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  • Advice Corner: Temperature@lert Sensors and High-Voltage Wiring

    Temperature@lert recently encountered a situation with one of their best customers, a well-known and respected entertainment company. This particular company is the largest provider of family entertainment in the world with more than 3000 employees, and hosts a variety of productions for more than 30 million people annually. The specific circumstances and resulting solution can benefit other customers in similar predicaments.

     Temperature@lert Cellular Device

    The Setup:


    The customer has several Temperature@lert Cellular Edition devices deployed around the world for their operations, and each device hosts approximately 3-4 wired temperature sensors. These sensors range from 6’ to 150’ in length.  Many of the longer sensors were mounted alongside a conduit that housed electrical wiring for a motor. The sensors were attached to the side of the conduit housing with zipties.

    Temperature@lert Cellular Device + Sensor Cloud Service: How it works graphic


    The Problem:


    The customer uses the PRO Sensor Cloud Plan, which allows constant temperature readings for every five minutes. They noticed that the Temperature@lert sensors (alongside the conduit) were only recording readings 3-5 times per day. This error was not related to the Temperature@lert Cellular Edition.


    The Cause and Solution


    After trying several creative strategies to rectify the situation, Temperature@lert Technical Support was able to identify the cause of the reading disruption. The conduit housing contained several wires that transmitted high voltage electricity to the stated motor, some as high as 220 volts. Ultimately, the electromagnetic field (EMF) of these wires was causing interference and thereby preventing the temperature sensors from transmitting readings to the Cellular Edition. With this in mind, Temperature@lert advised the customer to situate the sensors away from the high voltage conduit. Once this was completed, the customer reported that the sensors were effectively transmitting readings every five minutes as originally intended, and thus indicating that the problem had been resolved.

    Free EBook on Temperature Monitoring

    Temperature@lert would like to open this discovery to all customers and potential prospects as a statement of best installation practices. Whenever possible, ensure that Temperature@lert sensors are not placed alongside (or near) high voltage electrical wiring as stated in the above example. For more information on installation best practices and troubleshooting your device, please contact Temperature@lert technical support for assistance.

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  • FSIS Appliance Monitoring: Ovens, Microwaves, and Freezers

    The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has maintained 'best practices' for measuring temperature in different refrigerated/heated environments. These tests will tell you if your equipment is in correct working order. For food safety and equipment accuracy, temperature sensors/probes have a range of applications for different storage/cooking methods.

     

    Oven Sensors:

    An average oven (for cooking meat and poultry) should be set for 325°F or higher. To maintain accuracy, a temperature sensor/thermometer should be used to ensure that the oven is functioning properly. Misleading oven temperatures can comprise both food quality and safety. The FSIS suggests that oven thermometers/sensors should be hung from a rack in the center of the oven. Be sure to test multiple temperatures (apart from 325°F) to ensure continued accuracy with increased/decreased heat. As per the FSIS advice, some ovens may "run hot" and any normal "variation" should be accounted for when measuring the overall temperature. 

     

    Microwave Probes:


    Albeit a bit tricky, microwave temperatures can be monitored using specialized probes or with built-in hardware. Consumer-grade microwaves often have this feature built-in, highlighted by this ehow.com article on Frigidaire Microwaves. Other consumer brands allow similar measurements. For commercial uses, however, there are more specialized probes for microwave ovens. These probes are typically immune to Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), Radio Frequencies (RF), and microwaves, and have an expanded temperature range (from 10°C to over 950°C). These probes, while often costly, give both accurate and precise readings of temperature for commercial microwaves. For these applications, ensure that yoursensor/thermometer can withstand the various types of interference to maintain accurate readings. 

     

    Freezer Sensors:

    Borrowing a few tips from our article "Where to place a Temperature Sensor: Vaccine Refrigeration", the same applies forFreezers. Each section of the Freezer has some temperature variation, and this must be taken into account when using a sensor/thermometer. The FSIS recommends placement between frozen food packages in the center of the freezer, with a 5-8 hour waiting period. After the waiting period, the temperature should read between 0-2°F. These "packaged" buffers are a useful variable, as they represent a common occurrence in freezer storage. The presence of the buffers and temperature readout will indicate if the Freezer is within a functional range (based on the controlled variable).

    If you missed it, See our article "Buffer Vials for Temperature Monitoring: Propylene Glycol vs Sand" for an accuracy comparison of buffer substances for temperature sensors and probes.

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  • It's Hot! It's Cold! Oh No... It's Your Fluctuating Server Room Temperature Again...

    We know that every room, especially a server room, has its own microclimate. Even sensors that are inches apart can read different values! Although similar applications might share the same temperature threshold range, every sensor placement location is unique. It sounds strange; that there would be such fluctuations in temperature within inches, but this happens because your server room has its own minature weather pattern!

    So how do you figure out the correct temperature range for monitoring your server room? Or where to place your sensor? As many conditions as there are for the actual ourdoor weather patterns, there are many variables for sensor placement and operational range because of the changing indoor microclimate.

    Essentially, in order to determine the right thresholds for your server room "environment", you need to acquire adequate baseline knowledge. This process is called "baselining", which involves monitoring your server room first to establish a history of normal conditions. Temperature is a significant threat to your equipment and in order to battle this, you need to discover and establish your server room's microclimate (i.e. baselining)!


    Baselining is basically achieved through studying the space of your server room while considering the components within it. Thic can be done to determine the proper ranges for both temperature and humiditySo what spots are the most critical for consideration when it comes to sensor placement?

    1. Hot Spots
    At the bare minimum, place at least one sensor in a central location in the room. Note: every room has its own mini weather pattern, and conditions from one part to another can vary based on what the room contains and where vents/returns are located. The simplest rule of thumb is that heat rises. So, the higher the sensor placement, the warmer the temperature

    2. Cooling Vent Locations
    Whether it is an air conditioner, economized cooler, or another chilling device, it will affect the sensor reading depending on proximity of the sensor to the vent. If you want to monitor whether your cooling unit may be going out at different times,place a sensor in the air duct and you can determine when the cooling unit is off. Placement of a sensor in close proximity to the cooling unit may cause the sensor to pick up cooling unit "cycles", sending you false alerts in the process.

    3. Exhausts
    Besides cooling vents, you need to also consider hot vents from server cabinets or compressors. Placing a sensor near or in between these areas is crucial as high temperatures can cause damage to hardware. The exhaust-based alerts will draw attention to the high temperatures within the servers, allowing you to prevent loss of hardware (and revenue!)

    4. Ancillary Humidification Systems
    These systems help control humidity. Too much humidity can cause condensation, which leads to electrical shorts. Not enough humidity causes one to have quite the mini-electrifying experience with static electricity at its peak. Place your humidity sensor in a location seperate from the ancillary humidification system in order to prevent the sensor from getting shorted and to avoid false humidity readings.

    By monitoring temperature and humidity, one can have early warning of any disasters looming in your server room. It is always better to prevent a disaster rather than mop up after it (speaking of, flood sensors are great too!). If you need assistance in determining the best practices and routines for your server room, please feel free to shoot me an email:diane@temperaturealert.com.

    Happy Monitoring!

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  • Can BioPharma Quality Assurance Specialists Do It All?

    When we imagine the biopharma industry as a whole, we tend to hover over the same key phrases: innovation, growth, discovery, etc. But in fact, with a few exceptions, the biopharma industry growth has gone sluggish in many states, and has grown in very few. 

    Citing recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and a well-designed report from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council(MassBio), of the 15 “leading” biopharma manufacturing states, only 5 states have increased employment. As a whole,industry employment has declined by 7.9% since 2002Though these numbers are concerning, Massachusetts seems to be one extraordinary exception to the rule. By state, Massachusetts is twice as dense (as other states) in terms of biotechnology research, development, and employment. Ironically, Massachusetts was the source of the recent Meningitis outbreak. 

    But this hasn't been the only mistake/outbreak of 2012. We can do a news search for past events, but more importantly, where is the proof that lessons have been learned? How can we tell if the mistakes of 2012 will happen again? At a high level, looking at data from the last 3 years, we're headed in the right direction in terms of hiring. 

    Diving deeper, is there evidence that biopharma and biotech companies are proactive?  Is quality control and best practices in vaccine storage a pressing concern of theirs, and what have they done to address it? 

     

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    The answer, in short statistical form, is yes. The institution of best practices and safety guidelines is a hot button issue for the biotechnology and biopharma industry. In fact, “Quality Assurance” and “Quality Control” job listings have been on asteady rise since 2008. Job listings from MassBio.org show over an 80% increase for these specialized positions since then. Other positions have increased by up to 30%, but in contrast to quality assurance and control; we can see clear-cut dedication. The employment spike shows a true and proactive HR response to the rising concerns of vaccine storage and handling

    Still members of the biopharma industry must follow all best practice guidelines outlined by the CDC, and the push to hire “quality assurance specialists” is not a complete solution to the problem. Science fiction movies often illustrate the extreme horrors of vaccine mishandling and disease outbreaks that are caused by human error and/or relaxed security procedures. Despite the extremity of situational presentation in these films there really is an unspoken truth behind them. We cannot solely rely on capable employees. The rise in hiring for quality assurance and control positions is a promising sign, but there must be adequate technology to supplement the increase in manpower. Temperature monitoring is a good example, since employees must ensure that specific vaccines are stored at preset temperatures. However, truth is, no matter how many employees a company has, small changes in temperature must be monitored by certified and accurate technologies.  

    What we can learn from these various statistics is that proactive deterrence (a theme we’ve been tossing around quite a bit in other industries), is a multi-faceted animal. While individual states may show evidence of “employment growth” and perhaps an uptick in manpower related to quality assurance; vaccines and medicine require more than just a brain and body.

    Temperature monitors are ‘by-the-book’ devices that need to be used alongside competent employees. And in truth, all biotech and biopharma companies should have fault tolerant monitoring technology and quality assurance hardware. Institution of simple technologies such as buffer vials (for temperature sensors), will help decrease confusion and increase measurement accuracy for sensitive applications. The buffers provide a 'shield' around the sensor, preventing momentary temperature changes from an opened refrigerator door that can skew data or trigger false temperature alerts.

    New employees will appreciate the availability of helpful (and simple) technology, which is important to establish safe handling practices that have become standardized and remain consistent within the various industries. Hopefully, the investment has gone both ways, and this recent rise in specialized positions is piggy-backed by a push for 'battle-hardened' temperature monitoring systems. In preparation for 2013, we want to direct you towards a list of guidelines that must be followed as per the CDC for vaccine storage and handling. As the CDC shows, responsible quality assurance employees and reliable monitoring technology truly go hand-in-vial.

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  • Tip: Considerations for Effectively Monitoring Refrigerators, Freezers, and Coolers

    Whether you're monitoring ice cream or vaccines, storage temperature plays a significant role. After all nothing could be worse than walking into a large puddle of melted/spoiled product or even worse damaged research materials. Although it is easy to hope that refrigerators, freezers, and coolers actually stay at a  consistent cold temperature, many do not plan for equipment malfunctions nor power outages.

    No one or company is exempt from such a harsh reality, for example Harvard's McLean Freezer's recent incident. Their freezer, containing brains for research on Autism and other neurological conditions, had malfunctioned causing 150 brains to decay and decompose. A loss of this magnitude is not only financially damaging but has potentially set back research on neurological conditions for a decade. This type of research material damage, illustrates that you truly cannot put a price on proper storage.

    The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that 17%-37% of vaccinations are improperly stored. Not only members in the medical and pharmaceutical industry are effected but members of the food and beverage industry suffer from malfunctioning cooling equipment. As our Facebook Fan, Chris Stepanian noted, "I can't see why every restaurant and food distributor doesn't have [a Temperature@lert device]".

    For refrigeration needs, we suggest either our WIFI or CELL device. The CELL has a backup battery that can transmit even during a power loss. Our WIFI is also an excellent option if you currently have an implemented
    UPS backup power as well. Either device combined with our temperature sensor can help you monitor more efficiently and alert you to any problems. Specialized sensors and accessories are available as well, such as: stainless steel tipped temperature probes for submerging in liquid, expanded range probes for cryogenic temperatures, and buffer vials so you do not set off false alerts for when the cooler door is opened.

    By preparing for potential disaster, you can feel secure knowing that Temperature@lert is there for you when you need it and there when you can't be there. Does that sound like an exaggeration or an overstated guarantee? We can assure you that it is not. Temperature@lert is working whether you are working or not. Our devices work whether you are awake or asleep because we strive to be the most innovative monitoring system for our users.

    Unfortunately, our team has heard story after story about loss through improper storage and Harvard's incident is not just another rare mishap. It is always better to avert disaster in the first place than to prepare better for the next one. If you would like to learn more about proper storage, please check out our complimentary e-book.


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  • How many temperature sensors do I need?

    What is the temperature in the room you’re in right now?  Take a guess, you’ll be correct within a few degrees.  Now, what is the temperature of the room?  Don’t bother answering that, it’s a trick question because in fact there is no “temperature of the room”, the temperature of the room is a 3D matrix that likely varies by up to 3°C (5.4°F) from one point to another.

    In spaces as different as commercial refrigerators and data centers, temperature differences can be even greater.  Computer modeling demonstrates how, in a data center, server racks can be cool at the bottom and hot near the top.  Commercial refrigerators can have very cold areas near the chilled air outlets.  Whether or not the temperature variations are meaningful depends on what they impact.  Consider the last time you turned your refrigerator down a little and noticed the next morning the milk container in the direct blast from the cooled air outlet was partially frozen.

    Temperature@lert’s White Paper Library has an entry titled “Why isn’t the sensor reading the same as my thermostat?”   (Link to White Paper) The paper shows a room cycling through a twenty-four hour cycle in a second floor, sunny bedroom temperature differences at the floor and 6-feet from the floor can be as much as 5°F, and are never equal.  MIT’s Building Technology Group is explores design, technology and implementation of environmentally responsive urban housing in China.  Figure 1 shows temperature variations from room to room in a sustainably designed apartment.  This one plane model shows a 1°C (1.8°F) temperature difference in rooms with heat sources.



    Figure 1: Modeling temperature variations in an environmentally responsive urban home shows average of 24°C and high of 25°C.   Source: MIT Chinahousing Research  (Link to MIT China House)

    To make informed decisions about how many sensors to deploy, consider whether or not the heating and cooling sources are in direct line with sensitive materials.  Enough sensors will be needed to insure the warmest and coolest locations are within established parameters.  Too many sensors can lead to “sensor data fatigue”, having too much data.  If you’re unsure, experimenting with a few in different locations is a good start.  A balance of protecting valuable materials, cost, and variability within the space being monitored will insure that when problems occur, they are noticed.

    For questions or additional information, contact Temperature@lert at info@temperaturealert.com.

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  • Which sensor is best for my application?

    Like people, sensors come in all shapes, types and sizes, and like people, each type has its place in the sensor universe.  But, "Which sensor is right for my needs?" is a question we often hear.


    We've done some simple experiments using several types of sensors to explain the differences in application and performance for the various types of sensors in our latest White Paper titled, "Sensor response and reporting frequency considerations for critical applications."

    Based on tests everyone can relate to, the experiments are used to highlight the differences in sensor performance and how it would apply to specific applications.

    Read the entire document in our White Paper Library at: Click Here for Link to Temperature@lert White Paper Library

    And for any questions, as always feel free to send us a note at info@temperaturealert.com.

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  • 3 Reasons Why We Use Wired Probes

    As you may have noticed, our temperature and temperature/humidity probes are connected to our base stations via wired connections.  People sometimes ask us why we don’t have wireless sensors.  Although wireless sensors are less cumbersome since you don’t have to fish cable around to put the probe where you’d like, the following shows some of the advantages of wired probes:

     

    Virtually no signal loss.

    Our cables have been tested and have shown no signal loss up to 300 ft., and the theoretical limit is 600 ft.  A wireless sensor, while it may be rated to transmit as far, may have signal issues just like any wireless device.

     

    No battery changes.

    Wireless sensors need power to work, meaning that eventually, you’ll have to change the battery.  This is fine if you’re on site and the sensor is in a convenient location, but if you’re not on site and the sensor is not in an easily accessible spot, it will take time and money to replace the battery.

     

    Shorter monitoring intervals.

    Another issue with wireless sensors is that the more frequent the transmissions, the shorter the battery life.  This means that if you want nearly constant temperature monitoring as opposed to checking the temperature every hour or so, your battery life will be drastically affected.  With wired probes, you don’t have to worry about that because everything is powered from the base unit.  This allows for monitoring intervals as often as every 5 seconds for our USB device, 1 minute for our WiFi device, and 2 minutes for our cellular device.

     

     

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  • New White Paper: Why do I keep getting alerts when nothing is wrong?

    You've received your new temperature monitoring system and are ready to go.  But where do you start when it comes to setting the alert levels you need to keep your critical materials and property safe?

    These and more questions are answered in the latest Temperature@lert Newsletter.  Using common experience with a household refrigerator the issues concerning where to place sensors and where to set temperature levels are examined.  This is followed by examination of more critical environments such as server rooms, data centers, and commercial walk-in refrigerators and freezers.

    Follow this link to read the entire White Paper: Click here for full White Paper


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  • New White Paper: Why isn’t the sensor reading the same as my thermostat?

    Inquiring customers want to know: Why is the temperature monitoring system sensor showing a different number than the thermostat?  Is is broken, mis-calibrated, inaccurate?  Maybe, but not likely.  Using the example of a room in a home, the paper considers the significant factors that can result in different values.  Specific considerations for critical applications such as server, computer and telecommunication rooms, data centers, walk-in refrigerators and freezers are also discussed.

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