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A 'cool' data-logging temperature sensor

An economical and compact new temperature-tracking device is being used by Cool Dog for frozen novelties.

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Cool Dog Inc. founder and president Peter Franklin was having problems getting his product, individually wrapped hot-dog-and-bun shaped ice cream novelties, intact to potential customers. He knew the company needed to maintain the Cool Dog’s temperature between –20 degrees and 10 degrees F when shipping samples nationwide from the headquarters location in Shirley, MA.

Cartoned products are packed in polystyrene-insulated corrugated containers for sample shipments. Depending on the market, Cool Dogs are individually wrapped in metallized (for convenience stores), printed (retail and club store), or unprinted (foodservice) film.

Problem solver

While the downside of too-warm samples is obvious, Franklin’s bigger challenge was that the sponge cake and ice cream novelty could become too cold in shipment with dry ice. That caused the sponge cake “bun” to shatter enroute, which made a bad first impression with potential new customers.

Franklin’s solution was two-fold: a switch to cold packs, and the use of the HOBO Pendant Logger that Onset Computer introduced in spring 2005 for in-transit monitoring of temperature-sensitive goods such as foods and beverages, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

The battery-powered, reusable device boasts low-cost, accurate recording by providing 0.5 degrees C accuracy and up to 52ꯠ readings. The HOBO loggers are priced as low as $33 each in quantities of 100 or more and offer a quick visual alarm if a preset temperature has been reached.

The 2.3”x1.3”x0.9'' device, which fits easily into shipments, is used with HOBOware 2.0 for Windows, an intuitive graphical analysis software program. The data from the HOBO logger uploads quickly to a PC via USB port using a HOBO coupler.

Cool Dog success

A quick test with a pair of HOBO Model UA-001 devices quickly convinced Franklin of its value for his product, which sells at c-stores for $1.89 each.

In fact, the tests proved so encouraging that Franklin plans to purchase “hundreds more” of the devices, he says. Recipients receive a preaddressed stamped mailer to return the units to Franklin who can upload the data and reuse the device.

Franklin says that his testing and planned use of the HOBO system centers on “product quality. The [device] is cool, really fun to use, and the software is also surprisingly easy to use.

“It worked great and we want to move forward quickly,” continues Franklin. “The huge benefits to us are improved product quality and increased sales, since we can get better product to new customers—that’s an enormous advantage.”

He also liked the visual alarm feature that indicates preset high and low conditions. “That’s great for nontechnical people,” he states, “the light is either on or off.”

Future tests

Now that he sees the device’s potential, Franklin is excited about moving forward with a whole litany of tests. Franklin plans upcoming tests with the HOBO to reveal the proper packing under variable geography, shipment duration, and weather conditions.

Franklin also expects cost savings since he can use the data to pinpoint how many cold packs to ship without a risk of customers receiving melted or broken product. “We don’t really know how many cold packs to put into a case and how to configure them—yet,” Franklin says.

Franklin already has plans for his next research project using the HOBO device. “I plan to plot data for the insulating properties of our three film types in various packaging configurations,” he says. “Intuitively, we think metallized films should perform better, but with the HOBO logger I don’t have to guess, I can quantify it.”

It’s also cool that Onset Computer has a Web site, Iscienceproject.com, where science teachers are invited to borrow the device for free for school projects.

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