Remote Temperature Monitoring

Thermocouples, Thermistors, RTDs, and Digital Sensors Enable Automated Temperature Monitoring.

16 Min
May 25, 2024
Temperature Control Use Case

What to Expect?

Remote temperature monitoring involves the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) for enhanced temperature monitoring and control. In Australia, a sustainable container solution based on NFC technology is used to monitor the temperature of seafood across the supply chain, for example. With wireless temperature sensing technologies, temperature monitoring systems enable precise and real-time data collection from diverse and often inaccessible locations. Automatic temp control optimizes energy efficiency and operational performance.

1. Status Quo

What is Temperature Monitoring in the Modern Cold Chain?

Temperature monitoring in modern cold chains is very important in order to ensure the safety and quality of temperature-sensitive products throughout the supply chain. Examples of temperature-sensitive products are food, pharmaceuticals, and biological samples, which require strict temperature controls to maintain their quality and efficacy. Any deviation from the specified temperature range can lead to spoilage, reduced effectiveness, or complete degradation of the product.

Temperature monitoring is most commonly used in applications where temperature-sensitive goods are placed in storage or are in transit for over four hours. Pharmacies use temperature monitoring to ensure that medication, vaccines, and other pharmaceuticals are stored within the optimal temperature range to ensure safe consumption. Another example is the storage of temperature-sensitive food products in chilled or frozen environments, like chocolate, for example. Temperature monitoring is also used in incubators, hospitals, server rooms, ovens, laboratories, and hatcheries.

Effective temperature monitoring in charging systems is crucial for preventing overheating and ensuring the safety and longevity of batteries. By continuously tracking temperature levels, these systems can automatically adjust charging rates and initiate cooling mechanisms to enhance overall performance and reliability. Battery temperature monitoring plays an important role in battery tests, where precise temperature control is necessary.

Manual temperature monitoring is the traditional method that involves the use of hand-held measuring tools like a thermometer. Temperature readings are recorded by personnel, and are then documented manually. While this approach is straightforward and cost-effective, it is labor-intensive and prone to human error, making it less reliable for maintaining consistent product temperature control, especially over extended periods, across the entire cold chain.

Automated Temperature Monitoring

In contrast to manual temperature monitoring, automated temperature monitoring refers to the automated tracking of temperatures in real-time. It involves the periodic use of temperature measuring devices, tools, and instruments to ensure that the temperature limits of temperature-sensitive products and machinery are not exceeded. In many cases, remote monitoring is made possible. The measuring system must accommodate a wide measuring range to ensure accuracy across various conditions. It is also important to consider the measuring environment. In server rooms, for example, a network thermometer is used to continuously monitor and report the temperature and sometimes humidity levels within the server environment. An automated temperature monitoring process and system includes the following steps.

1. Temperature Mapping

The first step is to perform temperature mapping. This is also referred to as “warehouse mapping” or “thermal mapping”. Temperature mapping is a systematic process used to identify and document the temperature distribution within a specific storage area over a set period of time. Different types of storage areas include fridges, specific rooms, freezers, incubators, and warehouses, for example.

The purpose of temperature mapping is to determine if a specific storage area is able to maintain defined temperature parameters and limits. These parameters and limits are determined through risk assessment tests. Examples of common tests that are performed include Temperature Distribution Tests (Empty and Loaded), Door Open Tests, and Power Off Tests. For warehouses, Compressor Switch-Over Tests and Compressor Failure Tests are typically performed.

Temperature data-logging sensors are placed in pre-defined locations within the storage area in order to confirm if all areas of the storage area can maintain the same temperature. This includes locations that are likely to experience temperature variations, such as near doors, vents, and corners. It is also important to consider external factors, such as the seasons.

After the sensors have been placed, temperature data is captured and recorded over a predetermined period. The duration of the temperature mapping process typically depends on the storage area being mapped. The mapping duration for incubators and refrigerated areas like fridges and freezers is between 24-72 hours. The mapping duration for cold stores is between 24 hours and seven days, and warehouses have a mapping duration of seven days.

Once the data collection period is complete, the gathered data is analyzed to understand the temperature distribution within the mapped area.

2. Placement of Temperature Data-Loggers and Sensors

In the next step, temperature monitoring devices are placed in strategic locations as defined by the temperature mapping process. Companies must select appropriate monitoring devices, such as IoT-enabled sensors and data loggers, which are capable of providing accurate and reliable temperature readings.

3. Data Collection and Transmission

Once the hardware is set up, the next step is continuous data collection and transmission. The temperature sensors and data loggers continuously monitor the temperature in real-time, collecting data at pre-defined intervals. This data is then transmitted wirelessly to a central database or centralized cloud-based system. The use of wireless communication protocols such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular networks ensures seamless and uninterrupted data flow, even in remote or mobile environments. Data is aggregated from all monitoring points, providing a comprehensive view of the temperature conditions across the entire cold chain.

4. Real-Time Monitoring and Alerts

Incoming temperature data is continuously analyzed and compared against pre-defined parameters. If any temperature deviations or anomalies are detected, the system can immediately generate alerts and notifications. These alerts can be sent via email, SMS, or mobile app notifications to relevant personnel, in order to enable swift corrective actions to prevent product spoilage or damage. Real-time monitoring and alerting ensure that potential issues are addressed promptly, minimizing the risk of temperature excursions.

5. Data Analysis and Reporting

The continuous stream of temperature data is stored and processed using sophisticated analytics tools that can identify trends, patterns, and potential issues. These insights are used to optimize storage and transportation conditions, improve operational efficiency, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The system can generate detailed reports that document temperature conditions over time, highlighting any deviations and the actions taken to address them. These reports are essential for audits, regulatory compliance, and internal quality assurance processes.

6. Implementation of Corrective Actions

Based on the insights gained from data analysis, organizations can implement corrective actions to address any identified issues. This may involve adjusting storage conditions, re-configuring temperature settings, enhancing insulation, or modifying transportation routes. Automated systems can also be programmed to trigger specific corrective actions automatically, such as activating backup cooling systems or rerouting shipments to maintain optimal temperature conditions. Follow-up monitoring ensures that these actions have effectively resolved the issues and that temperature conditions remain within the acceptable range.

7. Continuous Improvement and Maintenance

The final step in the automated temperature monitoring process is continuous improvement and maintenance. Regular system maintenance is necessary to ensure the continued accuracy and reliability of the monitoring devices. This includes periodic calibration of sensors, software updates, and hardware inspections. Companies should also review the monitoring data and system performance regularly to identify opportunities for further improvements.

Temperature Monitoring Standards and Regulations

Standards and regulations mandate proper temperature control and management to ensure the integrity of different temperature-sensitive products. These standards and regulations are industry-specific.

For the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, temperature monitoring must adhere to guidelines of Good Distribution Practice (GDP), and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), for example. In the food industry, it is important to follow the guidelines from the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and International Featured Standards (IFS). For cold chain logistics, temperature monitoring must follow International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) standards, as well as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 standard.

Government bodies that issue temperature-related guidelines include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO), for example.

IoT Remote Monitoring

IoT remote monitoring refers to the use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to remotely collect, transmit, and analyze data from various sensors and devices in real-time. This approach enables the monitoring of conditions and performance metrics from virtually any location, providing valuable insights and facilitating timely interventions.

Machines, buildings, and assets are equipped with IoT sensors. These sensors measure different conditions, such as temperature, vibration, and moisture, for example. In the case of temperature monitoring, temperature data is captured and transmitted wirelessly to a central hub or command center. Here, the data is monitored and analyzed. An alarm concept is also used. Anomalies that are detected will trigger a temperature alarm or alerts via text notifications, for example.

In manufacturing and production environments, the temperature of machines can be monitored this way, in order to ensure that overheating does not occur (condition monitoring). Advanced systems are able to to remotely trigger automatic corrective actions. Machines that are too hot can be automatically shut down, for example.

Wireless IoT Technologies and Temperature Monitoring

  • Sensor Technology

    Sensors are the main component of temperature monitoring. They are use electrical signals to capture temperature data and transmit readings. Sensors are typically combined with IoT technologies to enable temperature sensing.

  • RFID

    Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) temperature loggers are typically passive RFID tags. The temperature is logged at defined intervals via the battery of the tag.

  • NFC

    Near-Field Communication (NFC) inlays can be combined with an onboard temperature sensor in order to enable real-time temperature readings.

  • Bluetooth LE

    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled temperature sensors and data loggers enables the wireless monitoring of storage facilities.

  • WLAN

    Wi-Fi temperature transmitters have integrated sensors and are designed for the temperature monitoring of storage and work areas.

Products for Temperature Monitoring

There are five main components of a temperature monitoring system.

A temperature probe or sensor is the primary component of a temperature monitoring system that measures the actual temperature of an environment or substance. Common types of sensors include thermocouples, thermistors, resistance temperature detectors (RTDs), and digital sensors. These sensors convert temperature readings into electrical signals that can be processed and analyzed.
A thermal buffer is a material or device used to stabilize temperature readings. It ensures that the sensor readings are not affected by rapid fluctuations or short-term changes in ambient temperature. Common examples include glycol-filled bottles, nylon blocks, or glass bead bottles. These are placed around the sensor to provide a more accurate representation of the actual storage conditions.

The measurement device is the component that is connected to the probe and receives the electrical signals from the temperature sensors. It then converts them into readable data. This device often includes data loggers, which record and store temperature readings over time. Measurement devices can also process and display the data, providing real-time temperature information to users and systems. Communication with data loggers is carried out in different ways, such as Wi-Fi and proprietary RF links, cellular networks, satellite modems, and USB or Ethernet interfaces, for example.

Data storage refers to the method and location where temperature data is saved for analysis and record-keeping. This can be local storage on the measurement device itself, such as internal memory or external storage media, or remote storage in cloud-based platforms. Reliable data storage ensures that temperature readings are preserved for compliance, auditing, and historical analysis. Internal memory, local PCs, local base stations or gateways, and cloud-based services are commonly used for data storage.

The software in a temperature monitoring system is used to manage, analyze, and visualize the collected temperature data. The main functions of temperature monitoring software are charting, configuration, data retrieval, alarm management, and reporting. Advanced software solutions offer real-time monitoring, data analytics, predictive maintenance features, and integration with other systems for a comprehensive temperature management approach.

Facts & Figures

Temperature monitoring is becoming increasingly important across many industries. According to a report by the intelligence and market research platform “Market and Markets”, the global market for temperature sensors is expected to increase by 5.6 percent between 2024 and 2029. This growth is driven by the increase in temperature control systems for the management of food safety, the growing demand of temperature sensors in healthcare equipment, as well as the increased adoption of IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies.

2. In Practice

Successful Solutions of Temperature Monitoring with IoT

Temperature monitoring is important for many industries that handle temperature-sensitive goods. Below are a few real-world examples that show how different IoT technologies are used for temperature monitoring in different industries. It is part of digitalization in retail, digitalization in logistics, and digitalization in agriculture, for example.

Temperature Monitoring at Shufersal

The supermarket chain Shufersal uses battery-free Bluetooth IoT pixels from Wiliot on vegetable crates to control the logistics chain and monitor the temperature of the vegetable products. During the initial phase of the rollout, 150,000 vegetable crates were tagged. By the end of 2023, one million Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) were equipped with IoT pixels and a wireless communication infrastructure was installed.

Teaser: Retail Chain Shufersal uses IoT Pixel from Wiliot for Temperature Control.
Retailer Shufersal First to Use IoT Pixel for Temperature Control

Temperature Monitoring at TomKat

TomKat has developed the KoolPak – a thermally insulated container equipped with an NFC temperature tag from SAG. Both temperature monitoring and counterfeit protection of temperature-sensitive goods like seafood is made possible. Goods in the KoolPak are traceable throughout the cold chain. Customers can monitor the KoolPak throughout the supply chain using specially developed software and gate scanning equipment from Feig Electronic.

TomKat KoolPak to transport seafood
TomKat Improves Seafood Logistics with Sustainable Packaging and NFC

“We gave a lot of thought at the start of the project about how we were going to provide traceability with the KoolPak. We’ve looked at barcode and QR code technology initially. These technologies proved problematic when the KoolPak was assembled. Then we came across NFC technology and were immediately taken with the its capabilities – especially in combination with the smartphone. We saw early on the value of provenance, where everyone wants to have some recognition where their product has gone or where they’ve been harvested from for example. NFC technology with temperature sensing capabilities was the answer.”

Tom Long

COO and Founder, TomKat Line Fish

Logo TomKat Line Fish

Temperature Monitoring at KWS Saat

Sugar beet seed provider KWS Saat deployed an RFID solution from Turck for the wireless identification and temperature monitoring of silo boxes. Power, address data, and measured values from temperature sensors inside the silo boxes are transmitted contactlessly. Each silo box is equipped with an RFID tag that has an integrated temperature sensor. Every shelf is fitted with an RFID read/write device that is used to power the temperature sensor. This way, the temperature of each silo box is monitored during transport and storage.

Teaser: RFID Guarantees Seed Quality
RFID Guarantees Seed Quality

“This is the perfect solution for us. The measured values are transmitted wirelessly and the storage boxes are identified without contact.”

Dr. Joris van Dort

Technical innovations manager, KWS Saat

Logo KWS Saat
3. Panorama

What is the Future of Temperature Monitoring?

Continuous advancements in sensor technology, data analytics, and wireless connectivity have contributed to the development of more user-friendly and intelligent temperature monitoring devices. The market for advanced temperature monitoring devices will continue to grow.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly being used to enhance temperature monitoring systems. Data loggers with integrated AI will be able to analyze temperature patterns in different environments, such as freezers and server rooms, for example, in addition to collecting temperature data. In development are applications that use AI to predict the lifespan of batteries. One such example is the lifespan of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries in server rooms. AI would be able to predict the lifespan of the UPS batteries by analyzing temperature conditions in the room. This will enable optimized maintenance and replacement schedules.

Further trends in temperature monitoring are listed in the section below.

Advantages of IoT-Based Temperature Monitoring

IoT-based temperature monitoring systems offer numerous advantages.

One of the primary benefits is the ability to achieve real-time monitoring and data collection. IoT-enabled temperature sensors continuously transmit data to a centralized system, allowing for instant access to current temperature conditions. This real-time capability is crucial for maintaining the quality and safety of temperature-sensitive products, such as pharmaceuticals and perishable foods, by enabling immediate corrective actions if any deviations occur.

Another advantage of IoT in temperature monitoring is the automation and reduction of manual labor. Traditional temperature monitoring often requires periodic manual checks, which are labor-intensive and prone to human error. IoT systems automate the data collection process, ensuring consistent and accurate temperature readings without the need for constant human intervention.

IoT-based remote temperature monitoring can also be used to support decision-making in maintenance and to maintain optimal equipment performance. It can also be used to enable predictive maintenance (PdM Maintenance). In industrial environments, IoT sensors can help detect abnormal conditions of equipment and ensure that they are running at an optimal temperature. This eventually leads to a reduction in costs, as downtimes are prevented. Since IoT enables remote temperature monitoring, temperatures in areas that are difficult to access can be checked and monitored with ease.

With IoT-based temperature monitoring, the temperature of goods can be tracked and monitored throughout the supply chain, be it in storage, or in transit. In regulated industries, companies that use real-time temperature monitoring are able to ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards. Temperature data captured by IoT sensors can be used for quality control and audits.

Another advantage is increased energy efficiency. Since systems are operated at optimal temperatures, companies avoid unnecessary heating or cooling. This leads to optimized energy consumption, and thus, to increased sustainability for companies.

Advantages of Wireless IoT

  • Real-time data
  • Improved data accuracy
  • Ensures and maintains product quality
  • Maintains optimal machine performance
  • Automated notifications and alerts

The Challenges of Temperature Monitoring

There are a few challenges that companies should consider when setting up a temperature monitoring system.

The first challenge involves the initial investment costs. Setting up temperature monitoring systems can be costly. This includes purchasing the hardware, software, and installing the system, as well as the costs for continuous maintenance.

Another challenge is the issue of data security and privacy. IoT devices, including temperature sensors, are often connected to the Internet, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Unauthorized access to these devices can lead to data breaches, manipulation of data, or even control over the IoT devices themselves. Implementing robust security measures, such as encryption and secure communication protocols, is essential to protect the integrity of the data and the privacy of the information collected.

Interoperability and standardization issues may complicate the deployment and integration of IoT temperature monitoring systems. Different manufacturers may use varying communication protocols, data formats, and standards, leading to compatibility issues. Ensuring that devices from different vendors can work together seamlessly is essential. Industry-wide standards and collaboration among stakeholders are needed to address these interoperability challenges.

Partners Spezialized in Temperature Monitoring Solutions

Outlook – Next-Level Temperature Monitoring

Temperature sensors are getting smaller, more robust, and more energy efficient. The future of temperature monitoring will see an increase in miniaturized sensors in healthcare applications.

Miniaturization

One trend is the ongoing miniaturization of temperature sensors. Advances in nanotechnology and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) are enabling the development of increasingly smaller and more efficient temperature sensors. These miniaturized sensors can be integrated into a wide range of products and environments.

There are many growing applications for miniaturized temperature sensors in healthcare. These sensors are being developed to become more compact, so that they can be integrated into medical implants or wearables, for example. They are also used in bio-medical research. The reduced size not only makes these sensors less intrusive but also allows for more precise temperature measurements in previously inaccessible or impractical locations, opening new possibilities for monitoring and control.

Robust Materials

Temperature sensors are required to operate under harsh environments, such as in production, and in the aerospace industry. To meet the demands of such environments, new materials are being developed and researched, in order to create temperature sensors that are more robust. Examples of new materials that are being researched are silicon carbide and gallium nitride.

Sustainability and Energy Efficiency

The trend in sustainability continues to grow. Research and development are making temperature sensors more energy-efficient. The goal is to create sensors that function well with minimal power. Temperature sensors made from gallium nitride operate at lower power levels compared to traditional silicon-based sensors, enhancing energy efficiency and making them ideal for battery-powered and remote sensing applications.

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