Printed Electronics Now Highlights the Increasing Demand For Temperature Sensors

On November 11, 2017, David Savastano, Printed Electronics Now Editor, published the article “Temperature Loggers are Finding New Opportunities”, featuring an excellent interview on the award-winning uTrust Sense Temperature Tracker with Identiv’s own Stephane Ardiley, Director of Product Management. Find the full story below:

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more of a reality, there is growing interest in the development of sensors for linking objects. In February 2017, Gartner, Inc. forecasted that “8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 311% from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017.”

That requires a lot of sensors to connect these devices.

The ability to monitor perishable items, temperature, humidity and other areas is of much interest to manufacturers, retailers and end users alike. Today, in the case of perishables, there are a number of ways to monitor goods such as foods, flowers and medicines, such as thermochromic inks and barcodes, but the next generation of sensors are on their way, utilizing smart labels, NFC and Bluetooth, RFID and the cloud to deliver results.

Increasing Demand For Temperature Sensors

There are a number of drivers that are pushing increasing demand for new products in the market, including new regulations, consumer desires for fresh products and the ability to prove the authenticity of the product.

For example, Onset has been producing temperature loggers for 37 years. Jess Frackelton, senior manager of product marketing at Onset, noted that the ability for users to get full profiles by tracking temperature over time and having access to the full range of data is leading to increasing interest in temperature logging solutions.

“This is driving increasing demand in a number of markets we are in as well as new ones we are getting involved in as they are starting to see ease of use and access capabilities of our new Bluetooth loggers,” Frackelton noted. “Part of the increase in demand is from markets that have long used data loggers but have unique challenges and needs.”

Identiv’s uTrust Sense Temperature Tracker received the Best New Product award during the 11th Annual RFID Journal Awards at RFID Journal LIVE! 2017. Stephane Ardiley, Identiv’s director of product management, said that there is definitely an increase in demand for NFC-based temperature logging.

“Since receiving the award, we have seen a significant increase in momentum, and several corporations are currently really looking at how our smart label technologies can help in their Internet of Things strategy and future deployments,” Ardiley continued. “In addition to our existing customers, there are now more people coming our way saying how this type of product with RFID makes sense.”

As part of Avery Dennison’s Intelligent Label Solutions, the company recently introduced TT Sensor Plus 2. Designed for pharmaceuticals, food and beverage and other industries where careful monitoring of a temperature-controlled supply chain ensures compliance and quality, TT Sensor Plus 2 is a small (⅓ of a credit card), wireless, single-use, self-adhesive RFID label that logs and stores temperature data in an NFC microchip and can be uploaded to the cloud via a smartphone or a computer.

Mary Greenwood, director, new technology and business development, Label and Graphic Materials, Avery Dennison, noted that increasing regulations are driving demand for temperature loggers.

“Regulation is on the rise, like the phasing-in of rules stemming from the US Food and Drug Administration’s prevention-focused Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as the rise in demand for fresh food, which pushes innovation to mitigate temperature excursions to ensure high quality at delivery,” Greenwood noted.

Smartrac introduced Smartrac’s Temperature Logger NFC, a battery-powered label that logs temperature data for supply chain applications. Temperature Logger NFC can be read by a smartphone app.

Ted Danhauser, VP sales Americas, Smartrac, noted that there is a demand for innovation in item level temperature logging.

“Trusted chains of custody for data integrity of the materials through the entire supply chain with associated temperature logging are going to drive solutions in this market space,” Danhauser added. “It is the ability to associate individual items that were in the same box, on the same pallet or in the same truck with a temperature logger and maintain the logged data, and chain of custody after the logger and the items are separated. Some of this will be driven by stricter regulatory requirements and rising quality expectations. It will also be driven by consumers who expect to have the ability to confirm where a product was produced and if the temperature of that product was maintained during transport.”

Key Markets for Sensors

Not surprisingly, perishable items are generating the most interest among stakeholders in the supply chain, as protecting food and medicines are ideal markets for monitoring.
“Avery Dennison is focused on pharmaceutical, materials and food and beverage industries, among others,” Greenwood said.

Frackelton pointed to the pharmaceutical field as an area where needs are evolving.

“The medical and pharmaceutical market is one of the newer markets we are growing into, both in transporting the medicines and tracking the storage temperature for drugs and vaccines,” Frackelton said. “In that space, temperature sensitive gene therapies and pharmaceuticals are coming out every day that require temperature controlled environments through the duration of their storage and transportation.”

In particular, Ardiley pointed to cold chain and pharmaceuticals as areas where Identiv is seeing more interest.

“Most companies use existing temperature loggers without RFID, but they starting to show interest in the benefits of RFID and, more specifically, NFC. Additionally, there are growing inquiries about security. How data can be trusted remains a main concern for many corporations. Our smart label solution already addresses those concerns,” said Ardiley. “Cold chain management with perishable goods, such as flowers, meat, and fish, are a strong, mature market, as is the pharmaceutical space, as the industry needs better temperature accuracy for blood and vaccines, for example, and has more stringent requirements.”

Monitoring More Than Temperature

While temperature is a fairly popular characteristic to monitor, there is growing interest in humidity and moisture sensors, as well as other characteristics.

“The new loggers offer items a cost-effective, smartphone readable logging solution that provides an uploadable data file and an easy-to-read graph using Smartrac’s cloud-based enablement platform,” Danhauser said. “As the product name Temperature Logger NFC suggests, we start with a focus on temperature monitoring, and continue to add other sensors to incorporate shock/vibration and moisture monitoring, for example.”

Greenwood reported growing interest in Avery Dennison adding other sensing features to its products.

“Temperature sensors are evolving, becoming smaller, more cost effective and delivering more detailed temperature data,” Greenwood said. “Other sensors of interest are humidity, shock, pressure, vibration, etc.”

“The common theme is that our customers are looking to profile the space and their environment,” Frackelton noted. “Temperature and relative humidity go hand-in-hand. Light can be very important in underwater applications. Temperature is far and away our largest reported measurement, but a lot of times there are other parameters that can be really useful for their study.”

“Most companies focus on a single area, but we serve all of these markets,” added Evan Lubofsky, director of marketing communications for Onset. “Our customers want the same convenience and affordability for all of their measurements.”

Frackelton said that the wireless technology has greatly changed the business of temperature logging.

“Bluetooth has become ubiquitous. Ten years ago, it was expected that there would be a lot of physical interaction with the device, through a whole lot of cables, wires and handheld readers to extract the data,” she continued. “There has been a dramatic evolution. Now you have RFID and Bluetooth, which allows a much simpler interface. Bluetooth Low Energy is now on every device that we carry, and the need for extra parts and physical interaction with the device has generally melted away. The pharmaceutical market brings a compelling reason to move to wireless integration with the logger so that you can get data without ever opening a box or refrigerator.

“Now you can do much more,” added Frackelton. “You can push the data to the web very quickly, so you can give other users the ability to analyze the results. This easy data sharing completely shifts the paradigm of what a data logger can be. Remote access to the data is also very simple.”

Ardiley noted that the uTrust Sense Temperature Tracker is Identiv’s second generation temperature logger, and is targeted toward pharmaceuticals.

“Two years ago, the first generation of our product was designed more for the cold chain, and the latest generation we introduced in April is more dedicated to the pharmaceutical space,” he added. “uTrust Sense Temperature Tracker is a label, so it is flexible. It can be applied to a curved surface, such as a bottle of medicine, and it uses a printed battery. It is very flexible.

“The tracker is the size of a credit card, can be made in any shape, and can use a different battery in the event that the customer needs it to be even smaller,” Ardiley continued. “We can customize it, which is a key differentiator for us.”

Printed Sensors

Of course, with the need for so many sensors, even for less-expensive products, costs come into play, and printing plays a role. For example, Identiv’s uTrust Sense features a thin printed battery attached to an RFID inlay as part of its smart label.

“Demand for temperature controlled logistics is increasing and there is always the challenge to make these products even more cost effective,” Greenwood said.

“A main challenge is to offer the right product for the right application,” Danhauser said. “That right product is the one that combines sound performance with the appropriate price point. It also means that we are facing an economic rather than a technological challenge. Yet, impending FDA regulation will stimulate the markets and drive the demand for loggers at affordable prices as production volumes increase.”

Frackelton sees opportunities for printing loggers for temperature, humidity and other performance tests.

“Our experience with printing has really changed our development cycles dramatically,” Frackelton added. “We do early prototype printing of pieces of the logger, and then share it with our beta customers to get their input. It allows us to be a lot more flexible with our end design. We are not printing our production parts yet, but we definitely see that on the horizon.”

Read the original piece here.