Why Our Temperature Data Loggers Do Not Have USB Connector?

Cyber security is a growing concern of businesses and individuals alike. The dangers of software and systems being targeted that are vital for the running of an organisation with the potential for personal data and intellectual property to be stolen mean that the concern is certainly warranted.

Many cyber security companies are now advising that companies ban the use of USB devices as these often represent the easiest way to access devices connected to a network. The small USB memory sticks that replaced my stack of CD’s actually have a big problem, viruses and other malware could be loaded onto them without me knowing.

In 2018 IBM banned it’s staff from using portable plug-in devices to reduce the risk from cyber attacks. The debate continues as to whether this is completely enforceable and what impact it has to productivity and work habits however it is a simple way to close a very open security door.

We made the decision not to have a USB connector on the Smashtag temperature logger for security, environmental robustness and ease-of-use reasons. In the pharmaceutical industry in particular, security of intellectual property is vital for keeping a competitive edge and for our other customers, security must be a priority, as our lives and businesses run on computer systems.

Can I ship a temperature logger which uses lithium batteries by air?

The short answer is ‘yes, but not too many’.

Lithium batteries have been a revolution for many battery driven devices as they provide a much higher energy density then previous technologies and thanks to their large volume production they are also available a low cost. The major problem that they have compared to other chemistries is their volatility. Lithium is abundant in the universe but is very reactive. A favourite science experiment of mine is to simply drop lithium metal into a bucket of water and watch it go!

Speaking to a chemistry professor as part of our original business developments in technology his opinion was that it is the membranes in the batteries that cause the problems as they themselves can be volatile, rather than the lithium itself being the root cause of explosive reactions, but regardless, they are classed for transportation purposes as “Dangerous Goods”. The reasons for this classification are obvious, over the past 10 years there have been several major accidents caused by Lithium batteries. In 2010 a UPS 747 crashed in Dubai due to an onboard fire said to have been caused by lithium batteries and other cargo plane crashes have also been linked to fires started by them. These incidents have led to tighter regulations on how these batteries are allowed to be transported.

For the purposes of temperature loggers, the IATA regulations mean that you only need to declare the lithium batteries in your shipment, if one of your packages contains more than 5 temperature loggers. This also assumes that there is no damage to any of the loggers or the batteries included in them, that the battery is fitted inside the logger and is not attached to the logger as spares or as an additional power source, that all the batteries inside the data loggers meet the requirements set out in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria 38.3 and that the batteries contain less than 1g of lithium.

For safety and environmental reasons Smashtag Chill does not use lithium batteries and instead we have chosen to use two ordinary Alkaline cells to provide the necessary power. Regulations are constantly changing and some carriers have stricter rules on which types of lithium batteries they will transport for you. This article is meant to provide useful but basic background information and should not be considered as offering legal or safety advice for transporting lithium batteries. Any would be shipper of products containing lithium batteries should review the official documentation provided by the chosen carrier and if in doubt seek expert advice.

Smashtag Website Launch

Smashtag Chill is being developed to meet a broad and growing market for temperature monitoring of shipments – ensuring that goods arrive in the best possible condition, and in so doing nurturing the relationship between all those involved in the ‘cold’ chain through easy access to reliable data.

Smashtag Chill evolved from comments made by an existing laboratory equipment customer about problems that they were having, and whether IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) could be the basis for making both temperature logging more straightforward and the data more accessible.

Since that first idea, we have conducted extensive market research across companies and sectors ranging from pharmaceutical multinationals to artisan foodstuffs suppliers, and including veterinary, life sciences, fresh and frozen produce, importers, exporters as well as packaging companies.

In more than 200 conversations and face-to-face discussions it soon became clear that, while there were solutions in the market, none was really meeting users’ requirements for being easy-to-use, providing useful data and at the same time being cost-effective.

Some of those we spoke to had spent years trying to find an appropriate solution, others had ‘given up’ and just did what they felt was best in terms of thermally-insulated packaging while others just accepted a level of returns without knowing where the problems lay or who was to blame.

Some companies felt ‘under the cosh’ in terms of looming legislation over temperature-sensitive goods or just did not know how to gather the data necessary to establish best practice. Some just passed the problem on to their customers – or at least those customers willing to pay for monitoring!

In parallel and based on the experience the founders of Smashtag have built up of a wide range of IIOT applications, a technical development was initiated taking in rapid-prototyping, concurrent engineering and structured software development as well a range of advanced design tools.

We plan to have initial sample quantities of Smashtag Chill available in Q4 2018, and hope that you’ll be as excited about this new type of temperature monitoring tag as we are!