Winterize Your Laboratory

Many of us take the time to winterize our homes and our cars in preparation for inclement weather. But have you considered extending your winterization efforts to your lab? Let us explain how to protect your lab during the season. 

One of the biggest problems that labs need to prepare for during the winter season is bad weather (obviously!). Snowstorms wreak havoc to more than just our commutes. As many of us know, they can result in power and WiFi outages. When that happens, a laboratory’s assets such as reagents and biological samples are at risk. How can you catch and address such failures in the absence of power and WiFi? Not all hope is lost!  There are connected lab platforms that can still operate when your facility loses power and/or WiFi.  

There are four main features to look out for in a solution that can effectively monitor your lab during a winter power outage:

  1. Battery powered sensors. These continue to work even when the power doesn’t.
  2. Cellular back-up.  Data is still uploaded to the Cloud even when power and WiFi are down
  3. Battery back-up for the Gateway.  As with cellular back-up, this ensures data is not lost in outage and is uploaded to the Cloud.
  4. Remote alarms. These alert you via email and/or text of out-of-spec conditions in your cold storage equipment. 

Let’s look at each feature in more detail.

Battery powered sensorsET

A battery-powered sensor, such as the Element-T temperature sensor from Elemental Machines is powered by 2 AAA lithium batteries giving it approximately 9 months of battery life. Thus, its ability to collect temperature data from cold storage is unaffected by power outages. The Element-T will continue to measure and transmit temperature readings every 15 seconds to the Elemental Gateway, a tablet that not only stores the data but also uploads it the Elemental Cloud. 

Cellular and Battery Back-up

Under normal conditions the Element-T sends readings via Bluetooth to the Gateway. These readings are uploaded to the Elemental Cloud every 15 seconds and can be accessed from anywhere you have an Internet connection. But what happens when the power and thus Wifi fails? Because Element-T is battery operated, it continues to collect data and send it to the Elemental Gateway tablet for storage and uploading to the Cloud.  The Gateway tablet also has safeguards in place to ensure continued operation in the event of a power and Wifi outage, ie. it has cellular and battery backup. Thus system users can continue monitoring cold storage conditions remotely. If everything was powered by the facility’s electrical system these crucial data would be missing.

Remote Alerts

During winter snowstorms you may not be onsite at the lab, and you may be managing some snow-related chores of your own such as shoveling your sidewalk or car, so you may not be monitoring lab conditions closely.  A reliable platform allows users to set up email and/or text alerts to catch specified conditions, for example a freezer failure. Traditional approaches to catching a freezer failure rely on exceeding a specified temperature threshold, but modern -80C freezers can hold temperature pretty well without power so it might take several hours for you to learn you’ve lost power by waiting for a temperature alert. 

However, a smart alert rule such as capturing when a Gateway switches from wall power to battery backup may be a hint that your lab lost power, more so if all Gateways at your site switched from wall power to battery backup at the same time. Fortunately you can set up such alerts on the Elemental Machines Connected Lab Platform.

Let’s see how all these features play out in action. The figures below illustrate how the Elemental Machines Connected Lab Platform operate during a power outage. Our example shows a -80C freezer. The sinusoidal pattern at the beginning of the chart shows the small temperature variation in the freezer as a result of typical compressor cycles. This is what a properly functioning freezer should look like. At approximately 1AM on 7/13 the power fails. At this time, the system sends an alert to user about the Gateway transitioning from wall power to battery backup. This enables the system to continue temperature monitoring without interruption. The temperature of the freezer starts to rise and when it hits -65C at approximately 3:30AM, it triggers a temperature alert. While neither alert is a desirable one, wouldn't you prefer to know that something was off  earlier in the night rather than later?

Temp Threshold Alerts2

The images below show the details of the Gateway (top) and Temperature Threshold (bottom) email alerts sent to the lab director. You can see he was alerted almost immediately to the fact that the Gateway lost power. And note that the first Temperature Alert email was sent more than two hours later!

power outage alerts-1

Temp Threshold Alerts-2

You can also configure the system to send SMS alerts to one or more system users.

notification_new-2

Just as you would winterize your home or your car, winterizing your lab can help protect its valuable assets, give you peace of mind, and save you money.  The Elemental Machines Connected Lab Platform offers the right features to efficiently monitor your equipment during the winter season...and more. If you would like to try out our system before the next snowstorm hits your area, reach out to us for a demo

Yes, I'd like to Winterize my Lab!