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  • 3 Industries for NIST Sensor Certification

    No two temperature sensors are alike. In the Temperature@lert "lab", we undertake a series of rigorous testing and research for our products, ensuring their accuracy and responsiveness. Still, an average 'sensor' is not properly certified for sensitive temperature applications. Legislative guidlines are often strict for these use cases, and ultimately require specific certifications. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the temperature monitor 'go-to' source for certification. But what exactly is a NIST certification, and why is obtaining one important?

    Example Certificate: NIST from Temperature@lert

    In short, NIST is the National Measurement Institute for the United States. They provide regulatory, certification, and conformity assessment information for 'standards-related' activities. By using Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) NIST testing confirms the accuracy of specific measurements. These standard materials represent the 'baseline' of standards, and the certification is then based on conformity to the baseline.

     

    For many industries, the NIST certification is seen as the 'holy grail' of accuracy and is important as an 'advanced monitoring technique'. Check out these industry-specific tips for NIST certification, and see if you need a certification!

     

    IT/Server Room Industry: (Low Concern)

    Currently, accuracy within 1-2 degrees is sufficient for NIST certified devices in server rooms. The devices should accurately measure rising temperatures in your server rooms, as overheating can lead to a typical 'IT disaster'.

     

    Food Distribution (includes Wine Cellers): (Higher Concern)

    Ensuring the accuracy of sensors is highly critical for food distributors. Spoiled food and bacteria can cause health problems for consumers and financial headaches for their companies. All sensors must be NIST calibrated to display the proper measurement of food temperatures. With the proper measurements, one can prevent spoilage or bacterial buildup. 

     

    Vaccine Storage(Highest Concern)

    NIST certifications are the most applicable for temperature monitoring devices used for vaccine storage. Calibration needs to be extremely precise, as sensors should be within 0.5C or better. In most cases, NIST certification is required by law and is not a flexible process.

     


    Get Certified with Temperature@lert today!

    Temperature@lert offers NIST certified temperature probes for our USB, WiFi and Cellular Edition product lines. 

    The certificate includes several temperature test points, and also specifies the serial number of the probe. Please call or email us for further information on how to obtain NIST traceable pre-certification of your Temperature Alert sensors.

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  • Buffer Vials for Temperature Monitoring: Propylene Glycol or Sand?

    Recently, Temperature@lert conducted a test of two separate buffer substances. Buffer vials are effective for ensuring the accuracy of a temperature sensor. This is important for sensitive vaccines and other substances that must be contained within certain temperatures, as per standard procedure or CDC direction. The test was conducted to determine which substance was affected more by external and internal microclimate factors.  

    For our clients that use buffer vials, temperature sensor accuracy is extremely important. Some of our clients use buffer vials for pharmaceutical and biological applications, such as using temperature sensors to indicate the relative temperature of vaccines and medicine. CDC has a chart that indicates specific temperature information for specific vaccines.

    Screenshot (11) resized 600

    With these specifics in mind, the Temperature@lert "Glycol vs Sand" comparison shows the relative effectiveness of the buffer substances alongside a naked sensor. The importance is accuracy, since appropriate storage temperatures are very precise (range of 6 degrees). A good buffer vial will not allow changes outside this 6 degrees range.

    Buffer Vial Media ComparisonIdeally, for temperature monitoring, this graph would look flat. The temperature would stay the same throughout the tests, with no peaks or valleys to represent change. But 'flatlining' is highly unlikely for any sensor, and might instead represent a flawed system/sensor. From the tests that we've conducted, there are some very simple observations to make. Primarily, it's obvious that the naked temperature sensor fluctuated significantly throughout the test, particularly during automated cycles (defrosting, etc). 

    More importantly, we see that the sand and Propylene Glycol are relatively similar in their fluctuation. During automation both buffers showed incremental changes in temperature. This is the ultimate goal; implement buffer substances as a shield to protect against minute and brief temperature changes. But which is more accurate? Which has more relevancy to practical application?

    The answer: While sand is an excellent and inexpensive buffer substance (2-3 degree fluctuation), the Propylene Glycol gives slightly more accurate readings. The closer look at the Refrigerator chart gives some insight. The Propylene is accurate within 1 degree, and appears to be less affected by the microclimate. The higher level of accuracy and lower rate of change is desirable for vaccine storage, as seen in the strict temperature guidelines. Still, neither substance shows unacceptable variation (over 6 degrees), and both are appropriate for sensitive application.

    Buffer Vial Media Comparison1

    As one might guess, we discourage the use of naked sensors in these environments, since our tests have shown their variation to be over 6 degrees on average. For biopharmaceutical applications, we consider changes of 6 degrees or less to be the "threshold" for sensor accuracy.

    One advantage of sand is that despite the slightly lower level of accuracy, it's less expensive and can be easily transported. As a liquid, Glycol can be difficult to ship and can spill on your other sensors and/or products. Of course we can ship unfilled buffer vials without sand for you to use with glycol.

    For Temperature@lert, our sand buffer vials hit a triumvirate of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and handling simplicity. For the sake of our customers, these concepts are a huge part of our philosophy: smart, simple, and affordable.


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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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  • 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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