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What Does IoT Mean for Cold Chain Logistics?

Frozen pizza, ice cream, and other perishable in-demand foods are, at least in part, fueling the growing global cold chain market. A market that is estimated to reach $203.14 billion by the end of this year and grow at a CAGR of 7.6% to reach $293.27 billion by 2023. Cold chain logistics, or temperature-controlled transportation supply chain, are vital for the safe and sanitary delivery of temperature-sensitive items. These include popular food items and produce, as well as pharmaceuticals like vaccines, drugs and other biologics.

These products are sensitive to environmental conditions, and even the slightest compromise in required conditions can spell disaster for consumers and businesses. It could mean potentially trashing billions of dollars’ worth of cargo. It could also adversely affect the health and well-being of consumers. The CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, with 128,000 cases resulting in hospitalization.

IoT for cold chain logistics

Why is the cold chain booming?

Both the food and pharmaceutical industries are undergoing rapid transformations that are evolving the demands and importance of the cold chain.

The food industry, for example, is quickly moving into the e-commerce space. With digital customers purchasing more frozen, prepared and fresh foods online, grocery retailers need to ensure that they maintain the quality of their products until they deliver them to the customer. Further, the growing demand for organic fruits and vegetables, which usually costs more and has a shorter shelf life than non-organic products, demands food producers closely manage temperatures and conditions during transport.

Other factors, including the rising temperatures in many parts of the world as well as the need to ship perishable foods over greater distances, have created new requirements for food producers in when they harvest produce, and how they store and ship their goods.

The cold chain is also evolving for the pharmaceutical industry. Always a regulated industry, pharma companies are coming under greater scrutiny from regulators to ensure their products remain safe for drug consumers. Increasing regulations are due, in part, to the rise of biopharmaceutical products coming to market. These vaccines and medications tend to be more sensitive to temperatures and conditions, demanding companies take greater control over the environment. As a result, regulators are requesting proof of temperatures at every stage of the supply chain.

Advancing cold chain logistics with IoT

With the need for greater control over the cold chain, end-to-end visibility of perishable products has become ever more critical. This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in.

Using shipping containers with GPS capabilities or adding RFID sensors to products, pallets or crates can measure the temperature, humidity, shock, vibrations and other parameters of cargo during the shipping process. IoT-enabled solutions can transmit this data in real-time, sending alerts or notifications should conditions become compromised. Then, armed with predictive and descriptive analytics, companies can make any necessary corrections to maintain the integrity of food and drugs throughout the shipping process.

Already companies are achieving the competitive benefits that come with integrating IoT with cold chain logistics. However, there remains much potential for further improving visibility and control of perishable products once they leave the lab or farmstead. To reach this potential will require an intelligent platform that can collect, manage and transmit data in real time across many devices, sensors, and systems.

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Referenced sources:

Case Study: IoT is redefining the customer experience. Nokia case study.

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