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  • Wireless Temperature Monitoring System Topology Considerations

    Smart decisions during the evaluation process can help simplify the sensor network layout.


    In this ongoing series centered around NYC Hospital Queens’ experience in selecting and installing a Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) system to track medications and blood in hospital refrigerators (Link to Article) several factors as to the placement of WTM devices to support 174 refrigerators, freezers, and other critical areas in a hospital that is comprised of four main buildings, some built in the 1950s needed to be taken into account.


    As was noted in a previous piece, the WTM system chosen at NYC Hospital Queens uses  wireless receivers located above the ceiling as communication bridges between the sensor modules and the hospital’s IT network.  The author notes, “signal strength dictates the number of receivers needed. Our institution comprises four main buildings, some of which were built in the late 1950s. Thus, the signal strength of the sensors in the oldest building was less than optimal and required the addition of multiple receivers to provide consistent readings. Basement areas also may require multiple receivers”.

    Temperature@lert WIFI Monitoring Device

    WiFi WTM device installed in server room provides a strong signal, good range and fast data rate without the expense of additional equipment (e.g. repeater/gateway).


    Evaluating a WTM device’s signal strength or range in all of the locations to be monitored is paramount before selecting any one technology. Depending on the wireless technology chosen, each wireless sensor type may require more or fewer receivers to make the connection, resulting in more or less complex and higher or lower cost deployments.  NYC Hospital Queens could possibly have chosen a device that does not need a receiver (a.k.a. gateway) but had sufficient signal strength to communicate to the site’s IT network directly.  A standard WiFi device could potentially provide such capability without the added expense of a receiver/gateway device.

    Mesh network showing sensor nodes (red/green) and receivers/gateways (red).  In this case some sensors also act as gateways and can help link remote sensors without the added cost of a dedicated gateway. (Link to Source)



    Some wireless technologies are able to overcome interference from the building infrastructure, equipment or furnishings that others may not. Other wireless technologies have mesh network capability, meaning the wireless sensors or receiver/gateways can communicate with each other. Therefore when one device is not operating properly or experiences signal degradation caused by interference, the device can communicate with an alternative neighboring device to maintain the network integrity. And still other WTM designs employ receiver/gateways that can contain their own temperature sensor(s) in addition to serving as a gateway, providing an additional pathway to lower the complexity and cost of the system. Evaluating wireless devices from several vendors, each using different wireless technologies, WiFi, ZigBee, RFID, Bluetooth, proprietary, etc. can help the user understand how each works in the various locations to be monitored.


    But what does one do when these technologies don’t work or are not feasible for a hospital’s IT network? For example, some IT departments are averse to adding new devices to their internal networks due to security or capacity capacity concerns because continuous temperature monitoring of 174 sensors in the case of New York Hospital Queens for example can generate a lot of data quickly. To meet the hospital’s need, historical data needs to be maintained, secured and stored for an extended period of time for regulatory purposes. Adding alerting capability to the WTM system, for example sending e-mail, text or phone call messages when something goes wrong, means an additional level of IT capacity is needed to send and log these alerts. Adding an escalation plan for times when issues do not get resolved in a timely manner adds an additional level of complexity. Close collaboration with the hospital’s IT resources will be needed to determine what is possible and what is not.


    Temperature@lert How It Works


    If IT capacity or network policies make it very difficult if not impossible to add a WTM system, what options exist? One good option is a cellular gateway that communicates directly to the wireless sensor network and uploads data to cloud based sensors via major carrier cellular networks. Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition is one such device. Each Cellular Edition is equipped with a cellular transmitter/receiver that communicates through national cellular carrier networks to Temperature@lert’s Sensor Cloud web based storage, reporting and alerting services. Each Cellular Edition can link to several Z-Point wireless sensor nodes resulting in up to 45 sensors being monitored via one Cellular Edition gateway depending on signal strength and equipment layout.


    Understanding how any new wireless network will operate at a site requires study and testing. Once the locations to be monitored are mapped and solutions that the organization’s IT department supports are determined, those tasked with the WTM decision are ready to make their recommendation. This all takes time and energy, so add that to the planning process and everyone will have a better understanding of who, what, when, where and why the final selection is made. Because once this happens and the installation starts, it will be good to have the history to remind all how they got here.


    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Batteries, AC Or PoE: So Many (Power) Choices, So Little Time

    Choosing the right WTM electrical power source for each organization often requires testing.


    The previous piece in this series takes a look at Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) device configuration options as a prelude to helping understand and select the optimal power source option for each site. Because Temperature Monitoring systems can be both wired and wireless, it is important to understand both options exist.

    NYC Hospital Queens installed a WTM system to monitor medications and blood in hospital refrigerators, an effort that is featured on the website Pharmacy Purchasing & Products. (Link to PPP Article) To be fair the WTM system deployed was not 100% wireless. According to the author, the system uses wireless temperature sensors that communicate through a gateway to the hospital’s network. The wireless receivers used require 110 VAC electrical connections (household plugs). The 120 VAC powered receivers which can also be described as gateways would normally be plugged in, collect data wirelessly from the sensors and send the accumulated readings wirelessly to the hospital’s IT network.

    In the case of NYC Hospital Queens most receivers were installed above the ceiling tiles where there were no electrical outlets. In such cases the site would normally need to install electrical outlets which can add considerable expense to the project; this was the case for NYC Hospital Queens. In this case however, the receivers or gateways chosen had a second power option, PoE or Power Over Ethernet. In the PoE configuration the gateways are connected directly to the hospital’s IT network via LAN (Ethernet) cables. Not all devices can take advantage of this mode of operation and not all LAN installations are designed to provide PoE, but in this case the PoE option was the easiest and least costly to implement.



    Examples of network cameras showing non-PoE and two PoE configurations. (Link to Source)

    Among the electrical power options for WTM devices, AC power and PoE are generally considered the most reliable and available unless the site has a history of blackouts or brownouts. And sites like hospitals often have emergency generators that keep critical systems operating during power outages, so even utility outages may not pose a problem. Additionally, AC powered WTM devices can be connected to inexpensive Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPSs) that allow the device to continue to operate when AC power is interrupted. In the UPS powered case, however, if the site’s IT network is down the WTM device may not be able to transmit its data. The UPS powered device is likely able to continue to monitor temperatures so that when communication is reestablished there will be a full data set for hospital policy and regulatory purposes.

    The alternative to AC or PoE is battery power, which needs to be assessed carefully to meet the site’s expectations and specifications. Cell phone technology has made many if not most readers of this piece aware how significant an issue battery life can be as related to wireless devices. Battery powered sensors will need recharging or battery replacement. The frequency of recharging or replacement will be determined by two factors: (1) wireless transmitter power (largely related to range or overcoming interference from walls, furnshings, equipment, etc.); (2) temperature sampling/data transmission rate (largely related to site policies or regulatory requirements). Needless to say, no organization would willingly take on a device that requires frequent battery changes, say each month or each calendar quarter) to maintain quality records.


    Battery life vs. data transmission demonstrates that higher sensor data sampling and transmission rates will result in lower battery life. (Link to Source)

    When selecting battery operated sensors for WTM systems a thorough understanding of the temperature sampling requirements is needed to determine sampling rate and transmission frequency to meet regulatory or hospital policy needs. In general five (5) minute sampling is sufficient to help insure temperature sensitive medications and materials are not exposed to temperature that can degrade product safety or efficacy. When refrigerator doors are left open for a few minutes medication vials, for example, do not become overly warm. Only after ten to fifteen minutes or longer in the case of larger quantities of material will the materials in the vials begin to be exposed to harmful temperatures. With five (5) minute sampling an alert will be sent at the next five minute interval, letting hospital staff know temperature excursions have been seen and the refrigerator unit needs to be checked.

    Whether or not AC, PoE, battery or a combination of these electrical power sources meets site’s needs, specifications and expectations will take time and effort to determine. An evaluation of any WTM device to determine if it provides sufficient transmission range, sampling and reporting rate, temperature alert level(s), and response times to meet specifications and expectations is strongly recommended before committing to any particular supplier.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Electrical Power Options For Wireless Temperature Monitoring Devices

    Understanding WTM device configuration options is a beginning.


    Unless one uses a thermometer to monitor temperature, electrical power is needed to power today’s temperature monitoring devices. And there are several choices for electrical power options as will be described below. One factor in determining what electrical power source is best for any particular site is the Wireless Temperature Monitoring system configuration, and there are several to consider each with its own costs and benefits.

    This seventh piece in our series series is prompted by an article on the Pharmacy Purchasing & Products website describing the use of Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) systems to monitor medication temperatures in hospital refrigerators. (Link to PPP Article) The Pharmacy Purchasing and Products posting titled NYC Hospital Examines WTM (Wireless Temperature Monitoring) options notes there are several factors to consider in understanding which device will work best to help protect the safety and efficacy of temperature sensitive medicines and products such as vaccines and blood.

    Although the supplier of the WTM system selected by NYC Hospital Queens was not identified, the author did provide some insight into the system design and configuration. “Initially, we opted to use wireless sensors with powered (120 volts) receivers. However, it quickly became clear that maintaining access to a power supply would be a challenge because most receivers are located above the ceiling where access to a 120 volt power supply is limited and requires the additional services and expense of an electrician. Our engineering department estimated that there would be a significant cost associated with transferring data from the sensor to the receiver. Thus, the powered receivers were swapped for receivers that worked with our Ethernet network, which resulted in significant cost savings.”

    In NYC Hospital Queens the issue of power became a significant consideration to help determine the types of devices installed. But what are the choices. Taking a step back, temperature monitoring systems can be designed in several ways. Here are some common wired and wireless examples.

         1. USB device (Wired) - plugs directly into computer or server USB port, powered by USB port

         2. LAN (Ethernet, Category 5, Cat 5, Cat 5e) device (Wired) - requires Ethernet cable to connect to the site’s IT network, powered by AC or PoE (Power over Ethernet)

         3. WiFi Standalone device - wirelessly connected to the site’s existing WiFi network, AC or Battery powered

         4. LAN Gateway** device (AC or PoE) with wired or wireless* satellite sensors (AC or Battery)

         5. WiFi Gateway** device (AC or Battery) with wired or wireless* satellite sensors (AC or Battery)

         6. Proprietary Wireless Gateway** device (AC or Battery) with wired or wireless* satellite sensors (AC or Battery)

         7. GSM, CDMA, or LTE Cellular Standalone device (AC or Battery) with wired sensors

         8. GSM, CDMA, or LTE Cellular Gateway** device (AC or Battery) with wired or wireless satellite sensors (AC or Battery)

    *Wireless satellite sensors can employ WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, RFID, Proprietary or other wireless communication technologies. The two previous pieces in this series discuss these options as they relate to monitoring hospital medical refrigerators.

    **Gateway describes the wireless sensor interface to the site IT network.

    Graphic showing possible components of WTM devices.

    Graphic showing possible components of WTM devices.

    Selection of the type of sensor, interface and data collection device will have a significant impact on the type of electrical power required to operate the system without continuous maintenance. Other configurations may exist but these configurations are representative of those found in today’s market.

    For example, below are four Temperature@lert temperature monitoring devices for consideration. From left to right, the Z-Point wireless sensor operates on AA Li-Ion batteries for up to five (5) years with five (5) minute monitoring intervals; the Cellular Edition normally operates on AC power (110/220 VAC) and has backup battery power for times when electrical power is interrupted’ The USB device is powered through the USB port of a computer or server, and the WiFi device requires 110/120 VAC electrical power or Power-Over-Ethernet through the device's LAN connector to operate.

    Temperature@lert Z-Point Wireless sensor, Cellular Edition Gateway, USB Edition, and WiFi Edition temperature monitoring devices.


    Left-to-Right: Temperature@lert Z-Point Wireless sensor, Cellular Edition Gateway, USB Edition and WiFi Edition temperature monitoring devices.


    Facility operations, conditions and requirements will help determine whether or if AC or battery power meets the site’s specifications and needs. In the case of NYC Hospital Queens, AC power was not available for the sensor gateways but Ethernet (LAN) connections were available. Ethernet (LAN) connectors can be configured to deliver power to devices connected to them; the technology is called Power Over Ethernet (PoE), and this was a more cost-effective choice for the hospital's installation. What is the impact of the choice on operation of the WTM system. The next piece in this series will examine the pluses and minuses of different electrical power options and provide some insight into best practices.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

    Full story

  • Wireless Technology Choices For Temperature Monitoring Sensors - Part 2

    WTM device claims about Transmission Range need closer scrutiny.

    Part 1 of this title examined data rate factors in selecting Wireless Temperature Monitor devices from the graphic below. Essentially, data rate is not ever a factor since the monitoring interval for medical refrigeration WTM devices is in the order of minutes and produces very small amounts of data. The only time data rate could be a factor is if the refrigerator is monitored every second or less and a number of additional parameters was being transmitted, however even this would not be a factor in many cases since, again, the amount of data is small. There may be a case where rate is a factor if, for example, high definition video transmission was added to the data. Since such systems when in use are generally part of the facility’s security systems, data rate should not be concern when evaluating WTM devices for hospital refrigeration monitoring.


    Comparison of range vs. peak data rate for wireless communication technologies used in Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) devices. (Link to Source)

    Range, unlike data rate is a factor that needs to be understood when making a WTM system selection. This is for several reasons. First, wireless technology included a wireless transmitter and the transmitted data needs to be able to reach the corresponding wireless receiver, either the facility’s wireless network or a dedicated device provided by the supplier. In some cases where several wireless temperature sensors are communicating with a single receiver, even more care is needed to insure robust communication.

    Another factor inherent in range but not generally acknowledged is interference from the facility itself. Factors such as walls, medical or infrastructure equipment, furniture and file cabinets and in cases where the WTM device is entirely inside the refrigerator, the refrigerator itself. Claims about range are almost always based on optimal conditions: line of sight in air. Qualifiers that the WTM device’s range may vary depending on interference from objects in the immediate vicinity are offered. (Full disclosure: Temperature@lert offers both a Line of Sight and Indoor/Urban specification for its wireless devices.) These are reasonable qualifiers.

    The table below provides another view of the presentation in the graphic above. In the Range row wireless options are generally noted as a range, 10 to 100 meters in the case of WiFi, for example. Those who use WiFi networks and portable devices in their homes or work can attest to the variability of signal strength as they move away from the WiFi router (transmitter/receiver) or move into an area that is heavily furnished or shielded by a number of walls between the portable device and the WiFi router.


    Comparison of Wireless Networking Technologies used in WTM Systems. (Link to Source)

    Because range is such an important but difficult to absolutely specify parameter when choosing a wireless temperature monitor experimentation with a test device from the WTM supplier is recommended. A single device is usually sufficient since it can be moved around the facility to determine the suitability in different locations and under different conditions. Recording the results for a few minutes at each location is all that is needed since the signal is either there or not there, and the data stream is either coherent or not. Again, experience with home WiFi networks are instructive.

    The next piece in this series will examine a WTM device parameter closely tied to data rate and range, power source type and the effects on performance.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.


    Free Temperature@lert eBook



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

    Full story

  • Why Sweat The Details?


    Complying with mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) can be stressful no matter which vaccine process your biotech, pharmaceutical or medical company undertakes, but that preoccupation can also be reduced. As previously noted, GMPs are regulated by the FDA and fluctuate between broad and narrow, required and recommended. With the Code of Federal Regulations acting as a compliance manual, firms are expected to validate that their processes and products are safe, effective and protected.

    Two regulations of particular relevance to vaccines are 21 CFR Part 10.11 and Part 11. First conceived from the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of the late 1980s, Part 10.11 provides requirements for vaccine labeling and breaks down the process review as follows:


         - Proposed labeling must be submitted for pre-approval

         - Package inserts must be included with submission

         - Inserts must have sufficient instructions, warnings and precautionary information

         - Post-approval surveillance based on medical literature and mortality reports determines whether labeling must be updated


    Added in 1997 and refreshed in 2003, 21 CFR Part 11 specifically deals with the collection and storage of electronic records and signatures:

    The regulations in this part set forth the criteria under which the agency considers electronic records, electronic signatures and handwritten signatures executed to electronic records to be trustworthy, reliable and generally equivalent to paper records and handwritten signatures executed on paper.

    The FDA monitors these electronic entries by requiring that, among other things, the following major components be accessible and accountable:

         - Validation of temperature parameters

         - Auditable data and action logs

         - Record protection


    Failure to provide adequate and consistent electronic documentation may lead to a compliance violation, but such regulatory hassles are avoidable. Technological advances in wireless temperature monitoring have made CFR compliance less intensive than ever. Through device and system automation, you can set temperature boundaries and receive e-mail, SMS, and phone alerts if they are breached. Additionally, all actions and records are time stamped, logged and stored within a secure cloud service. Your company’s ability to adhere to GMP guidelines will be one less concern in your day, which is what truly matters.

    Like any regulatory standard, the demands of GMPs are numerous, and an infraction costly, but with a proprietary wireless monitoring device and complementary system, you don’t have to sweat the details.

    We’ll continue with pharmaceutical products and their respective CFRs next week.


    Free Guide for Vaccine Monitoring


    Full disclosure: This writer is employed by one such supplier of wireless temperature monitoring systems, Temperature@lert, that help its users to meet complaince.

    Temperature@lert’s ZPoint Cellular Edition ensures that important electronic records (temperature and time logs, alerts, and alert responses) are documented and retained for one year within our Sensor Cloud service. Should the environment you’re monitoring lose power, the ZPoint Cellular Edition’s internal backup battery will keep the device and sensors operational for several days, allowing alerts and measurements to continue without interference. For more information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and Sensor Cloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Temperature@lert Cellular Edition


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  • Evolving And Expanding Capabilities: Pressure Sensing


    From time to time, Temperature@lert will field customer requests that involve solutions and/or products that are outside of our product line. All of these requests are individually reviewed by Temperature@lert’s specialty solutions team and each team member is aided by their devotion for solving challenges and formulating creative solutions for customized and complex projects. Many projects involve extensive technical consultation and support and each project may even lead to a new innovation. The primary objective is to meet the needs of the customer, but the ability to evolve and adapt is the main ingredient of Temperature@lert’s secret sauce. To quote the old adage, there truly is “always a way” with Temperature@lert.

    One of the more recent solution success stories comes from a proactive and enthusiastic pharmaceutical customer. This customer is well-tapped into FDA regulations and requirements, specifically surrounding the recommended pressure differential in clean rooms (as well as ante rooms and biological safety cabinets or BSC’s).

    Temperature@lert: Clean Room Pressure Monitoring

    In the most basic sense, the goal of pressure differential is to prevent unfiltered air from reaching the BSC. BSC’s are typically housed within clean rooms, which are attached to what an ante room. Beyond the ante room are the hallways/corridors of the pharmaceutical facility.

    Bacteria and airborne contaminants are often present in hallways and thus the use of pressure differential drives airflow outward (towards the hallway), as opposed to inward (towards the clean room and BSC.) The air created within the clean room (and the BSC) is filtered and rendered safe for precious medicine preparation and must be remain filtered to ensure safe handling and compounding. By preventing contaminated air from reaching the BSC, the strategy of adjusting pressure differential is an ideal strategy for ensuring safe handling and compounding.

    This customer had reiterated that the use of pressure differential sensors are a relatively new FDA requirement and that this requirement will soon be adopted by all clean rooms, specifically within pharmaceutical compounding facilities. Although pressure sensors (and pressure differential indicators) had not been part of the Temperature@lert product offering, Temperature@lert worked directly with the customer over a 2-week period to conceptualize a solution. After a bit of outside-the-box thinking, Temperature@lert designed and developed a customized adapter board to be outfitted with an off-the-shelf differential pressure indicator. This particular solution stood at odds with other pressure differential systems, of which can cost upwards of $4,000 per room.

    Free Temperature@lert E-Book

    The customer was highly appreciative of Temperature@lert’s efforts to go beyond the standard product offerings and into a realm of early-adoption implementation. With the customer’s desire to stay ahead of the curve, Temperature@lert recognized to the need to be at the forefront of new FDA requirements for other users. Please contact us at info@temperaturealert.com if you have any questions. 

    Temperature@lert continues to encourage early adoption of new (and safer) regulations and requirements and with each new calendar year comes a new challenge.

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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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  • RFID Adds Unnecessary Costs To SMB Server Room Temperature Monitoring

    Small and MidSized Business may want to assess added cost of RFID for Environmental Monitoring

    IT professionals in Small and MidSized Businesses (SMB) often turn to data center journals, periodicals and professionally-based social media sites for ideas on how to best manage their server rooms, telecom rooms and IT areas. These spaces are typically unused storage closets, windowless offices or partitioned off from larger rooms and they typically range from 100 to 250 square feet (approximately 10 to 25 square meters) of floor space. The HVAC control in these spaces is nonexistent in the case of storage closets (or is very minimal) since they are generally tied to the office or business’ overall heating and air conditioning units.  Therefore, these areas can be subject to overheating in summer months and particularly when cooling to the room is interrupted (when an AC unit fails or trips a circuit breaker for example). Things get hot fast, and IT personnel often have a short period of time to react before hardware shuts down or fails.

    The buzzword that is making headlines in the data center press these days is DCIM, Data Center Infrastructure Management. Because the DCIM market is commanding a lot of media and analyst hype, IT professionals in SMBs wonder if they're missing something. And they may be. So what is DCIM, and why should it be important to SMB IT personnel?

    DCIM is indeed a tool to manage data center infrastructure. The goal is to link inventory, asset management, asset capacity and utilization, space utilization, asset security, workflow and change management, power usage and network connectivity, cable management, environmental monitoring and more lately, the integration of analytics. Whew! Large data centers with deep budgets can afford to entertain the purchase of these systems, as they typically require significant scaling, planning, installation, training, staffing, monitoring and maintenance personnel. Many data centers already have other systems that fulfill many (if not all) of these functions. In the same breath of Building Management Systems (BMS), security systems, environmental (temperature, humidity, etc.) monitoring, DCIM’s promise is to consolidate information into one screen, dashboard or report that helps oversee and manage the data center better.

     

    Google Data Center (Source)

                                              

     

     SMB Server and Telecom Room

    SMB server rooms, telecom rooms and IT spaces are an entirely different matter. The control for the server room’s heating and cooling may be a wall thermostat (if you're lucky) and often nothing at all. Assets often range from a handful of computer, storage, switches and routers, plus other assorted electronics to a couple of handfuls of racks, in many cases not fully populated. These spaces need protection for overheating due to air conditioning failures. 

    The simplest, lowest cost approach is a hard wired temperature sensor that plugs into an interface board or USB port for example. The challenge here is that many of the simplest devices rely on the user to add interface graphics, reporting, and manual alarm programming. Since small IT rooms are (in many cases) managed by the person in the organization with the best computer skills, the time and possibly the skills to do this may be at a premium. SMBs can rely on outside IT contractors for more involved work and programming a sensor would add a considerable cost. A USB device that integrates the sensor, reporting software and alerting capability would solve this issue nicely. These devices are often very low cost, around $100 or so, and are ready to plug in and run.

    If there is concern about adding an external USB device to a server because the device is not functioning when the server shuts down for example, low cost WiFi devices are available. They are often able to support several sensors that simply plug into the appropriate slots. The temperature sensor’s interface is through the SMBs WiFi network and the device often comes with a full set of software to send alert SMS text or e-mail messages when user set temperature levels rise too high. Some suppliers provide an additional level of fault tolerant operation by collecting the data on a Cloud server and sending alert messages from there. With the Cloud service alert messages can be sent when the device does not report in for a fixed number of intervals letting IT professionals know there is a potential problem such as a power outage or that the network is down. Advanced Cloud services can include phone call alerts, especially useful during overnight hours when text messages and e-mails may be missed. Management reports can be downloaded for review or action when needed.

    WiFi temperature monitor in server room sends email and SMS text alerts when things get hot

    Several DCIM systems employ RFID temperature sensors among their suite of products. The RFID devices can be well suited for asset management. The devices are often active meaning they transmit the data to to a DCIM USB, Ethernet or WiFi gateway. The RFID wireless transmitter requires either AC power or batteries for operation. The gateway is often POE or AC powered and contains an RFID receiver or transceiver and in the case of WiFi network interfaces the appropriate WiFi transmitter. All of this adds cost, complexity, and in the case of battery operated devices, additional maintenance. Therefore the cost of the RFID solution is inherently higher, leading to higher prices for a task that can be accomplished with simpler, lower cost devices.

    SMBs can often manage their inventory with spreadsheets and their asset utilization is not so nearly a concern as it is for data centers. Power usage and cable management are not significant concerns in most cases. DCIM systems are often not appropriate for SMB applications. Using Active RFID DCIM systems for temperature monitoring adds unneeded cost to the task of letting SMB IT personnel know their server rooms are getting hot. Simple, low cost USB and WiFi devices suit this need very well.

    When considering environmental monitoring technology for SMB server rooms, IT professionals will want to compare the performance, cost, maintenance and ease of use of the myriad of devices on the market.  Buying “right sized” technology can help not only meet the current need and budget, but insure the installation is up and running quickly, providing the protection the business needs and a shorter ROI. For information about USB, WiFi, Cellular and Wireless sensors, one can visit Temperature@lert’s website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/Temperature-Alarm.aspx.

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  • Autodialers: Innovative And Inexpensive?




    "The way of the pioneer is always rough"

    -Harvey S. Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber

    The medical industry (specific to pharmacies and blood banks) has typically stayed at the forefront of technological innovations, particularly as they apply to automation, data capture and quality control. That said, these technologies may be revolutionary and quite remarkable at the time of purchase, but as time pushes against the pioneers of such technology, newer vendors with cost-effective solutions can rise above the once-unprecedented brilliance.

    Autodialer technology is one interesting example to explore against the above hypothesis, and sure enough, autodialers were once a game-breaking innovation that simplified notifications and alerting for environmental changes. It's tough to put a hard estimate on their history, but as an example, RACO (a veteran vendor) touts their autodialers as being "respected and trusted since 1985". 

    One of RACO's featured products is the "Guard-It", a distant cousin of a lockbox with field programmable settings. From their blog...

    • Upon alarm detection, the system calls a list of up to eight phone numbers. Respondents are given the station’s identity and specific alarm condition by a prerecorded voice message.
    • In addition to standard office phones, the alarm sequence can also call pagers, cell phones or voice mail. Respondents can press a button on the phone’s keypad to acknowledge the alarm and listen to background sounds at the site through a built-in microphone.
    • Users can call from any remote phone for status updates. Additionally, the system’s operating status is displayed on the front panel, while surge protection and noise suppression are standard.


    guard it

    The Old Cat's Pajamas


    With their descriptions, it's pretty clear that the product has very basic functionality, a very simple purchase, and in the context of 2013, is a very simplistic system. We'll disregard the notion that temperature sensors must be purchased separately (basic 4-20ma input), and let's focus on the "bang for the buck". We're talking about basic monitoring, phone call alerts (for power and temperature), and no visible online portal for historical data access or reporting functionality. The system can likely be connected to a BMS or larger automation system, but out of the box, is quite simplistic when compared with some of the newer innovations in the sensor/monitoring technology sector. That said, where does the pricing fall for this type of unit, and how does the cost compare with other devices that have enhanced capabilities (reporting, online dashboard, etc)? The answer is a bit shocking, and truthfully Guard-It seems to be out of its own league.

    Guard-It MSRP (does not include sensors): $895

    Yikes! We're talking about a basic autodialer here and nearly $900 for the unit without sensors? This might've been a bargain many years ago, but there are a number of products readily available that can provide similar features at a more reasonable price point. These products are typically outfitted with:

    1. Provide the same basic functionality of phone alerts, along with text messages and e-mail alert types

    2. A usable temperature/humidity sensor, for a 'turnkey' type approach.

    3. A web-based online reporting dashboard, with reporting, compliance features, corrective action notation, and simple user access. Thresholds and settings can be adjusted anywhere with internet connection, as opposed to "on-site programming and configuration".


    Typical cost of such alternative systems: $300-$400* (may include a monthly monitoring fee at approximately $10-$20/month)

    While the price/features comparison outlines a clear winner, RACO is only one point of reference, so we'll avoid labeling the entire autodialer market as "overpriced and outdated". But for this example, a self-professed pioneer appears to be drastically overpricing their technology, which in and of itself, can hardly be called innovative in 2013. They might've been a premier pioneer in the autodialer industry, but it's safe to say that the path will only get more rough with the newer, less expensive, and more robust products that are readily available today.

    For more information on Temperature@lert products and Sensor Cloud, please contact us at 866-524-3540


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  • 3 Questions To Ask Your Monitoring Provider

    Making an enterprise-level purchase can be an arduous and painful task. You might find yourself demoing a product for a few months, waiting weeks for approval, and even with testing, a temporary failure or problem can nix the entire cycle. Don't be fooled though, this sorrow-filled quest to make larger sales can be successful. These preliminary negotiations typically touch on the psychological pulls of a client's needs, concerns, and fears.

     

    Price is almost always the first need to address, as any given solution must also be cost effective for the client. The main initial concern is capability, or whether the product can fully perform the duties to which it will be assigned. And finally, the biggest fear (and a large reason for the extended cycle) is service and consistency, or put another way: will the product maintain the stated abilities for months at a time, and if not, will the vendor respond with a timely and no-hassle solution to the problem?

     

    While 'price', 'capability', and 'service' are the initial touch points of a larger sale, monitoring devices and providers have more bases to cover. Keep these questions in mind before choosing your next monitoring provider, and don't let the initial touch points distract you from these other important considerations for purchasing.

     

    1. How does your warranty work?

    This is somewhat along the lines of the service 'fear' that we discussed above. Check out our blog post on warranties for temperature sensors to read more about this issue (specific to a known vendor). Sensors and hardware may not fall under the same warranty agreement, and warranties on sensors can often be painfully short (90 days in some cases). Before committing to a purchase, be sure to ask your monitoring provider about the odds, ends and details about your warranty. When possible, purchase extended warranties to insure the products (especially in a larger deployment).

     

    2. Is Telephone Support included?

    Be careful. A vendor is likely to provide hands-on support and service in the testing phases of a sale, but the ongoing lifecycle of the product is a more pertinent support concern. How will the product be supported over time (even with a warranty)? How are small-scale technical issues addressed, and how seamless is the return process? Don't forget, low-quality service and support can make the most well-insured product into an RMA hassle, so make an honest assessment of their support capabilities. One of the most common mistakes is to utilize a vendor with little (or no) phone support, leaving you stuck with discussion forums and (un)helpful support articles. These will be general, they will not be specific, and it truly takes the touch of a phone specialist to troubleshoot software, firmware, and other technical hiccups. Remember the red phone in each Apple Store that had a direct line to an Apple super-specialist from headquarters? That type of support is priceless. Make sure to press your monitoring provider on support agreements, and ensure that capable support personnel can be reached by phone at all times.

     

    3. How often do you update your hardware/software, and will our deployment be obsolete in the near future?


    We know that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes, monitoring vendors may not be interested in that practice. Don't always assume that the online product is the finished masterpiece, and remember that revs and product evolution happen fairly frequently. You wouldn't want to purchase dozens (or hundreds) of first generation monitoring hardware if they were soon to be replaced by the second generation. The same applies for software; how will you be made aware of changes and updates? Do these updates affect your deployment, or are they meaningless add-ons that look to sap more cash out of your budget? Are there important compliance features that you're required to follow? Is the device legally certified to meet the requirement?

     

    All of these questions are often passed by the wayside in the onset of the sale. We're often distracted by budget projections, out-of-the-box capabilities, and the preliminary installation processes. Don't forget these underlying questions when you chat with your potential provider, and make sure to cover all of your monitoring bases without failure!


    Temperature@lert EBook


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