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Nov 18, 2013

Cellular temperature monitor provides national dairy products distributor fault tolerant solution

Temperature monitoring devices are very common in many applications, some more critical than others.  Chemical processing where a slight change in temperature can lead to reduced yield or even failure is certainly high on the list. Nuclear reactor core temperature monitoring is high on anyone list as to its importance for safe operation. Home and office temperatures, on the other hand, can fluctuate by several degrees without serious consequences to the occupants. In the most critical applications, the ability to rely on reliable temperature sensing and reporting is paramount. Murphy’s Law is always present, so when things start to go badly, knowing about problems before they become critically out of range is paramount.

In food processing, storage and distribution industries temperature monitoring serves the need to help maintain product quality and more importantly to assure product safety. Raw seafood that sits around at room temperature for an hour would mean an unusable or at least less desirable product. Lettuce, spinach and other greens that sit at room temperature may begin to wilt but more importantly, bacterial and other microbes on their surfaces can reproduce exponentially, potentially making the product less safe for human consumption.

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Examples of refrigerated trailers used for storage (Left: Link to Source, Right: Link to Source)

Milk products likewise fall into the sensitive category where too high a temperature can quickly lead to spoilage, too low to freezing and likely an unsalable product. So when a major milk products distributor needs to monitor the refrigerated trailers in its distribution centers, especially during the hot summer months, reliability and robust design are paramount. And after doing the research, the company chose to deploy Temperature@lert’s ZPoint wireless sensor nodes plus Cellular Gateway combined with the company’s Sensor Cloud service for fault tolerant operation and notifications.

The fault tolerance comes from the combination of several technologies.  First is a cellular communication device employing a major cellular carrier that does not depend upon site electrical power or lost network connectivity. Second is a cellular device that automatically switches to battery operation and onboard data logging when electrical power is interrupted, insuring communication and data records are maintained.  Third is robust cloud servers and software. Fourth is the ability to employ a combination of e-mail, SMS text and voice phone call alert messaging to insure that responsible personnel do not sleep through critical temperature variations. Finally, the ability of the Sensor Cloud to determine if the cellular device has not checked in when expected, allowing the user to send an “all is not well” alert so that someone can check on the status of the site infrastructure.

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Cell tower (Photo: Link to Source) allows distributors in large cities to deploy Cellular Edition ZPoint hardware and Sensor Cloud service for fault tolerant operation.

Dairy management noted on occasion they received phone calls that temperatures were at alert levels at 2:00 AM and they would not have heard them if they came in only by e-mail or text. Although being woken in the middle of the night was not ideal, the Temperature@lert solution did its job well, supporting the decision to deploy the device widely.

Temperature@lert’s patented Sensor Cloud offers food distributors an extra level of protection generally not offered by similar devices. Like the milk distributor, distributors of frozen and refrigerated foods have deployed the Cellular Edition in off-site storage units often located in leased facilities. Generally employed in larger urban environments where the electrical grid is often taxed during hot summer months, battery backed cellular technology combined with cloud computing provides fault tolerant assurance that helps insure products are maintained at safe temperatures to maintain quality. And as in the case of the milk distributor who saved $45,000 in products in a four month period, Cellular Edition customers can sleep well knowing their products and business is in good hands.

For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition and ZPoint sensor and Sensor Cloud products check the company’s website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/Temperature-Alarm.aspx or contact the company at 1-800-524-3540.


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