February 12, 2020
We often take safety for granted and tend to assume that the food we buy or the premises we’re staying in is safe. The introduction of food safety and hygiene regulations has increased our awareness of the issue, but the current system relies almost entirely on humans.
It’s been known for years that food storage must be temperature controlled to reduce the risks associated with the formation of bacteria. Despite the warnings there are still too many people taken ill by eating poorly stored food.
Legionella is a naturally occurring bacteria and is widespread in ponds, rivers and other natural water systems. But when the bacterium enters water systems in the built environment, conditions, such as water temperature, can often favour and encourage rapid growth and can lead to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease (LD). For this reason, water temperature has guidelines for monitoring in many parts of the world, yet tens of thousands of people are infected with Legionnaires every year and about 10% of those infected will die as a result.
Traditionally the monitoring of chillers and water temperature is a manual exercise and consequently it’s common for checks to be forgotten or inadequately recorded, which has potential to cause serious problems.
So, if the human interface is the potential problem, how can technology be used to overcome this?
Industry analysts are predicting that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be one of the next big technology trends, changing how the objects around us interact, helping improve how we live, work and relax. IoT offers exciting possibilities to improve compliance and food safety by real time monitoring and improved record keeping. For example, a chiller used for storing food in a café can be fitted with a smart sensor and the temperature monitored constantly from a remote management portal. If the temperature steps outside the acceptable range, an alarm can be raised, the problem investigated, and potentially harmful food destroyed.
Similar technology can be employed for water temperature monitoring. Sensors fitted inline to pipes mean there’s no need to periodically test the supply manually. Instead automatic reading and logging can be performed, raising an alert in the event of an unsafe temperature, prompting system maintenance to be performed.
In both examples it’s clear to see that the technology has the edge over the human when it comes to safety. Not only can it provide real time data, but it also frees up time for staff to concentrate on other aspects of their role or reduces the need to use the services of third party testing companies.
The Internet of Things promises to dramatically improve the opportunities for automated monitoring and real-time controls. Best of all the technology is available today. Thanks to full fibre and Wi-Fi network infrastructure it can be quickly and easily deployed without disrupting other IP (Internet Protocol) traffic, where it can start to improve compliance and most of all, safety amongst our communities.