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Maintaining Temperature Control with IoT Sensors

Aug. 25, 2022
Maintaining climate-controlled temperature during the supply chain and transit is challenging. IoT sensors provide regular monitoring to ensure products are safe, effective and arrive on-time.

In April 2022, the U.S. economy witnessed its slowest manufacturing activity in nearly 18 months. Reports from the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Business Survey indicated that the U.S. supply chain is constrained. For the first time in a long time, the index of national factory activity fell to a reading of 55.4. This is a decrease from 57.1 in March. Most surprising, however, is that the last time the index was lower than the April reading was July 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many factors impacting this slowdown such as import challenges across China and the increased loss of workers stateside. The outlook is unknown. So, what does that mean for Americans and how we source products in our homes, business and healthcare systems? To what extent will this slowdown impact our day-to-day lives?

There are critical needs, such as food and healthcare that cannot afford a supply chain slowdown. We need to ensure that our families are fed with healthy and safe food and beverages and that our medications and vaccines are ready and transported at a safe temperature. This is done through cold-chain monitoring.

As background, cold-chain products include goods such as perishable food and drinks, chemicals and many high-value items in the healthcare industry such as pharmaceuticals, biologics, lab samples, diagnostic tests, vaccines and more. These products are extremely sensitive to temperature control and need to be maintained for the product’s efficacy, safety and/or industry regulation. Transporting cold-chain products in a controlled environment from a manufacturing facility to a pharmacy or store, for example, is a challenge many suppliers face.

Potential Challenges With Monitoring Cold-chain Products in Transit

Managing the correct temperature throughout a product’s supply chain process is not an easy task. There are many opportunities for failure that may occur during the development, shipping and distribution of these climate-controlled goods.

For example, while on the road between Kansas and California, a freezer inside a semi-trailer may lose power and begin to warm. The driver of the truck may not realize this has happened for the next 1,500 miles of the trip. During that time, the freezer is getting warmer and no longer maintaining a safe, industry-regulated temperature. The products, vaccines or goods are now spoiled and must be thrown away upon arrival at the final destination.

 It’s an unfortunate waste that can—and must—be avoided for the sake of the health and well-being of consumers using these goods. Lives are at risk if the products are not transported safely.

IoT Sensors Keep Products Safe, Regulated and Effective

Currently, there are IoT-enabled sensors that run on an IoT network, the LoRaWAN standard, that can track and trace these cold-chain products. Sensors are seamlessly inserted into the transport packaging or freezer to monitor the temperature, status and location of products across the supply chain. These sensors are very long-range and low-power, helping ensure that the products always remain connected, online and cold (to the temperature each specific product requires).

With GPS-like performance, the sensors enable incredible accuracy to pinpoint where a product is at any exact moment. This high level of geolocation services, in combination with LoRaWAN, allows for always-on connectivity, ensures that monitoring the status of products are reliable and safe.

With these IoT-enabled sensors, cargo, vehicles and other assets are easily monitored even while traveling through harsh conditions or dense locations. This gives the company assurance that their products are moving as scheduled and will arrive at the designated time and place. Furthermore, as consumers, we can accurately get updates from the supplier as our product moves throughout distribution plants and cities across the U.S.

Upon safe arrival, the same IoT sensors can be placed within healthcare facilities to monitor the temperature of the refrigerators, freezers or vial holders directly. These sensors regularly measure the temperature inside and send data back through a gateway utilizing LoRaWAN to a cloud to be analyzed. The collected insights are shared with the healthcare workers or facility operators and given real-time insights into any environmental changes.

For example, if the temperature rises, was it because the door was left open? Or has a freezer broken or become unplugged? With notifications and alerts, workers can take action and quickly alleviate potential harm.


Regular, real-time updates safeguard items and ensure they remain securely stored and maintained. Sensors also deliver an added assurance in regard to human error. A simple mistake of leaving the storage door open doesn’t have to mean a catastrophic loss of product.

The future of our supply chain is unknown. While cold-chain monitoring—and the goods produced and shipped in this process—represents only a fraction of the factory work in the U.S., it’s perhaps the most vital. We need to ensure that Americans have access to their medications and provide a peace of mind that the medicines and vaccines they are using are safe. IoT sensors are an easy, effective and cost-effective solution to address the challenge of on-time, safe and secure deliveries.

Marc Pégulu is VP of Internet of Things for the Wireless and Sensing Products Group at Semtech.

About the Author

Marc Pégulu

Marc Pégulu has been vice president of IoT in the wireless and sensing products group at Semtech since June 2015. He held the position of vice president of wireless and sensing products from June 2014. Prior to this appointment, he held the position of director of marketing and applications. Pégulu joined the Company in March 2006 and was involved in several key technology initiatives, including LoRa wireless and software-defined modem technologies. Prior to joining Semtech, he held positions in chips and systems development at Thomson CSF, Thales, ATMEL and DibCom in France and China.

Marc holds a Master of Science degree in electronics and telecommunications from Institut National Polytechnique of Grenoble, France, and is a graduate of the Executive MBA program of ESCP Europe.

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