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Sensaphone Monitoring Systems Help to Protect Valuable Research Samples at the University of Missouri-Kansas City

When you are responsible for valuable, sometimes decades-old scientific research samples, you don’t want to rely on luck to ensure that the internal temperature of the ultra-cold freezers storing them are consistently -80 °C. Remote monitoring systems provide early warning of rising temperatures inside laboratory freezers and deliver real-time notifications to designated personnel. These systems also log temperature data over time, which can help operators identify trends that could indicate equipment problems.

Irreplaceable Research Samples

John Bollin is the Hazardous Materials Manager at the School of Science and Engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. It’s his job to make sure the ultra-low freezers are working 24/7 to preserve cellular and molecular biology research samples that are quite valuable because of the time, effort, science and funds invested in developing them. To prevent degradation, the samples are held in 25 ultra-low freezers and a few -20 °C freezers.  

“The life’s work of researchers are stored in these freezers. If someone has been operating a lab for 25 years, the researcher might not be able to recreate many of the samples,” John explains. “These scientists will say if they lose these samples, they will lose their career. When someone tells me that, I know I need a temperature monitoring system that works because it’s my responsibility to keep things up and running to prevent the loss of irreplaceable research.”

Configuring the Temperature Monitoring System

John uses the Sensaphone cellular Sentinel PRO device in conjunction with the wireless WSG30 monitoring system to keep tabs on close to 30 sensors. Sensaphone’s Rob Fusco suggested the WSG30 system based on the number of freezers John needed to monitor within one building complex. 

The Sentinel Pro adopts the WSG30’s wireless sensors and makes their information available in the cloud. This configuration enables data from the WSG30’s sensors to have all of the benefits of being cloud accessible including sending alarms, data logging, programming and ease of access. The advantage of using the cellular device is that it can send out alerts when power and Wi-Fi are down.

The WSG30’s wireless radio sensors are set up in router mode and used as repeaters to boost the signals and increase the distance between the sensor and the receiver. This configuration increases the system’s capacity to cover all of the freezers throughout the complex of two buildings made of thick concrete. John notes that he must plug in the sensors used in repeater mode or else they will run out of power quickly.

Need to Supplement Built-In Freezer Temperature Sensors

According to John, although laboratory freezers have built-in temperature monitors, the level of usefulness is limited because someone needs to be near the unit to hear the alarm when it sounds. “For example, I have a freezer farm in the back of a room, and it doesn’t matter if the alarm is going off or not because no one is going to hear it,” John notes.

History Using Sensaphone Devices

John, who has been with the university since 1990, became acquainted with Sensaphone about 25 years ago when he came across someone using one of the company’s auto dialers in a lab. “I knew a person who had a Sensaphone analog unit with four contacts attached to it. The device would send alerts for temperature and noise, like an alarm going off in the room. I inherited and started using it,” John says. He still has it connected to the back-up power system. “I had one occasion when our power went out and our back-up failed. The main power came back on, however, the back-up power didn’t, and no one knew about it except me because I got the call from the analog device,” he recalls.

Sentinel PRO in Action

Recently, John left the facility for the day and his supervisor called him saying he had just received a freezer alert. John hadn’t yet received the notification because the system is set to contact him if his director does not respond in 15 minutes.

John pulled up the app and saw that the freezer was -58 °C and rising quickly. Suspecting that someone had left the door open rather than an equipment failure, John noticed that two hours prior the freezer temperature was -82 °C and had been stable at that mark for several hours. In just 20 minutes during the phone call, the freezer rose to -52 °C.

“We contacted a tech who was on site, and sure enough the freezer door was open. I was off site but able to determine that the door wasn’t closed based on the information I got from the app. I looked at the data log and could tell that the freezer was stable up to a certain point, indicating it wasn’t slowly failing but quickly losing temperature,” John explains. “We were able to fix it easily and nothing was lost, but it could have been really bad had we not caught it.”

Using the Sentinel PRO provides John with a convenient, efficient way to help him maintain the freezers and protect valuable research samples. He can see all of the freezers on the user dashboard via a computer or his phone.

“The Sentinel and WSG30 are affordable and user-friendly,” John adds. “It’s easy to remotely manage the system – like activate or disable a sensor, check power and battery status. All I need to do is click on a freezer and see my settings. I can plot out data for all or one of the freezers, and, most importantly, monitor temperatures even when I am off campus.”

About the Sentinel PRO and WSG30

The Sentinel PRO monitoring system with cellular modem doesn’t need a landline or internet connection. It also seamlessly interfaces with any equipment that uses a building automation system and supports up to 64 inputs, in addition to accommodating 12 digital or analog inputs. The system stores all readings in the Sensaphone-monitored cloud, which protects against data loss, provides unlimited information storage and allows multiple devices to be managed from one account. Users can access real-time data from anywhere using a mobile device or computer. They can also check status information, change settings and disable alarms from the Sensaphone app.   

The WSG30 remote monitoring system uses wireless sensors to detect changes in conditions, making it ideal for laboratory installations where it would be difficult or costly to hardwire sensors. A single WSG30 unit can support up to 30 wireless sensors to monitor temperatures inside refrigerators and freezers, as well as laboratory conditions including ambient temperature, humidity, power failure and water detection. The system can notify up to 32 people in the event of a problematic sensor reading.

The wireless WSG temperature sensors with external probes have built-in radio transmitters. The sensors attach to a remote temperature probe so that temperature measurements can be made in ultra-low freezers with a range of -85 °C to 57 °C (-121 °F to 115 °F). They are available with NIST traceable calibration certification.

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