Real-time monitoring solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can identify more problems in cold chains than incumbent systems, but a strong business case exists only for high-value products and commodities that suffer high loss rates, according to Lux Research, Boston.

Today's real-time monitoring systems and connected platforms offer advances in cellular and satellite connectivity to link warehouses and distribution centers and host cloud-based data to enable anytime availability and analytics.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution in the cold chain monitoring space, and companies can implement different solutions on a case-by-case basis, depending on the value of the cargo and loss rates," says Tiffany Huang, research associate and lead author of the report.

The report, "Keeping It Fresh: Improving Cold Chain Outcomes with Sensor Platforms," provides payback models for real-time monitoring systems. Among their findings:

  • Real-time monitoring works for ice cream. Ice cream is a rare case where temperature issues at retail level create a need for real-time systems, rather than transit phases, where loss rates of 0.5-1.5% don't justify the cost. In one case, an ice cream store installed a multi-attribute monitor costing $800 and averted losses that ran up to $80,000 a month.
  • Semiconductor materials are another opportunity. Makers of computer chips should consider using temperature indicators when shipping valuable adhesives if the loss rate is below 0.4%; temperature data loggers when it is below 18%; continuous temperature monitors if the loss is below 33%; and multi-attribute monitors that include temperature, door status, location, cargo and electrical monitoring when the loss rate is higher.