RFID-based App Helps Consumers Find a Cold Drink

By Claire Swedberg

Cool&Go is an app-based extension of Blulog's automated data-logging system to point consumers in the direction of beverages or ice cream in their neighborhood, while also sharing their temperatures.

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RFID company Blulog already sells a solution enabling companies to track the temperatures of the perishable foods stored at brick-and-mortar stores or throughout supply chains, but now it offers a new system that is consumer-facing. This month, Blulog has released Cool&Go, an app that enables consumers to access RFID-based data regarding products in their area, so they can see not only what cold items are nearby, but also the temperatures at which they are being stored.

The system is designed as a game, providing puzzle pieces that consumers can earn each time they scan a QR code on a store’s cooler. Once they have collected enough pieces, they can win a free drink or other reward. The system is designed for use by product brands to attract attention to their cold products, explains Jérémy Laurens, Blulog’s CEO. However, it is intended to also benefit retailers that sell those brands’ products.

Blulog’s Jérémy Laurens

Blulog, a French- and Polish-based company founded in 2014, sells active RF-based data loggers that can be placed within a refrigerator or carton inside a refrigerated truck, and can measure ambient temperatures every 10 minutes. Another version can measure humidity every 15 minutes. The battery-powered loggers transmit data via active ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID to a Blulog gateway, which forwards the collected information to cloud-based Blulog BluConsole software via a Wi-Fi or local-area network (LAN) connection.

Companies are using the technology to track the temperatures within their coolers, at distribution centers and in refrigerated trucks (see Polish Retail Chain Keeps Food Cool With RFID). With regard to trucks, a wireless gateway is installed on each vehicle to forward data to the cloud, using either a SIM card or a Wi-Fi hotspot from a driver’s smartphone or other device.

The active RF loggers, which are approximately the size of a credit card, can transmit data to the reader gateway from a distance of about 2,300 feet. That means several gateways can cover a typical warehouse environment or loading dock. The loggers also come with 13.56 MHz Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality so that they can be read via a mobile phone or handheld device if an active transmission is unavailable—for instance, in the event of a power outage or if the loggers are out of RF range.

Recently, Blulog released a QR code solution known as ColdFinder, designed to allow brands or stores to provide information regarding the cold storage temperatures of a product before they buy it. A company attaches QR-coded signage at the coolers within its store, then invites customers to scan each QR code via their smartphones to access data.

The QR code scan opens the website where Blulog’s software is storing the temperature data, so that a consumer can view the temperature at that time, as well as the temperatures to which the product has been exposed while the Blulog data loggers were in use. If safe temperature perimeters for a particular product had been exceeded, the customer could view that data and opt not to purchase that item. In the meantime, the same data is available to the stores or brand owners, so that they can act on any temperature issues quickly.

Throughout the past year, Blulog has been working on a solution that combines the logger data and the QR code information access, as a way to more actively promote products. In 2016, the company tested a system known as CoolBeer for Heineken at an Amsterdam trade show, to push logger information stored with beer products to app users’ phones.

Here’s how it worked: a consumer could download an app and turn on its GPS functionality. If the individual was within the trade show area and wanted a cold beer, he or she would open the app. The app would determine that person’s location and display the locations of all loggers dedicated to Heineken stored in the area. Users could then easily purchase a cold beer.

Cool&Go operates the same way, with users downloading the app on their Android- or iOS-based device. They can then input a request for something they seek, such as a cold soda or beer, or an ice cream. The participating brands in that neighborhood will have data available about their location in the stores, which users can view. The app will display the locations of those items relative to a user’s phone, and that person can then visit the nearest cooler. Upon arrival, he or she can scan a QR code to not only learn that item’s temperature, but also receive a puzzle piece toward earning a free product.

For brands and stores, the app offers a new way to gain benefits from an automated logger system that helps them manage temperatures. The brands can view the data in the software, in order to ensure that stores maintain the proper temperatures without sending associates to the site to check. In addition, stores can view those temperatures so that workers need not manually check conditions, and have an automated record to share with the brands and with regulators.

By using Cool&Go, Laurens says, stores or brands “can provide transparency to their customers,” while also encouraging them to enter stores, approach coolers and then be more likely to make a purchase. By requiring consumers to collet puzzle pieces from a variety of merchants, he adds, “The game pushes end users to visit different stores, all locally.”

Blulog is currently in discussions with several beer brands in the United States and Europe to deploy the Cool&Go application with their products. The firm is also in the planning stage of deploying the system for a Polish retail chain spanning thousands of stores. That company, however, has asked to remain unnamed.