Sensitech Delivers Active RFID to Cold Chain

The 15-year-old specialist in temperature monitoring adds RFID to its systems for food distributors and retailers, for greater accuracy.

Sensitech has rolled out ColdStream Plant to Shelf, a system that brings active RFID-enabled temperature monitoring into the "cold stream," an industry term for the supply chain for perishable foods.

"Weve always used electronic temperature monitoring devices," said Rupert Schmidtberg, vice president and chief technology officer for the 15-year-old company.

Sensitech first introduced its temperature thermometers for in-transit use in 1991. The devices have been used in conjunction with Sensitechs software for storing and sorting through collected data.

But with assistance from RFID, food suppliers and supermarkets can now get an accurate reading of food temperatures throughout the distribution process, instead of relying on measurements taken during "single segments" of the chain, he said in an interview.

Continuous temperature monitoring is particularly useful for perishable items, according to Schmidtberg, who is also Sensitechs general manager of track and trace.

These foods are often transported by truck from farms to warehouses and distribution centers, and then stored there before getting delivered to retail stores.

"Our customers want to keep foods as fresh as possible," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about Best Buys item-level RFID initiative.

About 56 percent of all store "shrink" comes from the perishables department, according to the 2003/2004 Supermarket Shrink Survey.

Essentially, when fruits and vegetables start to wilt, stores have no choice but to throw them away.

Beyond the hardware and software included in the new ColdStream PTS system, Sensitech also provides ASP hosting, data analysis and consulting services to food distributors and retailers.

ColdStream PTS revolves around Sensitechs TempTale, a mesh of RFID-enabled monitoring devices.

Other components of the system include RSS (Remote Site Server) and Cold Chain Visibility Server. RSS is a Windows-based software agent that reads and downloads data, forwards the data to the Cold Chain Visibility Server, and performs SNMP monitoring of gateways and repeaters within the ColdStream PTS network.

Cold Chain Visibility Server is a Web-based hosted database application for reporting, querying and analyzing temperature information and the efficiency of food distribution processes.

If temperatures start to move beyond acceptable limits, food distributors and retailers can be alerted by rules-driven alarms.

Sensitechs services staff includes "cold chain" experts, food scientists, statisticians and industrial engineers.

Schmidtberg said the company is also looking at extending the system directly into retail environments, to help keep foods fresher after arriving at the supermarket.

Editors Note: This story was updated to add more information about Sensitechs products and to correct the name of Sensitechs spokesperson.

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