In the last few years the Internet of Things has passed from a futuristic buzzword into an everyday fact of life for millions of businesses worldwide. The advantages offered by automating the exchange of data between systems and objects include liberating staff from mundane and time-consuming tasks, and improved operational efficiency and increased reliability, all combining into significant cost savings. But while the benefits can be obvious in theory, bringing an IoT solution into a business can be risky and difficult, especially when there are so many fragmentary and overlapping systems available on the market.
One system available is the EasyLog Cloud from Lascar Electronics. After 7 years on the market it now handles over 9 billion data points from 29,000 individual sensors across 142 countries.
As the name implies, it is designed to be as straight forward as possible to implement and use, a factor of great importance to the Somerset-based Mount Vets practice. Accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, they needed to demonstrate compliance with the room temperature requirements of the Practice Standards Scheme.
Covering public and clinical areas at three of their sites, any hardware needed to be neat, discreet and quick and easy to install. Selecting Lascar’s EL-MOTE wireless data loggers, with data sent directly to the EasyLog Cloud, Mount Vets now continuously monitor temperatures both on-site and remotely, enabling staff to get on with the more important job of looking after the animals in their care. But there is no question of being out of the loop as the EasyLog alarm functions, combined with automated email alerts, notify key staff as soon as any problem arises. This has given Mount Vets the confidence to roll the system out to include monitoring their vaccine storage, where a single fridge can hold several thousands of pounds worth of stock.
How to monitor vaccines
Indeed the importance of correctly storing vaccines is a concern the world over, as most need to be stored within tight temperature tolerances, otherwise they lose their effectiveness. In the USA, the State Vaccine Program mandated twice-daily fridge checks that were recorded manually on paper. Taken inside strictly defined time windows, these paper records were often mislaid or illegible, resulting in an audit failure for the facility concerned. By moving to the EasyLog Cloud and using Lascar’s dedicated vaccine data loggers, over 800 devices are managed remotely.
Local staff can still demonstrate they are checking the physical storage conditions by pressing a button on each logger, which generates an audit mark in the data record. The escalated alarms function is also used, which escalates to the next layer of management if staff do not respond in time. This has been found to greatly reduce the chance that expensive vaccine stock has to be discarded. And because the EasyLog Cloud includes a full suite of user management tools, user privileges are strictly controlled and the audit trail records who has made what changes, and who has responded to each alarm.
But it isn’t just medical organisations that can realise the efficiency gains IoT provides. A famous international soft drinks manufacturer has recently integrated EasyLog Cloud into its logistics chain. While developing a new milk-based product, staff realised a revised Cold Chain delivery process would be necessary. Drivers needed to make a visual check of temperature at every delivery point, and once again this had been a pen and paper process. But with an EL-WiFi data logger attached to each portable refrigeration unit, the drivers now use the audit mark function to confirm the visual check has been made without resorting to manual records.
When the truck returns to the depot and parks in its bay, all the data collected gets automatically uploaded to the EasyLog Cloud, saving a significant amount of time. Another benefit is that the system enables preventative maintenance, as any fluctuating fridge temperatures can be detected, giving an early indication of a failing appliance and allowing its repair before expensive stock is lost.
Wider industry and indeed society as a whole is also benefitting from Cloud-based systems. The University of Strathclyde Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) is a research, demonstration and deployment centre that plays a leading role in the development of smart electricity grids, helping the acceleration of low carbon technology. It used Lascar’s mobile app to set up an EL-MOTE, and within minutes data was streaming to the Cloud and could be viewed in the app and online. This proved a significant efficiency saving over legacy methods for monitoring temperature and humidity in power networks.
So while implementation can be made easy, another key concern for anyone considering bringing the IoT into their business is whether their preferred processes will be forced by the structure of the IoT system into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ architecture that limits the benefits they would expect to see.
For the EasyLog Cloud, Lascar has ensured a full API is available that allows clients to build their own custom solutions around temperature and humidity monitoring. The API is free to use, and offers a way to easily pass data to other systems.
A client in the horticulture sector has used this to create a live heatmap of its greenhouse facilities, allowing easy oversight and improving the efficiency of the environmental systems. This has cut energy costs and improved the crop yield. The State of Florida also leverages the API in its vaccine program to automatically record storage condition data, easing the burden of complying with audit standards.