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Internet of Things: Connecting the ‘cold economy’ to tackle the issues of the warming world

By Dermot O’Connell, vice president, OEM and IOT solutions, Dell EMC EMEA. The accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in our atmosphere has led to noticeable changes in natural systems. Ocean acidification and increasing ocean temperatures are damaging marine ecosystems. Rising sea levels are increasing risks to coastal communities and commercial facilities.

We all know that to limit the likelihood of disruptive and potentially catastrophic change to our climate and ecosystems, public and private institutions across the planet will need to develop and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies. As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases rise, however, it’s become widely accepted that mitigating adverse impacts will become more challenging, complex and costly. This bleak outlook needs to serve as a call to action for governments, businesses and the general public alike to do their part to enact change. But where to start?


Let’s look with the retail sector. Did you know that the retail sector, including supermarkets, is one of the largest users of F-gas (fluorinated greenhouse gas) refrigerants? That’s something that we can change and without a complex solution.


We’ve all heard the hype about the Internet of Things and how cool it is that your fridge can tell you when you’re out of milk. Now, what if the millions of refrigerated trains, lorries and storage centees used in the cold chain process by supermarkets to transport and store food could tell you when they needed to be on to keep food fresh? Surprise! They can.


IoT sensors can be used to monitor the refrigeration units needed to transport and store food around the world to keep it fresh. The sensors can track the temperature in units, lowering the level of energy or units needed in conjunction with how cold the food needs to be and how much food is currently stored. They can also track how long food has been out of refrigeration and how quickly it needs to be put back in before it spoils and creates unnecessary waste.


How does it work? Have a look at IMS Evolves’ cutting edge Cold Chain Logistics process as an example. The food retail industry admits that supply chain complexity has meant it is easier and safer to chill all food to the lowest temperature required (by meat) meaning an extensive annual over-chill. However, by integrating the data from the existing machine sensors with supply chain and merchandise systems as well as the fridge control systems, each machine can be automatically set at the temperature to suit the specific contents, removing instances of over-chilling. The 'always on' nature of this approach ensures that even throughout the course of normal business when products are moved around the store, the right temperature for the right product is sustained automatically. The result is that IMS is able to significantly reduce excess energy consumption, minimise food waste and improve customer experience.


In addition, with smart cold chains, a higher quality product can be achieved, resulting in a better customer experience. In manufacturing and processing environments, consistency of both ingredients quantities and environmental factors can be regulated and the available data from each stage of the process united to ensure the highest quality, most profitable end product every time. Take dairy products for example, many of us have come face to face with an unappetizing watery yogurt, but few are aware this a familiar bi-product of over-chilling squeezing the product, that can be eliminated by a smarter cold chain.


The possibilities for IoT are endless but it’s important that to think beyond the obvious smart cities applications and think about how you can change your business and your product for the better - for the customer and even for the world. Connecting the cold chain process is only one example of how businesses can make a positive impact on their customers’ experience and on the environment. It’s important to look at all options to reduce the effect that businesses can have on the physical world – alternative shipping methods can be deployed, sustainable packaging can be used, components can be recycled. It’s an area that Dell EMC is extremely passionate about and we remain committed to creating a Legacy of Good with a full suite of sustainability programs, such as with our recent ocean plastics packaging initiative, and inspiring other businesses to do the same. While we can’t fix global warming with just a few sensors, as more organizations realize the capabilities of IoT, it’s at least one small step for man in the pursuit of change.


Read more about Dell’s Global Climate Change Policy principals, its sustainability initiatives and its work as the world’s largest IoT infrastructure provider.