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How IoT Devices and Smart Sensors Are Helping Enable a New Era of Food Security

By Contributing Author | 08/10/2018 | 6:35 AM

By Mike Allen, Channel Manager – Eastern and Midwestern Regions at Advantech


The FAO states that one-third of all food produced each year is wasted. Lost or spoiled in subsequent stages throughout the supply chain—from storage to packing to transport and beyond—roughly 1.3 billion tons of food never reaches consumers.

Precise and constant refrigeration temperatures are critical when ensuring the safe delivery of perishable products such as produce, dairy and meat, as well as medicines. And while spoilage alone is an urgent problem in the global supply chain,insufficient temperature control can lead to more than waste; it can also create the perfect environment for the kinds of pathogens and micro-organisms that threaten public health, particularly when tainted products go undetected and are consumed by the general population. The CDC reports that foodborne illnesses affect 48 million people and result in some 120,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, with a total cost to the U.S. estimated at $77.7 billion annually,according to a new study calculated by Ohio State University consumer science professor Robert Scharff and published in the Journal of Food Protection.

With a sharp focus on sustainability, governments, researchers, retailers and enterprises are committed to improving processes by setting higher standards, increasing regulations and developing new technologies to reduce waste—and help the UN achieve a goal of “Zero Hunger” by 2030. In addition to new innovations being tested, such as the use of compressed natural gas in cold chain system tractors and the swapping of Freon for ammonia as a storage refrigerant, the implementation of advanced sensor technology is surging ahead in the cold chain system. Particularly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which regulates the sanitary transport of food, shippers and carriers, smart sensors hold great promise to reduce food spoilage and mitigate losses while increasing profitability for all stakeholders.

Pharmaceutical and consumer goods companies, which face the significant challenge ofdifferent temperature requirements and disparate optimal ranges for multiple products, are increasingly utilizing sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology not only to monitor temperatures in cold chain in real time, but also to assist in tracking shipments and detecting equipment and vehicle malfunctions, among other things. In fact, in a 2017 survey from Deloitte and MHI, supply chain industry leaders identified sensors as one technology enabling an “always-on supply chain.” Of the 900 respondents, 43 percent indicated their companies relied on sensor technologies embedded in devices to track in-transit cargo location, monitor carrier performance, identify vulnerabilities for theft or tampering and monitor shipment temperature, shock and vibration.

The research firm Gartner predicts 20 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2020, with mass adoption of sensors encouraged not only by the proliferation of these devices, but also several other significant factors including a sharp drop in price, low barrier to entry, ease of implementation and capabilities expanding to enable longer battery life, greater durability and more data storage. All of which reduce the financial risk for implementation while providing greater supply chain visibility. In addition, enterprises are developing more feature-rich sensors. Recognizing that stability is key to food security, cost-effective, end-to-end solutions in each sector of the supply chain—from port to warehouse to trucking to retail delivery—have been designed to support the entire cold chain ecosystem. From in-vehicle computing boxes for logistics and fleet management to hand-held temperature readers and hand-held computers with long-range scanners that can be used with powered vehicle mount cradles, IoT devices and smart sensors are enabling a new era of cold chain intelligence. With a complete spectrum of embedded computing platforms and abundant domain know-how available, enterprises can do more than just ensure proper temperatures are maintained for the duration of food and perishables transport. They have the capacity to optimize and modernize warehouse design and retail monitoring—from remote locations as well as on premises—while ensuring that every product moves from the point of production to the point of purchase efficiently and with its integrity intact.

Better visibility across every inch and mile of the supply chain has the potential to drive growth for businesses while contributing to a healthier planet. Whether a company takes incremental steps toward digitization or moves full steam ahead to achieve a competitive advantage, the ultimate goal is to ensure a seamless supply chain process, with reliable insight into personnel, fleet, product and storage, as well as access to impeccable and accurate environmental control to ensure the highest quality. As the supply chain, cold storage and distribution industry moves into the future, and the market segments that rely on cold chain services become increasingly diverse and geographically spread, new technologies that strengthen every link will continue to emerge. With an economic potential of the global cold chain market alone predicted to reach $234.49 billion in 2020, stability is a necessity to achieving success—and ensuring the wellbeing of nine billion human beings.


Mike AllenMike Allen brings over 25 years of direct sales, sales management and channel management experience in the automated identification and data collection industry. He understands the technology and hardware capabilities and more importantly, how to address the pain points of various industries and vertical applications. He has experience in various industry sectors including transportation/logistics, automotive, oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing, warehousing/distribution, consumer goods and retail. Mike began his career in the Automated Information and Data Capture (AIDC) space managing key accounts and growing specific geographic territories for various manufacturers and providers of automated data capture equipment and solutions. Before joining Advantech, Mike worked with a provider of mobile device analytics to OEM’s and to managed services providers. Prior to that he worked with a global consulting and systems integration company where he was the lead for mobile data collection and strategy for major engagements globally.



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