Internet of Things (IoT) deployed in home delivery by Collect&Go
Collect&Go, our online shopping service, recently started to deliver groceries at home in a number of regions. How does Collect&Go guarantee the cold chain of fresh products and frozen products? With our self-developed cool boxes and Internet of Things.
What is Internet of Things (IoT)?
Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects which are connected to the internet and can exchange data online. Examples include smart lighting, smartwatches or the smart vending machines at JIMS.
What does Collect&Go use Internet of Things for?
"To facilitate home delivery of groceries, we started looking for ways to easily transport refrigerated products, while simultaneously continuing to guarantee the cold chain," says Caroline Hespel, project manager at Collect&Go. "The R&D colleagues at Colruyt Group Technics set to work on the assignment and developed a cool box and cooling installation. With a frozen cooling plate, our cool box keeps fresh or deep-frozen products cool, just like a cooling element in a cooler. Moreover, the cool box guarantees very stable cooling, which we can monitor closely thanks to temperature sensors in each compartment. That's where Internet of Things comes in."
COPLA, the first IoT example at Colruyt Group
"I worked as a solution analyst on COPLA, the first concrete application of Colruyt Group IT's IoT platform. COPLA stands for 'cold chain platform'. It is the technology that makes it possible to continuously monitor the temperature in the cool boxes", Sara Meul explains.
How does the temperature measurement in our cool box work?
- The temperature sensor measures the temperature in the cool box every two seconds.
- The temperature sensor sends this information to an IT gateway via Bluetooth.
- The gateway sends the data to our Internet of Things platform in the cloud.
- The information becomes meaningful, for example: 'Is the cooler sufficiently cold or not, according to the predefined threshold for fresh and frozen products?'
What are the advantages of Internet of Things in this project?
Sara: "Internet of Things makes it very easy to check the temperature of the cool boxes at every step of the chain. In the refrigerated area of our distribution centre in Londerzeel, a warehouse employee fills the well-known blue Collect&Go folding boxes with refrigerated products. Before these go into the black cool box, the employee scans the cool box. The collection system checks the temperature of the cool box via an API call to the IoT platform. If the temperature is cold enough, the employee collecting the products can fill the box. Before the cool box leaves the cooling room, a frozen cooling plate is placed in the box. Now it is ready for the journey to the collection point or the customer's home."
Caroline: "During the journey, the measured temperature is buffered in the temperature sensor. Upon arrival at the Collect&Go collection point, the stored sensor data is transmitted via the IT gateway to our 'Internet of Things' platform. The Collect&Go employee automatically receives the most recently measured temperature on their smartphone. Upon home delivery, the Collect&Go employee checks the last measured temperature via bluetooth using a mobile app."
"If the maximum temperature is exceeded or no current temperature is available, the employee performs a manual temperature measurement. The customer can therefore receive their order in complete confidence. Once back in the distribution centre, the temperature sensor reconnects with the IT gateway and we can check the entire temperature history in our IoT platform. Based on this data, we can prove that the cold chain in our coolers is never interrupted. This is how we guarantee quality for our customers."
In which other ways does Colruyt Group intend to use IoT?
Sara: "As part of the COPLA pilot project, we have created an 'Internet of Things' platform that can be used across Colruyt Group. We are now going to look into which other interesting IoT solutions could be added. Only by constant innovation and evolution we can continue to secure our strong position as a retailer."