RFID Brings Temperature Visibility to Pizza Chain

Domino's franchise Mar Pizza is deploying a ZigBee-based IoT system from Unified Office to gain real-time and historic temperature data, as well as other sensor information, at its restaurants across three states.
By Claire Swedberg

Recently, Unified Office expanded to an IoT solution that would include sensor data. This helps the company manage information about what is happening at a business beyond phone and communication networks, explains Ray Pasquale, Unified Office's CEO.

The company uses a hub device—about the size of two packs of cigarettes—that is installed at a business, along with the phone server device already installed for VoIP customers. The hub is designed to collect sensor data using its built-in ZigBee-, Z-Wave- and Bluetooth-based transponder to receive transmissions from sensors, and a wired Ethernet connection to forward that information to the cloud-based server, on which software collects, interprets and manages the data. Unified Office uses hubs and sensors from third-party providers.

Unified Office's Ray Pasquale
During the past year, Mar Pizza has piloted the technology at about a dozen restaurants, with sensors that detect ambient temperatures installed in coolers and work areas. The sensors captured temperature readings at predetermined intervals and transmitted that data to the hub, which forwarded the readings to the server. Restaurant managers or other authorized personnel could then sign into the software and view each site's real-time and historic temperature readings.

The sensors can also detect motion, thereby enabling users to create rules within the system, such as changing settings for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), based on occupancy. What's more, the system includes door contact sensors to detect when a cooler door is open, and for how long it remains ajar. In the latter case, the software can determine if there is a problem and alert authorized parties.

The data is not only of value in real time, Pasquale says—it can also be leveraged for historic analysis purposes. For instance, he explains, "If you own a hundred stores, you'll want to know if a compressor is starting to fail in one of those locations." That kind of information, he notes, would be out of reach without automation in most scenarios. But if the sensor system were to detect rising temperatures within one cooler over a span of time, a malfunctioning compressor or other equipment could be identified before it failed. The system could also reduce energy costs, since it could detect if too much cooling were taking place, or if doors were being left open for lengthy periods of time.

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