IoT for cold chains

Sustainability problem- Losses in the cold chain

The cold chain refers to the temperature-controlled part of a supply chain that involves a series of interrupted refrigeration, storage and distribution processes. Often, a departure from the prescribed temperature range can result in spoilage and can cost businesses and society immensely. Two prime examples of the sustainability challenges associated with cold chains are as follows-

  • The losses associated with cold chains in the pharmaceutical industry are estimated at $ 35 Billion in 2014. This involves spoilage of medicines that could have been delivered on time to mitigate healthcare costs to society
  • Spoilage of consumables and food, including shrinkage due to expired products. It is estimated that if the current levels of food loss and wastage are maintained, food production will need to increase by 70% in developing countries alone, which requires significant investments (~$83 Billion a year). There is also the risk of increasing pressure on limited resources and increasing GHG emissions associated with expanding agricultural activities

Mitigating losses in cold chains can save society billions of dollars in healthcare and nutrition investments.

Sustainability technology- IoT to manage cold chains (IMS Evolve, Tagbox)

  • The Internet of Things refers to the interconnected nature of physical and electronic devices in order to create a network that can collect and exchange data in real time. We have already seen examples of smart refrigerators that can pair up with your favourite voice-enabled assistant to inform you about your shopping list. Using this technology at an industrial scale can help prevent severe cold chain losses
  • Sensors connected throughout the cold chain can monitor temperature and relay information back in real time to supply chain managers. Mobile and web-based applications and dashboards can crunch the real-time data and provide visualizations on the health of products and need for any interventions
  • Integrating these devices with a mobile based application will facilitate easy monitoring- managers can simply monitor the data and signals on a mobile app and receive warnings in time to take corrective action.

Two examples of IoT solutions that address cold chain efficiency are IMS-Evolve and Tagbox.

Organizational stakeholders

From the perspective of retail stores, the following stakeholders need to be engaged to scale this solution.

  • Store operations and management teams
  • Merchandising team- buyers, range and space managers etc.
  • Supply chain logistics

Given the potential to improve pharmaceutical cold chains as well, the following stakeholders need to be engaged-

  • Supply chain logistics
  • Pharmacy retail store operations and management

Technology Implementation

  • Stakeholder workshops and discussions to educate store managers, supply chain operators etc. on the use of SaaS platforms, sensors and data visualization interpretation
  • Identify test locations and build out required infrastructure (sensors). Define success criteria and set up experimental framework, conduct a pre-post analysis and scale up deployment to more stores based on learning from the pilot phase
  • Enter into long term partnerships with technology service providers in order to create an incentive for service providers to channel capital and continue to innovate
  • Set up grant projects for using this technology in developing nations- it provides an incentive to continue to innovate and scale these technologies at low cost


By- Aksheya Chandar (SUMA ac4154)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s