The Internet of Things Brings Cold Chain Monitoring into the 21st Century
Producing and shipping cold food is a complicated affair. Shipments have to be effectively tracked, temperatures have to be accurately maintained, and waste has to be minimized. Paper records just can’t keep up with the increasingly complicated cold food chain. That’s why the Internet of Things (IoT) interconnected tracking and monitoring devices are exploding in popularity.
On the Farm
The benefits of IoT technology start at the farm. Growers are able to use a combination of enhanced sensors and data analysis to maximize yields, minimize farm-side waste, and reduce contamination at the beginning of the chain.
Drones and digital sensors can monitor and predict changes to crops, flying over vast swaths of farmland and capturing video in real-time. This information, combined with weather and other data, can be used to anticipate issues with growing conditions that can be caught before they are out of control.
On a more micro level, farmers can use information gathered from meteorological trends, humidity levels, soil samples, and historical data to precisely plan field utilization and crop management.
Storage and Shipping
After food leaves the farm, it needs to be closely monitored for safety all the way into the hands of the consumer. Temperature variations, pest infestations, and even time can ruin food as it is stored and transported. IoT technology can contribute to preventing those issues in the first place and help remove compromised food from the supply chain if necessary.
Rodent and other pest infestations can ruin large amounts of food very quickly and are unfortunately a common problem in food storage facilities. Data analysis combined with IoT sensors can provide real-time information on pest entry points and presence, helping to reduce occurrences.
Temperature is crucial to cold chain monitoring. Frozen food that warms to an unsafe level is no longer safe, even if refrozen. Smart thermostats can monitor the temperature of specific products in real-time, notifying companies when products become unsafe so that they can be promptly removed from circulation.
Tracking shipments with interconnected technology is much easier than doing it manually. When a specific batch of product is compromised, IoT tracking devices can rapidly locate all packages from that batch, allowing recalls to occur quickly and efficiently.
Consumer Comfort and Safety
Even when the product is on the shelf or in the consumer’s home, IoT technology can help with convenience and safety. Individual consumers can be notified about recalls and other issues that may affect them, and smart appliances can alert consumers when they are running low on specific foods.
Products with shipping information available through QR codes are popping up in groceries around the world. Consumers can scan the package and know instantly that a particular product is safe, is in date, and has not been temperature compromised.
Smart refrigerators can keep track of every food item placed inside. When a certain item is low, the consumer is alerted. Potentially, so are the retailer and the manufacturer, helping them to predict demand trends across the entire customer base. If a product recall is issued, the refrigerator can notify the consumer so that the item can be safely discarded.
With advances in monitoring and interconnective technology, the ever-increasing complexity of food production, storage, shipment, and consumption can be simplified and streamlined. It’s a big world out there, and the Internet of Things is helping to shrink it down to a manageable size.