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Roving Reporter: Protecting Perishables with IoT Sensors

Roving Reporter: Protecting Perishables with IoT Sensors

This post was first published in Intel Embedded Community by Mark Scantlebury.

I like dark chocolate, but it’s not something you want to leave in a hot car. The resultant melting and later resolidification can affect both the appearance and taste of the bar. The same can be said for ice cream. If it melts and refreezes, ice crystals spoil the creaminess and provide telltale proof of improper storage.

When this kind of spoilage happens, at most I’m out the cost of a chocolate bar or a carton of ice cream. For grocery retailers storing large inventories of frozen, refrigerated, and temperature-sensitive foods like chocolate and ice cream, such exposure to high temperatures can mean serious inventory losses and/or reductions in shelf life.

To solve this problem, einfochips recently created an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled temperature management proof-of-concept (PoC).Their solution uses a wireless gateway based on the Intel Quark SoC X1000 series to automate control, data collection, and notification when temperatures fall outside thresholds (Figure 1).


Figure 1. The IoT temperature monitoring system designed by einfochips uses an Intel Quark SoC-based gateway to monitor and record temperature data, as well as sent alerts when thresholds are exceeded.

An Internet of Things Solution

As a leading development services company and a General member of the Intel Internet of Things Solutions Alliance (Intel IoT Solutions Alliance), einfochips has worked closely with a leading U.S. grocery chain on IoT solutions including video surveillance, access control, and portable barcode scanners. The chain was already using ZigBee*, so for the PoC, einfochips used this low-power mesh network to monitor, record, and act on temperature data. They equipped the gateway with WiFi internet connectivity as well to enable cloud communication.

Key functions of the IoT temperature gateway include:

  • Monitor and record current data from the temperature sensors.
  • Activate in-store alarms to alert employees when temperatures go beyond defined thresholds.
  • If multiple events occur, use the Internet connection to alert remote personnel. These alerts can go to web-enabled devices including PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
  • Provide a web interface for control of the gateway and temperature sensors through a PC or smartphone.
  • Enable authorized users to remotely view live and past temperature data stored in a particular gateway or the data extracted from all gateways and collected in the cloud.

Advantages of the Intel Quark SoC X1000 series

The Intel Quark SoC X1000 series proved to be an excellent match for the temperature-monitoring application. Based on Intel’s smallest core to date, these new SoCs deliver Intel processor technology in a ground-breaking package perfect for gateway devices. With a typical power consumption of 1.5 watts and a tiny 15 mm x 15 mm package, the SoC family is superbly suited to small footprint, headless designs in thermally constrained environments.

The SoC integrates rich I/O for sensor and network connectivity  Ethernet*, PCI Express* (PCIe*), USB 2.0, SD/SDIO/eMMC, SPI (used by Zigbee modules), UART, and I2C. Extended temperature (-40 °C – +85 °C) options enable use in a wide range of environments, including freezers and warehouses in hot climates.

The compatibility between Intel processors enables applications to scale from the Intel Quark SoC X1000 series to platforms based on Intel® Atom™ and Intel® Core™ processors without recompiling code. This compatibility reduces time-to-market for companies like einfochips using the Intel Quark SoC X1000 series in new products while looking to maintain interoperability with legacy solutions.

Faster Time-to-Market with the Intel Galileo Board Development Platform

To streamline development, einfochips jump started their design by working with an Intel Galileo Board (Figure 2). This simple and cost-effective development environment includes an Intel Quark SoC x1000 processor on a 100 mm x 70 mm open source hardware design. The board delivers the simplicity of the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE), along with Arduino shield compatibility for easy hardware add-ons.



Figure 2. The Intel® Galileo board provides a simple and cost-effective development environment.


With its rich feature set and user-friendly tools, the board provides a simple and cost-effective development environment. In addition to Arduino hardware and software compatibility, the Intel Galileo board has several PC industry-standard I/O ports and features to expand native usage and capabilities beyond the Arduino shield ecosystem. A full-sized mini-PCI Express* slot, 100 Mb Ethernet port, microSD slot, RS-232 serial port, USB host port, USB client port, and 8 MB NOR Flash* come standard on the board.

A Cut and Closed Case for Perishable Foods

The einfochip temperature gateway PoC shows how grocers and warehouse operators can monitor storage temperatures and take corrective action as required. The solution improves staff operational efficiency, eliminating the need for periodic checks on the refrigeration system. Staff and management will also be able to preempt spoilage by addressing any temperature spikes before spoilage occurs, hence improving profitability and the customer experience. In other words, a store has much less of a chance of facing disgruntled customers unhappy about ice crystals in their ice cream. On the heels of this success, einfochips is working on other innovative IoT products for retail deployment. In a future blog, I hope to be able to report on these.

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