Monitoring the cold chain: new technologies and recent advances

Abstract The economy is currently driven by great competitiveness, demanding that the production and logistics sectors be agile, flexible and capable of action to solve difficulties. Logistics is of utmost importance to the operations of perishable food chains such as meats, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetable products, as well as for certain products in the pharmaceutical industry, such as vaccines, biomedicines and blood products that require the use of the cold chain due to their perishability. Temperature is the most important factor in the maintenance of quality and the shelf life of these products, cooling being one of the most widely used methods to slow the development of several factors that lead to product deterioration. Amongst the challenges for improving uncertainties related to the cold chain, is the mitigation of risks concerning its rupture. It is known there are inevitable variations in the storage conditions of the products during the stages of the cold chain, which cause changes in the shelf life of perishable foods. Both inside containers and in cold chambers there are temperature fluctuations around the ideal condition, and to this day, in most systems, monitoring of the temperature is measured by very few sensors. Although limited temperature monitoring technology is used to inhibit the risk of quality loss and improve food security, they are also used independently in the different logistics links of the cold chain. These challenges have driven efforts from some research groups in developed countries to improve the application of wireless sensor networks (WSN) and radio frequency identification (RFID), based on sensor devices. This paper addresses important aspects of the application of these new technologies that are able to detect the condition of these perishable products in real time during logistics operations, making it possible to avoid the loss of perishable products, improve their quality and reduce costs.