Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

How Wireless Remote Temperature Monitoring Works

Problem: For a lab manager, these scenarios are all too familiar:
  • A medical research lab has a -20°C freezer where the door is frequently left ajar and there is no door alarm. 
  • In an academic biology lab, a -20°C freezer is accessed on average 20 times an hour and also has a -80°C freezer that warms to -55°C routinely due to new lab students and sustained door openings, thinking “hmmm, what did I come here for again?”
  • As a lab manager, you receive a phone call at 3 a.m. saying a freezer has alarmed which forces you to go into the lab in the middle of the night.

by Minus80 Monitoring
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Minus80’s Mobile App showing real-time temperatures and door status. (Available for both iPhone and Android operating systems).Minus80

Any of these scenarios may resonate if you work in the lab environment. Most Building Automation Systems (BAS) do not send details of an alarm event; usually they only place a phone call stating something is in alarm. These situations are frustrating to labs requiring a higher level of monitoring, alerting, and control of their research samples.

Solution: Building Automation Systems often serve as the central platform for HVAC, fire alarm, and emergency notification systems. In some cases, emergency notifications include freezer alarms. Most in the lab have learned BAS provides limited information. Labs with freezers, refrigerators, incubators, and LN2 storage need to have defined monitoring solutions that are customizable, stand-alone systems to protect samples. They need to be cloud-based wireless systems with built-in redundancy, offer an intuitive web portal and mobile app to see real-time data from anywhere, and most importantly, increase awareness in advance of a failure to allow lab staff to take proactive measures and prevent loss.

Duke Medical’s Fanny Ripple Transplantation Lab in Durham, North Carolina studies issues relating to chronic rejection of pulmonary allografts including GERD, as well as gut immunity and biome depletion. The lab has utilized Duke Medical’s BAS since 1992 for monitoring and transitioned to Minus80 Monitoring in November 2013 for their -80°C, -20°C, and -140°C freezers. While fortunate to have any monitoring at all previously, it was limited. The research analyst for the lab, Zoie Holzknecht states, “If a freezer went into alarm (temperature only) I would get a call stating that an alarm had gone off in a particular “zone.” There was no information on which freezer or what the current temperature was.”

The new cloud-based wireless system allows Zoie to have higher level monitoring. This gives the ability to customize both internal and ambient temperature parameters, recovery times, door settings, and create unique ‘Action Lists’ utilizing text, email, and voice for one or multiple people. All data is archived for later use and PDF reports are readily available. Automated reporting makes it easy to stay in compliance with facility regulations. Minus80’s Mobile App also allows Zoie and lab staff to see real-time temps and door status. Zoie states: “Door events are important. Sometimes the temperature alarm will go off when there is no real maintenance issue, just higher volume use. This feature saves me a trip back into the lab to check the freezer when a student or co-worker is just working late in the lab.”

These features help Duke Medical’s lab have a more accurate view of their storage units while away from the lab, and have helped strengthen lab protocols, identify units at risk of failure, and help enhance sustainability initiatives. Wireless temperature and door monitoring provides tremendous insight and collectively helps guard against system failure and sample loss. While it is often tempting to use a building system already in place, it may not be the best solution for research monitoring where control is critical.

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