Intelligent Cold Chain Explained

Sensire's vision for the Intelligent Cold Chain offers enhanced temperature monitoring, data sharing and data use solutions for all cold chain industries.


If you have visited Sensire’s website recently, you’ll have seen the concept of Intelligent Cold Chain writ large on the banner. In this blog, we’ll be getting to the bottom of what it really means. For the impatient we can summarize it in the three concepts of data gathering, data sharing and data use, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Why do we need it?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of what ICC means, let’s revisit why we need the best possible cold chain. Basically, it all comes down to the fact that eliminating waste is a crucial effort in a world where population growth is expected to reach 8.6 billion by the mid-2030s. Supporting this number of people would be a staggering enterprise even if there were no additional problems. However…

A third of food and feed produced by the agricultural land in the world gets wasted every year, all the while a significant portion of people struggle with malnourishment and actual famine. Temperature excursions in pharmaceuticals are calculated to create costs of 35 billion dollars annually, and lack of medicine and vaccines has a direct impact on the quality of life of millions, even where it’s not directly fatal. And these are only the most visible problems faced by the cold chain. (For more information of the challenges faced by cold chain industries, you can visit our blogs on the food, blood and pharmaceutical cold chains)

Always Be Better

First the bad news: there is no single solution that can make everything right. As long as there is a need to transport perishables, some waste will be created almost without fail. But this is no reason to give up improving. That’s why we’ve come up with Intelligent Cold Chain, which we believe is one of the most effective methods to combat waste by ensuring product safety within temperature-controlled conditions. Next, we’ll go over the promised three concepts of ICC and why they matter.


1.    Data Gathering

But I already gather data”, you might protest, “it’s nothing new!” And you’d be right, and then again, not. Monitoring cold chain temperatures in some way is almost globally required by law, besides being the smart thig to do. But the methods of doing this are by no means uniform, ranging from manual to digital. Done our way, monitoring temperatures is done automatically, with wireless sensors measuring conditions in real time.

This has two primary benefits, mainly eliminating human error and collecting the data in one place. For example, Sensire's digital monitoring solutions take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) to automate monitoring tasks and gather data in a cloud platform for visualization. Full visibility into product and produce conditions is of course immediately useful, because real-time monitoring can warn of imminent excursion even before they happen.

But for Intelligent Cold Chain, better data gathering is only the start.

2.    Data Sharing

Now let’s assume you have adopted digital means of monitoring your individual link in the cold chain. It might be tempting to stop there, because you are now in compliance with the law, and you’ll probably have more important things to do. But you shouldn’t, and here’s why:

Recognizing waste is easy when it happens catastrophically in one go, for example when your cooling devices break or someone leaves a pallet of vaccines in the sun for too long. However, gradual degradation is much harder to spot, and the sum of many parts, many of which would be insignificant on their own. And you can only respond to it if you have a transparent view into the whole cold chain from end to end.

This is why data sharing matters. The ICC brings intelligence to the cold chain, which means all the links in it need to be transparent. When this is achieved the whole process can be refined instead of single operators stressing over their individual parts in it. Being invested in your part of the cold chain sends the message that you are interested in the overall functioning of the logistics process, making you immediately more trustworthy in the eyes your partners.  Business relations that are based on validation through data are also more likely to hold steady than those that are based on guesswork and hope.

There are or course a number of systems available for this, the most recent one being the blockchain. Our answer here is an environmental monitoring solution which gather all data into a versatile cloud platform. Sensire's cloud is a powerful tool for data gathering and sharing that can be integrated with virtually any existing monitoring systems. Additional upside would be that it has already been tested in practice, so you take no extra risks with implementation.

3.    Data Use

So now you have the best possible data that is gathered in real time, and you have in from everywhere in the cold chain, from production and transportation to storage and sales. The upsides here are that real-time monitoring helps individual stakeholders react to immediate problems, and data sharing allows for appropriate actions if multiple small breaches in product condition imply degradation.

On the highest level of production and sales,where the data is viewed as a whole, the benefits are undeniable even at this stage of descriptive analysis. And it can certainly do no harm if reducing your own losses also works for the benefit of your business partners. But the intelligent response to having all this data is to do much more with it. Simply put, you can move from retroactive and immediate to future-oriented operations model.

Considering the rapid progress in machine learning technologies and even AI, we’re constantly moving from descriptive towards predictive or even prescriptive analytics. This means the intelligence behind all the other operations is moving from human to machine, ultimately automating reactions to data and process optimization as a whole. With ICC you’ll be among the first to take advantage of this evolution.


Intelligent Cold Chain

Finally, picture a human body, but in place of senses imagine sensors and in place of a neural network a data sharing system. The brain is still the one using the data, but it might be an A.I. instead of a person in there.

Now, let’s say this hypothetical person is distracted and steps into an anthill full of angry red ants. If any one of the above systems is not working, the person might happily stop in the middle of the anthill, unaware of any problems. Only when all the systems are working simultaneously and correctly will the person know to step away and avoid getting bitten.

Effectively, this is our vision for the Intelligent Cold Chain – avoiding negative consequences through superior monitoring, sharing and data use. A robust system, backed by stakeholder cooperation and intelligent decisions can reduce waste in all its forms and improve sustainability. This is not only good for profits, but ultimately for the world as a whole. With possibilities like these, isn’t it time to step off that anthill?

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