How Cellular LPWA-Based Tracking Can Ensure an Unbroken Cold Chain

March 11, 2020

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Shipping, packing and distributing perishable, temperature-sensitive items, including medicine, fresh food and chemicals, have undergone a revolution with the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT-enabled devices within trucks, crates, packages and warehouse facilities ensure the temperature of vital goods is moderated throughout a cold chain while giving distributors wireless access to data reports, traffic condition readouts, theft monitoring, condition and temperature controls.

As part of global infrastructure, monitoring fluctuations in temperature in real-time has helped to streamline a safer, more efficient cold chain in every industry from food and beverage to medical and pharmaceuticals. Without IoT technology, it is challenging to achieve the ideal level of visibility into the status of perishable items and accountability for faulty equipment that could compromise the integrity of a cold chain.

Today, industries can leverage a new generation of low-power cellular IoT solutions, starting with the sensors and modules for their infrastructure. They can build more efficient delivery strategies and increase their ROI with safer cold chains because the nature of cellular networks can most definitely keep up.

With innovations in secure, ubiquitous and adaptable networks, the future of cold chain IoT solutions looks to low-power wide-area network (LPWA) technologies to ensure a reliable cold chain while simultaneously future-proofing and reducing costs.

The Importance of a Secure Cold Chain 

Cold chains are vital in ensuring the safety and health of consumers and patients that need fresh food, chemicals and medical supplies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites.

From August to September 2018 alone, the FDA released a list of 39 foods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and more that have been recalled amidst safety concerns. A reliable and always-connected cold chain reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses significantly by keeping bacteria from spreading as a result of irregularities in handling conditions and temperature.

Cellular LPWA Benefits in Sensor Data Transmission 

According to Research and Markets, between 2018 to 2023, low-power cellular networking technologies like “LTE-M and NB-IoT will connect hundreds of millions” of smart sensing devices to low-cost cloud-connected networks. These LPWA networks will save time and money on futureproofing and network maintenance, as new low-power cellular technology delivers battery life that outperforms that of previous generations by years (expected battery life is ten years or more).

Furthermore, cellular LPWA easily integrates with 2G, 3G, 4G and even 5G frameworks. There’s no more need for obsolete network hassles. The new global cellular LPWA network infrastructure can handle significantly more endpoints, update automatically and quickly onboard more devices and device types.

More specifically, LPWA networks are built with IoT in mind and are ideal for tracking, controlling and remote monitoring. Cellular LPWA promises revolutionary innovations in cold chain distribution with extended coverage areas and long-range capabilities.

  • Extended coverage: For hospitals, multilevel storefronts, warehouses and other facilities where large, obstructing structures can easily cause signal loss, cellular LPWA provides extended coverage to the edge of a cell, inside buildings, or basements. With the extended coverage native to LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies, thick barriers and communication blind spots will be less of a problem for transmitting data.
  • Long range: For supply chains that need to track packages and monitor temperatures over long-haul transport, cellular LPWA technology ensures IoT-enabled applications can reliably transmit data across a continental range. Many industries rely on an unbroken supply chain to deliver their goods.

    Pharmaceuticals and healthcare industries provide vaccines and vital medications to patients in need, so lives are at risk when something goes wrong. The restaurant industry relies on a vast network of suppliers adhering to FDA regulations and delivering food on time for safe consumption.

IoT and Cold Chain Savings 

Considering how much food and drug waste occurs due to a weak link in the cold chain, enormous savings are the long-term benefit for consumers and industries alike. LPWA technology, in conjunction with IoT deployment management solutions, is the only way for that dream to become a reality.

IoT Solutions for Cold Chain Management 

Enable an IoT business model transformation for your cold chain monitoring and management devices. Our portfolio of NB-IoT and LTE-M modules equipped with OneEdge secure and comprehensive deployment management software and tools ensure efficient and reliable 5G-ready cold chain management.

Speak to our IoT experts to find the right IoT module for your cold chain device.