Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Digi combines services to protect perishable goods

Steve Rogerson
May 10, 2017
IoT connectivity company Digi has introduced industry-specific, subscription-based services that provide continuous and wireless IoT-based temperature management to protect perishable, high-value goods and meet growing regulatory compliance standards.
Under the name Digi Smart Solutions, the group combines the existing Honeycomb, FreshTemp and Smart Temps product lines to address the specific needs of foodservice, transportation, logistics and healthcare industries including pharmacy.
Designed to deliver real-time insights, the group will provide a subscription-based service that continuously and wirelessly monitors task management activities and the temperature of perishable, high-value goods. It will provide centralised oversight of food safety processes, improve operational efficiencies and provide chain of custody verification.
The aim is to help organisations comply with public health requirements and food safety regulations set by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
“With the wealth of our assets and expertise, we have best-in-class products for local businesses as well as international enterprises,” said Kevin Riley, Digi’s chief operating officer who will oversee the group. “Our solutions span the entire chain of custody to help companies achieve operational efficiencies, complete visibility and verification of compliance. Additionally, as markets’ needs continue to unfold, we’ll be able to update our products to address those changes.”
The group aims to address the day-to-day issues of maintaining product quality and safety while lowering costs and achieving overarching goals of higher customer satisfaction and brand reputation. It also addresses the needs of those with unique challenges that span operational and safety regulatory requirements.
Digi has more than 10,000 locations under management, a combined 25 years of temperature management experience and more than a billion temperature sensor readings. A sample of current customers includes Tim Hortons, Love’s Travel Stops, Hennepin County Medical Center, Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Notre Dame.
There are products designed to address the wide variety of environments in the foodservice industry including fast-food outlets, full service restaurants, corporate dining, grocery stores, convenience stores and food service operations within other locations such as cinemas, rest stops and so on.
The system helps users meet stringent task management, food safety and sanitation needs to capture, document and report equipment and food temperatures securely to meet and exceed the FDA’s Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) and Model Food Code. The products streamline manual operational checklists and provide insight to managers on how well their teams are adhering to quality and food safety guidelines.
In educational settings (K-12, higher education), the group will allow local and state agencies to document and streamline processes for schools participating in Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) child nutrition programmes. These require a food safety programme based on hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles that conform to guidance issued by the USDA. The guidelines address all aspects of foodservice, such as receiving, storing, preparing, cooking, cooling, reheating, holding, assembling, packaging, transporting and serving.
The products provide real-time and location-based temperature monitoring. Recent innovations in GPS and low power wireless sensing technology give users complete visibility throughout the transport chain. As part of the FSMA, the FDA issued food safety rules to prevent food contamination during transportation. Specific areas of FSMA compliance include transport asset sanitation and pre-cooling, temperature control and tracking, temperature certification and data exchange, and data retention. The transportation products follow HACCP and National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) standards to provide a traceable independent audit of both reefer units and product temperatures.
The products for healthcare provide task management and real-time temperature monitoring of critical items in pharmacy, hospital, blood bank and laboratory settings, including vaccines, medications and other critical items. For pharmaceuticals, they support the CDC Guidelines for Vaccine Storage (2016), along with the various Board of Pharmacy standards and Department of Health Vaccine For Children requirements.
The group’s products are comprised of easy-to-install hand-held probes, wireless sensors, gateways and easy-to-use software that allow temperature data and tasks to be monitored, logged and retrieved. Additionally, they offer an open API for integration into back-office system and are available in various subscription-based models for HACCP and NIST environments. They require no capital expense. Hardware and software are included as part of the subscription with information hosted on servers managed by Digi.
The Minnesota-based company has also introduced SafeTemps designed with help from transportation and logistics companies. SafeTemps provides precise and continuous visibility using wireless monitors that automatically generate temperature alerts and reports of perishable goods throughout the transportation and supply chain process.
As part of the FSMA, the FDA rules require those involved in transporting human and animal food by motor or rail vehicle to follow recognised best practices for sanitary transportation, including properly refrigerating food. Shippers and receivers must verify that transport units are pre-cooled prior to loading, and track temperatures during transit. They must also capture, log and share temperature monitoring data to show end-to-end compliance.
In addition to providing users with the ability to meet the requirements, SafeTemps also provides an independent audit of refrigerated trailers, known as reefers. In reefers, the temperature is controlled by a refrigeration unit that creates and maintains three temperature zones – frozen, refrigerated and ambient temperature. With this technology deployed directly within each zone inside the container, a real-time and accurate record verifies that the reefer unit is meeting FSMA requirements.
"Requirements of the FSMA present immediate challenges for our customers in the transportation industry," said Riley. "Digi SafeTemps automates temperature logging and location reporting. Our solution is unique in that it continuously measures temperature at the point of product, within the cooling system itself, providing an independent verification of a trailer's reefer equipment."
SafeTemps provides location-based, real-time temperature monitoring and alert notification. By linking positioning and temperature monitoring, the user has complete visibility throughout the transport chain. The system can locate and monitor refrigeration units in trailer yards during preparation, as it leaves the shipper location (geo-fencing), in transit, arrival at destination, and location in the destination yard.
During the course of the shipment, the system provides bread-crumbing and zone temperatures with five-minute stop detection. During transit, through integration with dispatch and telematics software, shippers and carriers are immediately alerted to any temperature event. Additionally, by placing the gateway on the outside refrigeration unit, an LED light visibly alerts yard managers, shippers and carriers to any temperature fail event.
"We're using SafeTemps across our entire trailer fleet to give us continuous visibility, which is leaps beyond the interval-based level of insight of competitive solutions," said Julie Trudel, operations manager at ASL Global Logistics. "It provides immeasurable value in ensuring accurate and automated reporting across our fleet and our ability to provide that insight to our customers."
Through proactive, real-time monitoring, it provides automated and detailed trip, shipment and customer delivery reports. Information can be presented in a Digi-hosted dashboard, as well as be integrated with ERP as well as warehouse, dock, yard and transport management systems.
"The combination of the cloud-based service with the ease of installation made Digi SafeTemps an easy decision," said Joe Pfeifer, director of loss prevention and food safety at Merchants Distributors, a privately owned wholesale grocery distributor headquartered in North Carolina. "Any time your business is based on shipping, you can't have your fleet sitting in the yard for technology upgrades. Digi SafeTemps was installed quickly and easily."
By eliminating manual input of temperature information, sensor-based input saves labour, eliminates potential human error and provides reliable data to verify adherence to FSMA requirements. Additionally, automated data logging and temperature tracking provides verification to product specific temperature rule sets such as the four-hour and one-hour time-temperature rule set. SafeTemps follows HACCP and NIST standards to provide a traceable independent audit of both reefer units and product temperatures.
A subscription-based service, it is comprised of wireless sensors, gateways and software that allow temperature data to be monitored, logged and retrieved independent of the make or model of refrigeration unit. Data transmission is able to adjust to various environments to take advantage of Bluetooth, wifi or LTE and 3G cellular networks. Hardware and software are included as part of the subscription and no capital expense is required.