Collaborative tech manages temperature

The Internet of Things poses an exciting opportunity for organisations to transform cold chain management says Jason Kay, chief compliance officer at IMS Evolve.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken the world by storm as one of the biggest technology revolutions to date; research from GrowthEnabler states the global IoT market is set to grow to $457bn by 2020, with the number of connected devices increasing exponentially. This impressive figure doesn’t come without warrant; organisations across multiple sectors are seeing the benefits of IoT solutions, particularly within the cold food supply chain. After all, managing temperatures throughout the supply chain is not easy, there are numerous issues to contend with that have made it more convenient to chill all refrigerator units to the lowest temperature required by the most susceptible food product: meat. However, IoT poses an exciting opportunity for organisations to transform this process across the entire cold chain.

From the warehouse, to transportation, through to the store, food safety is the primary consideration, not only does it maintain the value of food, it also protects suppliers and retailers from larger concerns – such as consumer illness, and subsequent loss of custom. To date it has proved challenging to monitor products as they move through the cold chain without the aid of intelligent technology – enter, IoT.

Through the integration of an effective IoT solution, organisations can unlock the ability to monitor billions of data points from the entire supply chain infrastructure, right through to the refrigeration units in store. This large-scale view enables real-time visibility that can be transformed into actionable data; accessible from anywhere, from any connected assets.

With the traditional method of chilling products to the lowest temperature setting required by the most susceptible product, this has resulted in an annual over-chill of millions of degrees, and the compromised quality of food products. To help alleviate this problem, IoT can leverage data to ensure units are set at the optimum temperature for their product, automatically adjusting as stores are re-merchandised. Not only does this help reduce energy consumption, but also potentially relieve pressure from the National Grid through demand side response strategies.

A recent prediction from the UN has revealed the planet will reach a global food crisis by 2050, and it’s invaluable changes within the supply chain such as the adoption of IoT, that will contribute to averting the threat.

With real-time insight into the data from the supply chain, the details of temperatures throughout the journey are accessible, and alerts can be raised when temperatures are reaching dangerous levels to ensure swift intervention and mitigation of waste. Crucially this is being achieved by layering digitisation over existing infrastructure, rather than a rip and replace model; it’s simply not practical for retailers to remove and redeploy entire control infrastructures across hundreds or thousands of locations. The impact on profit and customer experience would be hugely damaging. Instead, with an IoT layer integrated into the existing infrastructure, IoT capacity can be leveraged at pace with no downtime or disruption; and it is this frictionless approach to digital adoption that will reinforce the effects against the global food crisis threat.

Organisations have the opportunity to provide the highest quality product offering to the consumer, whilst also leveraging the ability to minimise their environmental impacts, all through the strategic deployment of IoT. This creation of a cost-effective supply chain model, which eradicates stock loss to benefit not only the business but wider social and economic concerns as well, leaves no doubt that a seamless adoption of digitisation is the future for the cold supply chain.

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