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The Cargo Data Corporation is located in Ventura, CA. Established in 1974, Cargo Data focuses on providing industry-leading cold chain monitoring solutions for firms involved in the pharmaceutical, floral, perishable food, and chemical industries.
As market leaders, their industry-spanning technologies offer innovative cold chain monitoring products, alleviating issues found in CCM (Cold Chain Management) and streamlining the process from the beginning.
After a successful completion of a project for a California-based client, Cargo Data was referred to us, asking for our hand in developing practical but efficient devices and software for use in cold chain management.
Cold Chain Management Explained
Management of cold chains can be a complex operation. It involves the oversight of a temperature-controlled supply chain, typically used to help ensure and extend the shelf life of products requiring considerable transportation.
These products can include common grocery and frozen food items but often consist of more fragile items, ranging from chemicals to pharmaceuticals and even organs for transplants. Items such as these require strict attention and accuracy in all phases of the transport, so as not to break the supply chain and risk compromise of product.
Additionally, each delivery is required to follow FDA regulations and any state-specific laws that may come into play during delivery. There are also many parties in each stage of distribution — convergence of information is key to making sure everyone knows where the cargo is, what shape it is in, and ultimately if it will be accepted at its destination.
The Client’s Request
Cargo Data approached us with an ambitious request: to create a cold chain monitoring system in which we could gather all necessary data from the delivery trucks in real-time, compile it into a cloud database (before the cloud and current smartphone options were available), and transmit that data to the correct corresponding parties in real-time.
This would mean finding a way to relay data and information utilizing M2M technologies (via cellular networks and ISM radio bands) in the quickest manner possible under the conditions of CCM.
To fulfill the complete functionality of the system, we needed to develop mobile applications for Android and iOS devices to enable temperature monitoring and analysis via NFC-enabled recorders.
How We Did It
Cold Chain Monitoring System
First, we had to build a hardware device that was small enough to fit discreetly in the back of a cold truck, able withstand the tremors of cross-country transportation, and capable of transmitting data continuously regardless of location.
Remember, back in 2004 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were relatively new technologies. We spent months acquiring parts from around the world to build this device, experimenting with different designs to create something small and reliable.
At the same time, we were developing a cloud database to receive and organize all the information sent from the apparatus. It was a software that companies could log in to and check in real-time to determine the quality level of the cargo and arrival times.
It was crucial to be able to actively monitor the shipments, routes, and overall conditions of the cargo. In conjunction with this, we created a system to alert those involved if the temperature of the truck dropped below FDA regulations or if there would be any delays.
Additionally, we needed a reliable way to find and contact drivers to offer solutions in real-time, should the need arise. Again, this was before we had computers in our pockets. GPS was a new and relatively unreliable technology and most of our drivers did not own a cell phone.
To solve this issue, we established a secure communication channel using ISM technologies, through which Cargo Data could transmit messages and updates to drivers at any point of time during delivery.
Lightning NFC App Development
It all started in 2014 with our Lightning NFC digital temperature recorders enabling Cargo Data’s clients to efficiently monitor indexes at low costs. Supported by the mobile application that we first developed for Android, this alliance allows to:
- Download temperature data from Lightning NFC temperature recorders
- View the complete time-stamped temperature chart up to 80 days in duration
- Add shipping documentation including PO number, carrier, commodity, etc.
- Add notes for quality attributes including pulp (internal) temperature, grade scorecard, and general comments
- Add up to three photographs of the shipment contents
- Immediately send a link to the online temperature record by email
Later on, another version of the app was released, bringing additional options for QA specialists. Besides all the primary functionality, this version allows to generate and analyze quality assurance reports. Data uploaded to the cloud server could then be viewed, retrieved, or printed by authorized parties.
Once Apple announced support of NFC protocols and developers were finally able to code apps that could read NFC tags, Velvetech developed iOS mobile app. That happened in 2018 and made the app available in both stores.
The development of mobile apps has expanded the advantages of Lightning NFC technology in cold chain monitoring. Enabling more control over the process, this solution resulted in time and cost savings and improved management efficiency.
The largest challenge with this project was working with the available technology. In today’s world, Wi-Fi, smartphones, and cloud services are fairly common and easy to use technologies. At the time, they were all very new and relatively uncharted. It wasn’t enough to make current technologies work for us. We needed to innovate — nothing like this existed or had been discussed prior to our partnership with Cargo Data.
Another challenge was adhering to the strict regulations that came with the industry. The FDA has very clear rules regarding the temperature cold cargo must remain at for product to be valid.
Finally, we had to figure out how to collect, organize, and secure thousands of data points in real-time and identify who could access them. This was particularly demanding due to the less-than-technology-friendly environment — low temperatures and high humidity.
This undertaking provided Velvetech the grounds for both growth and innovation. From this case came a plethora of technologies, such as terminals fitted with our iMAT firmware, a synergistic product that utilizes wireless, RF, and GPS technology for continuous, reliable monitoring of temperature data.
Our Lightning NFC (Near Field Communications) technology allows a low-cost and efficient way for temperature monitoring as well. This modernized microcontroller offers a wireless sync with mobile devices as an in-transit solution to temperature monitoring and analysis, requiring only two steps for usage.
Within our GPS monitoring system, we are able to wireless track and analyze the status of our trucks, see the location, and view actual temperature graphics, which is compiled into useful data showcasing temperatures, fluctuations, and even onsets of humidity if any.
These technologies operate perpetually on a real-time basis, with cellular network support. We patented our newly created cold chain monitoring cloud system and in-truck apparatus, making Cargo Data the unparalleled leader in cold chain management.
We developed our concept into field-ready technology within approximately 120 days. At least 10-12k trucks are now outfitted with these devices per month on average.
Cargo Data quickly noted faster turnarounds on projects and significant cost savings. They also received overwhelmingly positive feedback from their clients regarding most of their products since having implemented Velvetech devices. Velvetech continues to keep Cargo Data updated on future technology and new ways to make their products better as they evolve.
Our company was introduced through a mutual friend to Velvetech over a decade ago, initially to help us with a website. It soon became apparent after meeting the management team in Chicago that this company had much more to offer.
Over the decade dealing with Velvetech, we have worked together to create a full line of products, including GPS, Internet, SIM card communication M2M technology and in every instance, we have found the management and developers at Velvetech to be exemplary. The most impressive aspect is the full understanding of our end goal and the initiative approach to fulfilling our objectives. The questions asked are spot on, the knowledge displayed for almost any application is remarkable. We have probably developed at least 15 new projects using Velvetech and they have been on time and on budget in every case.
I would recommend Velvetech to anyone looking for a NEW approach and innovative ideas for developing new products or expanding business exposure.
COO, Cargo Data Corporation
This project ushered a new era for Velvetech, cementing our role as industry leaders and bringing to light our ability to turn uncanny concepts into very real results. The phrase “nothing like this has ever been done before” doesn’t intimidate us — it invigorates us.
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