SMART Temps increase energy efficiency and safety

By: 
Keith Soster

Michigan Dining

“The monitor runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and keeps track of temperatures from a central command system. We get an alert via email if a temperature goes above the appropriately safe amount...”
Rachel Christensen, Food and Physical Safety Standards Manager in MDining

Wireless monitors keep temps ‘just right’ in MDining

Isn’t technology great? Michigan Dining certainly thinks so -- one reason is the SMART Temps wireless temperature monitor now being used in the refrigerators and freezers of dining halls. The monitor is helping us increase energy efficiency while keeping foods safe. Since the temperatures are kept at a constant level, it’s also an environmentally friendly system.

The temperature control system -- which is now in all seven MDining halls -- was part of the overall renovations of the dining facilities which had a strong focus on efficiency and quality. The monitor, which automatically records temperatures 96 times daily, also saves on labor costs by eliminating the need for regularly scheduled, manual temperature taking and paperwork. Employees used to have to take periodic readings of freezer temps but can now simply call up the system to check.

A device called the SMART Guard is used to monitor the temperature inside refrigerators and freezers, while the SMART Shield is used to monitor food with a probe thermometer. Devices automatically send data through a wireless router to the company’s cloud-based command center, which provides 24/7 monitoring. Clients, who pay a monthly or annual fee for cloud-based services, are alerted on mobile devices whenever something goes awry. Temperatures could be outside an acceptable range, for example, because a refrigerator door is open.

“The monitor runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and keeps track of temperatures from a central command system. We get an alert via email if a temperature goes above the appropriately safe amount,” explains Rachel Christensen, Food and Physical Safety Standards Manager in MDining. “In an operation as large as MDining, this ability to constantly monitor the temperature is a real time and manpower saver. With people going in and out of freezers and refrigerators, the temperatures can start to vary easily -- we get an alert immediately if it starts to dip and can make corrections.”

The monitor also is used as a safeguard against food safety disasters, she says.

“When we were opening the South Quad dining hall and getting things into full swing, we kept getting high alert emails,” she says. “We were able to quickly correct the issue and get the temperatures at the right level. If we had not known about the problem -- if we’d still been using manually temperature checks -- we would have lost more than $10,000 in food.”

Another bonus is that the monitors are immune from power outages because they’re powered by batteries.

With this new system in place, MDining food temperatures are going to be “just right” -- for our customers and the environment.


Keith Soster is the Director of Student Engagement for MDining. At the core of Keith’s work is outreach, putting him in constant with  students, suppliers and campus stakeholders with a focus on advancing initiatives for a greener, healthier campus. He is responsible for student and community connections both on and off campus, and serves as the sustainability lead for Student Life.