How IoT Enables Cold Chain Management & Temperature Monitoring Solutions

Comprehensive cold chain management systems from industry leader DeltaTrak

When it comes to cold chain management, it’s not the needs, requirements, and use cases for the industry that have changed, it’s the technology that has changed – and the key change has been the introduction of IoT and connectivity. Track and trace devices are still used and needed in the industry, but devices have evolved over the last thirty years, with DeltaTrak at the forefront of this evolution.

DeltaTrak has been in the business of cold chain management for more than three decades. Thirty years ago, track and trace was based on disposable analogue devices that recorded temperature during the transport of goods, information that you received once the order was delivered. Then came electronic and data logger devices, with data loggers having their own technology advancement, giving you the ability to plug and play. As technology continued to advance, we ended up where we are today, with connected IoT devices that answer the two most important questions you have: where is my cargo and what condition is it in?

“Covid accelerated the need for information and data,” says Fred Woo, CEO & Founder, DeltaTrak. “During the pandemic there were a lot of problems with supply chains. The first question everyone was asking was ‘where is my cargo’ and the second question they were asking was ‘what’s happening with it inside that container that has been stuck in some port, not being able to unload’.  So, the challenges we faced during Covid drove the need for these particular data sets. The upshot is that this data – for both location and condition – is now available through the use of IoT devices, if they are used

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The quality system has traditionally been separated from the transaction data – and this is where DeltaTrak has been able to combine and integrate the two together.

DeltaTrak holds a patent on a specific type of methodology relating to the management of data that comes from the supply chain, regardless of the source, fully addressing the multitude of islands of data. The patent was awarded for bringing all that data together and providing a holistic view of the supply chain looking at the quality of the product (perishable goods) as it travels through the supply chain.

Why quality and location are equally important

Thirty years ago, the industry was already trying to get a grasp on how they could get insights into the status produce during transport. In general, it takes about 3-5 days to ship fruit and vegetables from the growing area to the destination, which is a significant amount of time when you’re talking about highly perishable products. Produce is a ‘live’ product, so as soon as you harvest fruit and vegetables, the lifecycle starts to deteriorate. So, even if an orange or a head of lettuce have been handled and stored in the most optimal conditions, these commodities have a very limited shelf life. That could be 8 days, 10 days, 20 days, depending on what the commodity is – that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that its shelf life is finite, because once the product is in the stores, it’s working with a limited window in terms of salability.

“If we look at shelf life, retailers only have so many days to effectively sell the product,” explains Free Woo, CEO & Founder, DeltaTrak. “In the agriculture industry it is very, very difficult to manage produce because it’s highly perishable. One of the key things we try to do at DeltaTrak is to help the industry visualize the condition of the perishable product during transport. They can then make informed decisions as to what is the best way to sell the product so that waste is reduced, shrinkage is reduced, and profit is increased for the retailer.”

How the DeltaTrak solution works

While many people try to ‘eat locally’, we as consumers are a bit spoiled, because in many parts of the world, you can’t grow produce during the winter unless you turn to greenhouses, which come with their own challenges, including excessive energy usage.

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To keep the food supply viable, you need to import from warmer climates. The quality of the produce that goes through the supply chain is directly related to monitoring temperature, as well as other factors.

DeltaTrak refers to its patented monitoring system as an alpha numeric quality code. But it’s not just basic asset tracking and it is for more than just temperature monitoring.

“During transport, temperature effects the outcome of the product by about 60%,” says Fred Woo. “The other 40% has different parameters, which may or may not be indicative for that specific item.  Ethylene, which is a ripening agent, a hormone produced by fruit, is one. You don’t want to mix high ethylene-producing fruits with highly ethylene sensitive fruits. For example, leafy green produce is highly sensitive to ethylene, so you don’t put that next to a mango or an apple or pear, because those are all very high ethylene producers. Look at it this way: if you put these in your refrigerator together, even though the temperature might be right, your produce will be impacted and will degrade faster.

“So, ethylene is one thing. Another is humidity. When you buy grapes, for example, some grapes might have a green stem, other grapes may have brown stems. The fruit may taste the same, but we as consumers look at the stems and think the bunch of grapes with the green stem is fresher, and the one with the brown stem is older. But the stems are impacted by humidity, so if you have more humidity in the air during transport the stem stays green. Otherwise, it dries up and it looks like the food is older, but it really isn’t.”

In addition to ethylene and humidity, impact – or shock – is another parameter. When produce gets bruised it becomes more susceptible to bacteria contamination, which could then be a cause for things like e-coli or other types of bacteria that may then impact the other fruit it is packaged with, causing mold or other issues.

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There are a number of perameters that can impact the quality of the produce during transit that you want to be aware of and monitor for the best possible outcomes.

Fred Woo CEO – DeltaTrak

“We are able to integrate these parameters into our dataset and compile a score card. The objective is to not take just raw data like temperature or humidity, but to integrate that into an algorithm that will produce an objective look at what the arrival condition of the produce is. This allows us to score card objectively, because in the produce industry there are people who have been doing this for 30 or 40 years and say they can tell the condition of the produce by looking at it, touching it, smelling it, knocking it, but that’s very subjective.”

IoT & managing connectivity

When it comes to security and managing connectivity, DeltaTrak piggybacks on the big three  (AWS, Azure, Google) in terms of data security. They have very specific IoT regulations – and there is a new law coming to the EU that treats enterprise data the same as consumer data, which means that in the future enterprise data will not be able to be stored outside of Europe. DeltaTrak’s data center partners will address this. Data is transferred via private VPN and Cisco IoT Control Center (2CONTROL) is used to manage Tele2 IoT’s connectivity.

Regulations & compliance

DeltaTrak’s first vertical was agriculture, but they’ve expanded their portfolio to include other verticals, such as life science and aerospace. They’ve been in the cold chain a long time, so they are aware of the different needs and applications of different industries.

“From the very beginning we have dealt directly with the end-users, so we talk with end users, we understand what they’re trying to achieve, and we customize for the end result they’re looking for in their particular industry with a solution that best benefits their intention.

“If you’re working in life science, where you’re shipping things like vaccines, you have a lot of compliance you need to address. Some vaccines need to be kept between two and eight degrees centigrade during shipping to remain viable, while others need to be kept under dry ice conditions, with the temperature at maybe minus 80°C. We do the accommodation by changing the type of sensors used in order to remain compliant, while the data – the type of data – being able to provide real-time information – remains the same.”

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What we do in the produce industry will most likely be about 70% there for other industries, while 30% is the customization for the industry.

Free Woo

Another area the DeltaTrak system can support is reporting in relation to regulations.

“Regulations are another area we’ve spent a lot of time on. In my mind, one device cannot be used for everything. In the life science sector, you also have to have information on a lot of different things, such as the ingredients that are coming in, which then needs to go through the manufacturer but also the wholesaler, and could then go through a pharmacy or hospitals. Hospitals have their own distribution setup, as do pharmacies, for controlled medications. Then there is telemedicine or direct to the consumer – that also needs to be tracked and traced. It’s not dependent on a device, it’s on the data in order to be traceable.”

This is where DeltaTrak’s patent around quality and transaction data comes into play. Their platform provides forward traceability. They are able to take data from transaction platforms, where the purchase, work, or transaction orders come in, and when there is a need for environmental data to be added to that transaction data, their devices come in and add other data sets to enrich that particular transaction data.

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If you have that traceability moving forward, you also have that traceability going backwards, so if someone gets sick, whether that’s food poisoning or the vaccine was not viable, that same path that was created moving forward can be traced backwards.

Fred Woo

“This is key when it comes to changing legislation in the US, where cases of food borne illnesses led to the passing of the Food Safety Monetization Act. Section 204 that has already been enacted and will start to be enforced in 2026 and there are similar compliance standards and regulations in other regions, such as Europe that need to be addressed. All of this means that systems of traceability in both the food industry and the life science industry are now common. Our solution allows you to address this and many other challenges.”

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