Cold chains need reliable, timely insights into shipment temperatures to ensure they reach their destination quickly and without spoilage. Data loggers can track and transmit that information, but not every device offers the same advantages. Here are seven features the best of these gadgets should have:
1. Wireless connectivity
One of the most important features to look for is wireless connectivity. Conventional data-logging systems that only store information on devices are sufficient for many laboratory operations, but remote access is vital for cold chain monitoring. Consequently, these loggers should be able to transmit their readings wirelessly.
There are more than a dozen wireless connectivity standards and protocols these devices can use, but some are better than others. Given cold chains’ long distances and limited nearby infrastructure, cellular networks like 4G LTE may be the best way forward. Some Internet of Things (IoT) devices may support multiple protocols, which is ideal for cold chains with varying needs.
2. Built-in security tools
Another essential feature of cold chain IoT trackers is built-in security. Cybersecurity is often a shortcoming with IoT devices, thanks to their limited hardware and a lack of security regulations in the industry. However, these systems are popular targets for cybercriminals and can provide access to more sensitive data without proper protection.
Multifactor authentication (MFA) and encryption are some of the best protections for IoT devices and are increasingly common as built-in features. Labs should only consider loggers with these tools to minimize data breach risks and secure their cold chains.
3. Multiple input types
Temperature is the most obvious input type for a cold chain data logger, but the best options include other sensors. Information is most useful when in context, so gathering a more diverse range of logs will inform more accurate processes and research. Tracking these separate data points through a single device also helps reduce IT sprawl and manage costs.
Other inputs labs should look for depends on their specific operations and what’s important to their work. Some commonly useful factors for cold chains include physical shock, location and humidity. Particularly sensitive shipments may also need air pressure, light or air quality sensors.
4. Automated alerts
Another practical feature these devices should have is automated alert systems. Accessing data remotely provides significant efficiency and transparency benefits, but automatic alerts take them further. Automation saves time and reduces human error so labs can make the most of this real-time information.
Automated alerts can warn drivers and other cold chain stakeholders when temperatures or other factors fall outside acceptable ranges, letting them take action sooner. They can then adjust deliveries or investigate the issue further to prevent product damage. Responses like this hinge on regular manual check-ins if these alerts aren’t automated, which is less efficient.
5. Adjustable logging frequencies
A less mission-critical but still important feature to look for is variable logging frequencies. Sampling data at the same rate for every shipment may be easier but isn’t practical. Labs that can adjust the sampling frequency for each use case can get more out of their data loggers.
Some shipments may be more sensitive, requiring more frequent data sampling. On the other hand, longer shipments are better suited to increased logging intervals, as this will minimize device activity, stretching their battery life longer. Adjustable frequencies let labs use the same type of logger to meet all these needs.
6. Backup storage
Cold chain data loggers should also feature more than one way to store or transmit information. While it’s important to have remote access, labs can’t assume wireless systems will always work. Any network can experience disruption outside of users’ control, but having a backup storage option ensures these unexpected challenges don’t jeopardize critical information.
Data-logging tools should have an offline and online way to hold or share information. That could be an SD card and companion cloud app, an on-device drive and cellular connectivity, or any other combination.
7. Ease of use
Finally, these devices should be easy to use. User-friendliness may not seem as crucial initially, but it can significantly impact the rest of a lab’s operations. If programming and using these gadgets is difficult, it’ll introduce more room for error, take employees’ time away from mission-critical tasks and affect the quality of results.
This is also a security matter, as 82% of data breaches involve human error. Labs should look for loggers with simple setup and use instructions, easy-to-read interfaces, and minimal peripheral or preparation requirements. Looking through user reviews is a good way to gauge how easy these devices are to use.
Cold chain data loggers must meet high standards
Data loggers are important pieces of equipment for the cold chain. As such, labs should take care when selecting them. The best of these devices will have these seven features, and if any gadget doesn’t, it may not be suitable for the lab’s operations.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She’s always excited to learn how the latest industry trends will improve the world. She has over five years of experience covering stories in the science and tech sectors.