Impacting Food Waste & Food-borne Illness with AWS IoT LoRaWAN Cold-Chain Sensors
Innovative ideas and technologies allow us to improve the efficiency and safety of the food industry. In that sense, ConnectedFresh’s IoT solutions provide the ability to continuously monitor food temperatures throughout production, processing, transportation, and retailing.
This blog will highlight how LoRaWAN AWS IoT services are leveraged to effectively reduce food waste and improve food safety through the use of sensors, including temperature monitors. According to the CDC, “When food sits in the ‘Danger Zone’ between 40°F and 140°F, which includes room temperature, bacteria that can cause food poisoning grows quickly.” Damage to food products due to temperature issues is prevalent and costly, and can be prevented with cold-chain monitoring technology.
IoT technology is the natural ally to increase our ability to prevent, detect and respond to the health threats associated with unsafe food. Due to their flexible nature, AWS IoT solutions can be applied in countless ways to help the food industry.
Manual Temperature Monitoring
In many hospitality operations today, team members are walking around manually noting temperatures of refrigerators and freezers to ensure they are operating effectively. However, it’s often the case that by the time a cooler temperature issue is found, it’s too late to fix it before the damage is done to the product inside, leading teams to operate re-actively to issues that arise.
In addition to the product quality and availability as well as the costs due to loss of product, labor also has a large role. This manual activity of taking temperature logs every few hours – which is limited in its effectiveness, can cost each restaurant location $14,000 per year in productive time (ConnectedFresh).
Real-time data gathered by IoT devices, including temperature sensors, makes it possible to closely monitor food safety parameters, thus reducing the risk of food-borne illness outbreaks and the loss of product.
Achieving effective food safety systems is a shared responsibility that requires all stakeholders across the chain to collaborate and work together. It is a serious matter, and it is everyone’s business. However, it can be more complicated than it seems without a data-backed process that provides real-time knowledge to make better decisions.
Roots in Produce and AWS IoT Expertise
The founders of ConnectedFresh worked for Deloitte Consulting, helping to build their industrial IoT capabilities and delivering transformational projects to large manufacturers globally, all focused on preventative maintenance and early detection of issues.
With food waste and food-borne illness statistics in mind, ConnectedFresh uncovered an exciting opportunity to implement LoRaWAN cold-chain sensor technology close to home. Within their family produce distribution business, they implemented IoT sensor solutions and reduced food waste, improved food safety, and ensured compliance for the health department, distributors, and partners.
ConnectedFresh implemented dozens of LoRaWAN-enabled smart temperature sensors throughout the distribution facility, and built a real-time data dashboard for managers and executives. This digital transformation allowed leadership to have remote visibility into operations, even when they weren’t on site, increasing transparency across the entire organization.
Food Industry – Ripe for LoRaWAN Sensor Solutions
In 2019, ConnectedFresh helped their family produce business shift from a purely reactive business model to a predictable, preventative and proactive one. Later that year, they took their solution to Germany and won First Place at the international 2019 Momenta LoRaWAN Startup Challenge. The judging panel in Berlin recognized not only ConnectedFresh’s deep IoT expertise, but also the untapped potential within the global food industry to scale their innovative LoRaWAN sensor solutions, and deliver meaningful business impacts.
“To effectively reduce food waste, companies must invest at every level. … This includes an investment in staff training, integrating technology, working with suppliers to streamline the supply chain...”
As ConnectedFresh has continued to expand, they’ve stayed close to their roots and have strategically chosen to specialize in the Hospitality, Grocery and Food & Beverage industries. Their most popular data automation solution utilizes cold-chain temperature/humidity sensors, but they offer a vast range of data sensors, from energy monitoring, to door open status, to leak detection.
Everything that ConnectedFresh deploys is ready to go right out of the box, made possible by a highly reliable and scalable infrastructure built on AWS.
Leveraging AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN
LoRaWAN Network Options
When building their platform, ConnectedFresh explored multiple LoRaWAN network options, looking for enterprise-ready solutions with scalability. Expanding their AWS footprint to AWS IoT for LoRaWAN was a natural next step because it seamlessly integrated into other hosted services and provided the long-term scalability and reliability they needed.
Scalability and Reliability Driven by AWS Services
All solutions that ConnectedFresh deploys are “on-and-go;” everything is pre-configured and ready to connect. A customer’s local team will receive a package that includes a gateway and their sensor devices. Once they plug in the gateway and turn on the LoRaWAN devices, the network activates the encrypted devices and immediately begins sending data. They can even communicate through cellular gateways, completely segmenting the solution from the customer’s network.
ConnectedFresh’s AWS private network and API-driven architecture allows messages to travel through to their dashboards, fully encrypted at every stage in transit and at rest. Their advanced rules engines decode data and provide contextualization for customer-facing readings, persisting for both long and short-term analytics. And their highly resilient network of services and APIs make data accessible for users via real-time dashboards and alerts over email, SMS, phone calls, messaging integrations, and more.
AWS’ models are based on “pay what you use”, allowing ConnectedFresh to quickly and seamlessly scale up and down services based on immediate needs. AWS is the industry cloud leader and continues to define modern understanding of cloud services. The ConnectedFresh platform is developed and hosted on AWS private cloud using AWS native services to provide highly scalable and resilient server-less & micro-services driven architecture. It creates data processing pipelines using AWS Lambda and Amazon SQS with redundancy, persistence and exception handling at each processing stage, improving data integrity and security at scale.
Applications use server-less infrastructure while keeping data security in place using end to end data encryption in transit and at rest. All applications are hosted in a private sub-net for network segregation and minimizing external exposure. Applications use active load balancers to manage and distribute network traffic at scale to provide high fault tolerance. The platform uses Amazon RDS services to provide highly reliable and fault tolerant data persistence. Customer applications are deployed in self-managed containers using Amazon ECS to provide scale, security and highly dynamic CI/CD with AWS CodePipeLine.
Success Stories and Immediate Savings Delivered
Early in 2020, a Chick-fil-A franchisee with Hollywood locations heard about ConnectedFresh. They already had a temperature monitoring solution in place but were looking for some improvements in usability, reliability, and support. Repeatedly changing batteries and needing to keep up on connectivity statuses made it feel like the system was another thing to manage rather than working quietly in the background, notifying them when they needed to act.
ConnectedFresh worked with Chick-fil-A to start a pilot program to implement sensors alongside their current solution to compare them side-by-side. The onsite team was very happy with the system’s reliability and scalability, and ConnectedFresh quickly earned the team’s trust.
As deployments expanded to additional locations, the team was able to see first-hand how easy the ConnectedFresh solution was to deploy at scale. Each store received a box in the mail with everything included. They simply plugged in the gateway and turned on the devices, and data was already flowing to the platform for them to view in real time.
The ConnectedFresh team worked with Chick-fil-A to understand what types of alerts and escalation paths were needed for the team, allowing them to change these parameters as they continued to grow. This ensured the right team members would be alerted at the right times, via their preferred methods; email, SMS, phone calls, Slack messages, etc. For example, if a freezer’s temperature went above best practice parameters set by the team, alerts would automatically be sent to specific individuals who could take immediate action to protect their inventory and ensure fresh chicken for their customers.
In the end, ConnectedFresh provided both excellent customer service and an impactful product, and proved to be the trusted partner Chick-fil-A Hollywood had been searching for.
“The pandemic created stressors at every stage of the process, from labor to supply chain. We were stretched thin in juggling the complexities of running a restaurant in the middle of a crisis.
ConnectedFresh helped us win back that time, automating food safety processes to allow us to focus first and foremost on our guests and then our team. While we are moving out of crisis, ConnectedFresh’s solutions will remain a critical component of our restaurants. We didn’t know what we didn’t know; just how much of a benefit they would be to our time and energy until we had them in place.”
– Caleb G, Chick-fil-A Hollywood
It’s incredible what information lies beneath the surface, waiting to be found. It is not uncommon for customers to immediately realize benefits and savings from ConnectedFresh, brought to light instantly through AWS services.
A brewery in Ohio with a large walk-in refrigerator was able to see through data that their door was accidentally being propped open with a container in the wrong location. They found this discrepancy within 24 hours of setting up their sensors.
Another Chick-fil-A location saved $700 worth of chicken product after being notified of a temperature fluctuation, realizing that they had inadvertently unplugged the refrigerator during cleaning. This was also caught within 24 hours of setting up their sensors.
It’s not uncommon for customers to realize benefits immediately, many of which provide immediate ROI that pays for itself for many months, if not years. That’s the goal with IoT and advanced analytics – finding issues before they become problems, allowing customers to become proactive rather than reactive.
What’s next for AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN
AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN and other enabling services will continue to evolve, deploying the latest standards and expanding reach to deliver features that are in beta stages today. Power optimization, enhanced mobility, and industrial grade improvements are all in the future, further enabling solutions to become even more robust and insightful so customers can focus on what they do best: hospitality.
Tushar Agrawal CTO of ConnectedFresh. A certified AWS solution architect, Tushar helps customers design innovative, scalable and enterprise ready solutions using the breadth and depth of AWS capabilities to deliver measurable business outcomes. Has in-depth experience designing IoT and IIoT systems across industries like travel & hospitality, energy management, smart manufacturing, smart cities, automation and IT/OT convergence. Worked with Hitachi Vantara, Deloitte and other large enterprises to help serve their customers in digital transformation.
Jake Simon CEO of ConnectedFresh, passionate about delivering impactful and affordable solutions for customers without the fuss of a large implementation. “Making things more efficient through the use of technology” has been the mantra and guide to starting ConnectedFresh. Prior to ConnectedFresh, Jake has held numerous senior consulting and product development roles, all focused around IoT offerings for customers. He graduated from the University of Southern California with focuses on business, entrepreneurship, and technology.
Mahesh Pakala Global Principal Architect at Amazon Web Services. He is the trusted advisor to premier AWS partners to provide architectural guidance and strategy for successful partner engagements. Provide technology enablement & business strategy to assist them deliver migration & modernization solutions on AWS platform. He has been speaker in conferences and published blog posts. Prior life was an entrepreneur and worked for Dell, Oracle Corporation, and Ingres.