” energy and optimize the CO2 emissions of cooling and heating activities.
  • Save Time & Enhance Productivity: Getting alerts whenever the cold storage shows temperature anomalies means employees don't need to automatically conduct preventive maintenance activities. This saves their time and allows them to focus on more rewarding and creative tasks.
  • Brand Management: Most enterprises that put effective cold storage management solutions in place boost their brand image. For instance, retailers and manufacturers can assure their consumers that their products are sustainable, safe, and of high quality.

Reliable Temperature Alarms - The Foundation of Cold Storage Management

Implementing end-to-end temperature visibility and traceability is important but challenging. There are numerous parameters to consider, especially when monitoring the temperature for multiple products across different warehouses. Furthermore, the process of sharing and exchanging data across stakeholders with varying requirements can be a pain. However, before tackling supply chain complexities, cold storage implementations must deal with the ever-important physical world issues.

The most fundamental operation of a cold storage application is the identification of when temperature limits have been breached. This may sound like a threshold monitoring operation, but it is much more complex than that. In practice, detecting a single temperature value that exceeds limits is not a reliable way for spotting cold storage problems.

Many events can lead to short, temporary temperature spikes that do not affect the status of the products. For example, it is normal for logistics companies to open fridge doors regularly. Likewise, several OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) integrate automated defrosting mechanisms in their products, which may also result in temperature increases at certain intervals.

In this context, effective cold storage solutions must be able to identify important changes in the products’ temperature reliably, while at the same time ignoring insignificant deviations. The identification of proper and significant temperature events is an integral part of most cold storage management applications.

There is a need for employing robust statistical processing over historic data. Specifically, instead of relying on a single temperature sensor, temperature alarms could be derived by calculating an entire envelope of values. These margins can then be used to determine whether important temperature changes have taken place.

temperature anomalies in cold storage


Capturing Cold Storage Temperature Anomalies Using Disruptive Technologies Sensors

The typical application development workflow of an application that captures temperature anomalies in the cold storage process involves the following steps:

  • Sensor Deployment: Reliable sensing of the physical world is the most fundamental step to implementing temperature management applications. The accuracy and reliability of the sensors are therefore important parameters. Beyond credibility, long battery life and an effective sensor installation are other aspects that can boost the economic efficiency of your cold storage management application.
  • Accessing and Pre-Processing Sensor Data: To detect temperature anomalies there is a need for access to digital data about the temperature of the product. The deployment of more than one temperature sensor is a sound basis for increasing the reliability of the measurements. Nevertheless, it is also introducing the need for pre-processing sensor data towards making sure that they can be fed to the statistical functions of the following steps.
  • Defining the Temperature Event Envelope: Leveraging parametric methods and domain knowledge, this step specifies the limits beyond which a temperature event becomes significant. As soon as events remain within the specified limits, the temperature is considered safe and acceptable, even if some outliers are observed. However, values that are outside the envelope indicate a significant temperature anomaly and should be addressed.
  • Implementing Decision Functions for Detecting the Event: This step leverages the envelope definition to identify when excess temperature values indicate a real problem. In practice, it implements robust statistics that identify cases of different severity. For example, a warning could be issued in case a temperature value goes beyond the envelope, yet it is very soon restored. This could be a spike caused by a usual event (e.g., opening the door of a fridge). On the other hand, an alarm could be issued in case the excess value persists for a significant amount of time. Alarms and warnings are accordingly consumed by the cold storage management application.

Disruptive Technologies provides a complete environment where such applications can be flexibly developed. Specifically, DT Studio facilitates reading data from DT temperature sensors, while at the same time linking to programming platforms (e.g., Python) for filtering their data and implementing the above-listed statistical processing functions. This provides a foundation for the fast and cost-effective development of cold storage intelligence applications.

Implement Cold Storage Management Yourself!

Are you ready for the next step?

Access a practical example of temperature anomaly detection using DT sensors and our powerful DT Studio. The example is simple to follow and provides full details about how to lay down the foundation of a successful cold storage management application, including:

  • DT Studio configuration (with example code)
  • Algorithm flow chart
  • Historic data envelope
  • Defining anomalies

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Disruptive Technologies

Founded in 2013, Disruptive Technologies (DT) is the Norwegian developer of the world’s smallest wireless sensors and an award-winning innovator in the IoT market. Our small, efficient, powerful, and adaptable wireless sensors are the best in the world and designed to reach an ever greater number of operational components, making buildings intelligent and sustainable in minutes.

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