Skip to main content

KoolZone- refrigeration control technology to minimise food waste, avoid food poisoning and minimise energy consumption

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - KoolZone (KoolZone- refrigeration control technology to minimise food waste, avoid food poisoning and minimise energy consumption)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2018-09-30

Refrigeration operators (food businesses) must by law keep records of refrigeration equipment temperature. To date, this has been a largely manual process, with supervisors taking readings from analogue thermometers in fridges and recording on paper. This reactive process takes valuable time and causes a number of societal impacts:
• It does not alert managers if temperature gets too high; they only discover this afterwards, meaning they have to needlessly dispose of food that may be unsafe
• Managers may overcool, needlessly
Our objectives are:
O1- Demonstrate enhanced KoolZone software and gateway technology that can handle over 1,000,000 readings per hour.
O2- Adapt the KoolZone technology to use LoRa protocols.
O3- Close loop on refrigeration control by determining how to retrofit automatic thermostat switching and/or power monitoring.
O4- Develop a monitoring automation strategy that supports the inclusion of newly built internet-connected refrigerators as well as legacy devices (to cover c. 90% of market) through the use of API’s to the manufacturers’ new devices.
O5- Enhance the manufacturability of the sensors and engage a supply chain to deliver 10,000 units at a per sensor price point of €25 each for short-range devices c. €60 for long-range devices (>1km line-of-sight & 50-100 metres within & between).
O6- Demonstrate 99% compliance to HACCP, temperature advisory information that can be used to achieve a 5+% reduction in energy consumption and equivalent operating cost (or lower) to manual processes.
O7- Demonstrate differentiation between performances of different refrigerator models via an algorithm to predict optimum models, based on desired temp, temperature difference needed from ambient, likely usage model (door opening, weight of contents etc.).
We put together a requirements specification and reviewed subcontractors, making changes to our initial choices based on further investigation and better understanding of what our platform must do. Our software development subcontractors have delivered working versions of UI, middleware and database (back-end). We have tested these in house. Working with subcontractors, we have refined designs for components to allow communication via the LoRa WAN protocol. They have built and we have tested prototype components. We have investigated strategies to enable better thermostatic control via Internet of Things. We have concluded that we should focus instead on enabling monitoring through algorithms taking advantage of the larger amounts of temperature (and optionally power consumption) data that LoRaWAN communication will allow. We have evaluated several BOMs from suppliers and will commence a first production run shortly. We are also preparing for trials with customers.
KoolZone aim to deliver valuable benefits for our customers, including:
• Convenience- by taking mandatory temperature readings automatically
• Cost reduction- by reducing labour cost or time diverted from other activities to record temperatures manually
• HACCP compliance - with minimal user involvement
• Eliminated/reduced food waste - from failures (especially when unattended and out-of-hours)
• Improving human health - by highlighting storage conditions that could lead to food poisoning
• Reduced energy consumption - by informing users when they are needlessly overcooling
We are beyond state of the art in several areas:
• At market solutions: either hardware only without our user-friendly interface and effortless HACCP compliance or too expensive, complex and customised to particular customers for mass adoption
• Emerging research: projects we have identified track food itself rather than refrigeration, which will give no information about refrigeration performance and hence little opportunity to optimise refrigeration or concern novel technologies, e.g. magnetocaloric cooling. This is far from mass market uptake, but highly amenable to integration with results from this project
Our pragmatic choice of LoRaWAN network over much-hyped and (for this application) over-specified 5G is generating significant interest from research community stakeholders and presents many opportunities for close-to-market innovation. This could include multi-tenant gateways. Using only one gateway for several customers will be critical in enabling our ultimate vision of Refrigeration-as-a-Service. Providers will offer cubic m3 of refrigeration at a specific temperature, and a specific service level agreement. No-one does this in the market today. Where clusters of food businesses exist, this removes the barrier of capital cost to adopting state-of-the-art refrigeration.