In today's food industry, having the ability to continuously track temperature of cold storage units is essential. But what system can you rely on? To make sense of the many systems on the market, I am demoing each solution and posting a review.
In my last review, I reviewed La Crosse Technology's dry probe. The focus of this post is FreshTemp's FreshSense Version 1.5, which uses wifi to relay a continuous stream of temperature data to the Cloud.
Affordability: With FreshSense Version 1.5, FreshTemp offers one of the more affordable continuous temperature monitoring systems on the market. Cost includes an upfront payment for the devices, then a small monthly fee for use of the Cloud platform (FreshCloud).
User Experience: The FreshCloud dashboard and mobile app are visual, intuitive and easy to use. You can access it anywhere and from any device through www.freshtemp.com.
Ease of Installation & Maintenance: Sensor arrives pre-loaded with AAA batteries. An online manual provides easy step-by-step installation instructions. As easy as setting up an alarm clock. The downside is you will need to replace the batteries every 2 months or so.
Scaleability: Ideal for food service operations and small to medium-sized manufacturers, processors, co-packers, distributors and importers, provided facilities have a strong WIFI signal.*
*FreshSense 2.0, a new cellular version that does not rely on WIFI is now available
Reporting: FreshCloud's reporting feature is excellent for tracking and documenting temperature. More advanced features, however, are limited and are not very useful in current iteration. Nevertheless, if depending on FreshSense/FreshCloud solely for temperature monitoring, it does the job elegantly and reliably.
Sample Automated Reports
How it works:
FreshTemp's original FreshSense (Version 1.5) is simple and easy to use. Here is how it works:
- A battery operated sensor ("FreshSense") continuously tracks ambient temperature (Range -40 deg F to 160 deg F)
- Every 5 minutes, a reading from the sensor flows wirelessly via WIFI from the sensor to a nearby Gateway that is connected to the internet by an ethernet cable. The Gateway relays the temperature data to the Cloud ("FreshCloud").
- Once on FreshCloud, the data populates a dashboard. The dashboard displays the latest temperature reading from the sensor and a chart (below) that currently stores 3 months to a year's worth of continuous data (default is 3 months). On the dashboard, you can configure alarms and tasks and auto-generate reports.
- User-friendly interface and mobile app
- Short interval continuous monitoring (sensors read temperature every 30 seconds and send reading to cloud every 5 minutes)
- Easy to install and low maintenance
- Dependable alarms with multiple settings to alert individuals and/or teams of temperature violations (text, email, phone)
- Alerts you with text/email if WIFI signal is low or if sensor is not responding (e.g. due to low batteries)
- Stores continuous data for 3 months (default) and up to 1 year on FreshCloud.
- Automated, customizable reports
- Data can be downloaded in CSV/Excel format within selected data ranges
- Simple and straightforward, not overly complicated
- Friendly and responsive customer support
- NIST certified sensors not currently available
- Inconvenient for conducting accuracy checks of sensor (have to wait 5 for reading(s) with thermometer next to the sensor and check reading(s) online)
- Reporting formats are limited and does not allow for documenting verification in the reports
- Support available during day and has emergency number, but no enterprise-grade 24/7 call center or online support
- Relies on WIFI, which could potentially be shaky/unreliable (New release Version 2.0 is cellular and does not require WIFI)
- Corrective Actions feature needs improvement in order to move all corrective action documentation online; (work-around: print out CAs and sign/add additional information manually)
- Other advanced features on FreshCloud, though non-essential for many, need improvement
- As of the time of this publication, the alert for low battery power did not work. However, once the batteries died, I received a message alerting me that the sensor failed to send data. When this happened, I replaced the batteries and all was fine.
FreshTemp's FreshSense is an excellent choice for small- to medium-sized retailers, restaurants and food businesses that want to continuously track temperature for safety or quality purposes and do so on a budget. They have a responsible support team and seem genuinely interested in providing the best possible product and service. FreshSense is a proven device, being used by a number of large retailers and restaurants.
For companies that rely on NIST certified thermometers or a more robust, cloud-based system for streamlining and documenting corrective actions and trending data beyond temperature (useful for larger scale businesses, businesses with HACCP plans and businesses that are certified under a GFSI benchmark schem) you may want to look elsewhere for now. Of course, more advanced software systems can be significantly more expensive and may be cost-prohibitive for your company, so find the system that works best for you and your budget.
Beyond FreshTemp's FreshSense, I was really impressed with FreshTemp's Freshprobe, which sends temperature monitoring data via a probe (which can be inserted into food or liquids) directly to the Cloud and Phone app. If you're in the market for temperature monitoring devices, FreshTemp is worth a look.
Photos sourced from FreshTemp.com