A new cold-chain tracking option: FreshCode


New company seeks to commercialize a chemical indicator with digital features

Varcode (Chicago and Ra’anana, Israel), which has been in business for less than five years with an application mostly focused on perishable food shipments, is now targeting the life sciences industry. The company has a handful of clients, with one recent win with a European medical device manufacturer, according to Joe Battoe, newly appointed CEO.

Varcode’s patented technology starts with FreshCode, a physical/chemical temperature indicator—but with the twist that the indication of temperature excursion is worked into a barcode—thus a “smart barcode.” Indication is shown by a color change in a multilayer material within the barcode (see photo), but unlike the “yes/no” indication of traditional chemical indicators, the duration of the excursion can be documented. The accuracy of the indication is +/-1°C. About 15 standard temperature ranges (including 2-8°C) are available, and custom ranges can be specified. Volume cost of the FreshCode is highly attractive--$1-1.50 per item.

Indication is a useful thing, but Varcode goes an additional step with a cloud-based data repository. The FreshCode label is scanned, either by a dedicated barcode reader, or just a smartphone with the appropriate app, and the reading is transmitted to the cloud. When set up properly, the identity of the scanner, its location and the time of the scan can be recorded. A novel feature of the FreshCode technology is that it gives a cumulative measure of out-of-temperature durations. This seems to match ideally with how the stability budget (the total time a product can be out of spec but still retain its efficacy) can be shared among various logistics providers from when a shipment leaves the loading dock to when it is delivered to a consignee.

Battoe says the company is currently ramping up production of FreshCode devices and building out a sales and distribution organization.

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