The much-anticipated global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines drew fresh attention to a specialized branch of the transportation industry: cold chain logistics.
Compared to ordinary supply chain logistics, cold chain, as its name suggests, is designed to preserve temperature-sensitive assets such as food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Technologies like condition monitoring are used to ensure that environmental temperatures en route never exceed a certain threshold. This helps to prevent loss of product—not to mention money—as a result of spoilage.
Although cold chain logistics and the condition monitoring systems that safeguard delicate goods like vaccines began making mainstream headlines in late 2020, this industry was already seeing considerable growth prior to the pandemic. Investor resource Morningstar recently referenced a report that predicted a CAGR of 15.8% between 2020 and 2026 for the global cold chain logistics market, reaching a total value of $585.10B by the end of the forecast period.
Part of that market growth is attributable to the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. Whereas traditional methods of condition monitoring have been localized and limited, smart logistics and innovative IoT monitoring solutions promise to give companies far more visibility into sensitive cargo while it’s en route. Along with this newfound transparency, modern asset condition monitoring systems can be more responsive to unexpected environmental changes that might threaten assets.
A practical example of cold chain IoT monitoring solutions
With those valuable benefits in mind, let’s consider a hypothetical cold chain scenario in which IoT-powered remote condition monitoring might prove to be useful. Or even vital.
In this scenario, we have a vaccine that must be kept just above its freezing point to maintain its efficacy. This vaccine has to be shipped from Germany to the Midwestern USA within a short period of time, which will require special temperature-regulated containers and different modes of transport across international borders.
With IoT-enabled machine condition monitoring, dedicated sensors on these containers capture important data like internal temperature, external temperature, humidity, ambient light, GPS location and more.
But instead of simply storing that data locally for future reference, these sensors communicate it to a cloud server in real time over cellular networks. Through this cloud server, relevant stakeholders—such as the logistics company and the vaccine manufacturer—are then able to monitor the current status of the assets via an online IoT dashboard, a smartphone app or SMS messages.
For instance, at one point on our vaccine’s journey, a sensor detects a series of unexpected rises in internal temperatures. The cooling system on one of our containers is failing! A quick glance at the graphs on the web-based dashboard shows that temperatures are climbing 0.1°C every fifteen minutes.
Fortunately, without any human intervention, the IoT monitoring solution detects this impending failure and triggers an automatic alert before things get critical. Individuals at the logistics company in Germany are notified immediately on their smartphones. Because they already know the exact location of the shipment thanks to IoT tracking, they’re quickly able to call and arrange a replacement container with a local subsidiary in the USA. Our precious cargo is transferred at a convenient waypoint and makes it safely to its destination.
The challenges of condition monitoring
This hypothetical vaccine scenario illustrates just one compelling example of what’s possible with an IoT condition monitoring system. Technology like this might even have saved 16,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from spoiling in Maine and Michigan.
However, it’s also important to bear in mind that there are a lot of moving parts in even the simplest system of this kind. The sensors, the wireless communication devices, the cloud platform, the messaging service and the client software all need to be working in unison. If a sensor fails to relay a critical temperature alert because of a lack of interoperability with the network device, the cargo could be lost.
It therefore takes expertise and careful planning to get reliable, actionable and affordable results. This highlights how important it is to find the right IoT partner—one that can work with you to develop a custom asset condition monitoring system that’s tailored for your specific use case.
Bridgera can give you the right guidance and assist your organization in creating a dedicated IoT monitoring solution. Whether it’s indoor asset tracking, real-time driver location monitoring or a comprehensive smart logistics ecosystem, our versatile IoT platform offers the ideal foundation for your next-gen supply chain.
- Bridgera TrackMe provides a real-time driver locator and route tracking solution that works independently of the vehicle.
- In addition to keeping tabs on sensitive cargo, insights gained through Bridgera Monitoring can help streamline equipment servicing, fleet management and fuel efficiency.
- Bridgera’s experience developing custom IoT solutions across multiple industries enables us to apply novel ideas to your machine condition monitoring solution, thereby optimizing its performance and cost.
Let us show you how Bridgera’s robust IoT platform can provide your company with a custom remote transportation condition monitoring solution that’s as cost-effective as it is powerful. Getting started is easy. Just reach out to us today for a free consultation.