Essential Features of Cold Chain Data Loggers

Published by Nick Barrowclough on

vaccine temperature monitoring

Cold Chain Data Loggers are effectively a temperature sensor device that records and logs the temperature it is exposed to at set intervals. They are typically compact devices, inexpensive and reliable. They don’t require a complex support infrastructure. Many come as a simple USB stick that you can plugin and download the data. Others feature Bluetooth to connect wirelessly and download the data. So what are the essential features of cold chain data loggers?

Temperature Data Loggers are popular in the pharmaceutical industry for recording the exposure of temperature sensitive drugs and vaccines. They provide an audited trail of ambient temperatures and any temperature excursions that have occurred. As these data loggers are compact, battery powered and require no support infrastructure they are ideal for tracking the temperature of cold chain shipments while in transit. 

When selecting a temperature data logger for use in your business there are certain features that you should keep in mind which make the sensor suitable for your required purpose. The below features are some of he essentials you should be looking for.

  • Continuous temperature monitoring.
  • Detailed time-stamped temperature logs.
  • Temperature excursion indicator (visual or via alerts).
  • Reliable storage and transfer of temperature data to internal memory. 
  • Easy accessibility of data through computers or smart devices.
  • Reporting and analytics Software.

There are many temperature data loggers on the market, with different technologies and features. There are three main types of device that could be categorized as follows :-

temperature data logger with USB and built in LCD
Temperature data logger with USB and built in LCD
  1. Basic temperature data loggers – These are low cost and quick to deploy. They are sometimes battery powered, sometimes require external power. They have veery simple function, typically just log the temperature on internal memory and it can be downloaded as a CSV file to display in excel.
  2. Multi-sensor temperature monitors – These data loggers contain more than one sensor, they typically will record temperature and humidity. Some also include air pressure, accelerometers, presence of certain gases. These devices are more complex, and typically require a power source. They log the data internally and it is downloaded sometimes to a central cloud server. They often come with some analytics software on the server for graphing and displaying the data in a user friendly way.
  3. Enterprise-level temperature monitoring system – These sensors are usually integrated to larger enterprise level systems such as warehouse management software and cold chain shipment management software. They log data internally and it can be downloaded to the management software. Often times they will have wireless connectivity to a base station that connects to the internet. These sensors are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and can provide realtime monitoring and alerts.

The challenge is to pick the data logger temperature monitoring system that is suitable for your needs to monitor temperature sensitive shipments during transit through the cold-chain logistics network.

To help guide you through the selection there are some questions you can ask yourself.

  • Do I need to measure a single parameter, or track a range of conditions? 
  • For what time period do I need to measure them?
  • Do I need alerts when temperature exceeds acceptable thresholds?
  • With what frequency do I need to measure the data?
  • How often do I need to view or transfer that data? 
  • Where do I view the data?
  • Does the data logger need to be waterproof or function in harsh environments?
  • Do I need to set up and deploy the system myself? 
  • Will I require additional software, data plans, or systems to handle and analyze the data?

The answers to these questions will give you an outline of the specific needs for your operation. 

1 — Suitable Accuracy

When selecting your temperature data logger make sure to choose one that has accuracy that fit for purpose. Those used in cold chain monitoring and pharmaceuticals have greater temperature range and accuracy to within 1°C. It is also important to ensure that the sensor is calibrated and has NIST traceable certification when being used for monitoring temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals.

National Institute of Technology (NIST)

2 — Multiple Sensors

Do you need temperature data only? Or do you require a deeper insight to your shipment such as ensuring proper handling and care, humidity levels and so on? Some data loggers have multiple sensors built in, others allow you to plugin additional sensors as needed.

3 — Variable Sampling Frequency

As the majority of temperature data loggers are battery powered devices, the more often they take readings, the quicker the batteries will drain. Add in multiple sensors, and maybe a radio for downloading data and battery life can be shortened dramatically. So choose a data logger that suits your needs. Pharma-Mon have data loggers that are ultra low powered, with up to 10 year battery life! Batteries are easily replaceable using standard AA batteries.

It is also important to consider the type of batteries used. Lithium Ion batteries are restricted from air travel and require special permissions, so standard AA batteries are much easier to deal with.

4 — Sufficient Data Storage

Consider how long you need the at a logger to store data. Usually the data loggers will have a specified number of data points they can store, so based on your frequency of data logging will determine how long you can store data for. Also how will you access the data? When you download the data for long term archival storage your logger will be freed up to store data again. If you don’t download data intake then data will begin to be over written with new logs.

5 — Ease & Speed of Data Transfer

How do you retrieve the the stored data and ow is it presented? Do you plugin the device to a USB port on your laptop and download a CSV file? or is the data transmitted wirelessly via bluetooth? Or is there another method such as a cloud service?

It can be time consuming and error prone process to manually collect the data loggers and download the data. It can also be manipulated. Pharma-Mon devices connect over LoRa Wireless Tunnel to our gateways and download the data, which is presented in graphical form through our web user interface and cloud monitoring service. Whenever the sensor is in range of the gateway it will give real time live monitoring and alerts when thresholds are exceeded.

6 — Reporting & Analytics

What methods does the data logger have to display the data? Some might feature an LCD display that shows he maximum and minimum values recorded, or include the latest reading. Others might display the Mean Kinetic Temperature (MKT). Some may have a simple LED indicator that lights when a temperature excursion has occurred. Others might have none of the above and simply log the data for later download.

Wireless temperature data loggers on the other hand enable real-time remote access to temperature and other types of data via cellular, Wi-Fi, or other communication systems. Data can be easily streamed to or accessed from a secure web server or integrated into with ERPs, TMSs, WMSs, or any enterprise software systems relatively easily. 

Wireless temperature data loggers that are connected as part of an IoT network can offer real-time remote access to data via WiFi or cellular data. This at a can be live streamed to cloud services and displayed in a visual dashboard which can include many analytical tools. This solution gives you the Big Data advantage of tracking patterns, identifying areas where temperature excursions most commonly occur.

Wireless temperature cold chain data loggers that are connected as part of an IoT network can offer real-time remote access to data via WiFi or cellular data. This at a can be live streamed to cloud services and displayed in a visual dashboard which can include many analytical tools. This solution gives you the Big Data advantage of tracking patterns, identifying areas where temperature excursions most commonly occur.

Pharma-Mon dashboard with temperature analysis. Cold chain data loggers

Conclusion

Make sure that you have a clearly defined specification of what you need from your temperature data logger before embarking on a decision. You don’t want to spend for unnecessary features, but vice versa, you want to ensure that the data collected is sufficient to be valuable and provide a return on investment.


4 Comments

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