Liebherr Domestic Appliances collaborates with Microsoft to build new smart fridge for medicine

24 April, 2016

For many people, a fridge is an everyday appliance that keeps milk cold and spinach fresh. But for medical and pharmaceutical organizations, a fridge is an essential tool for storing medicine and sensitive materials, in which cooling reliability and precision are critical.

Liebherr Domestic Appliances meets those demands with its state-of-the-art commercial refrigerators, part of the more than 2.2 million fridges the family-owned, Germany-based company makes a year. Its laboratory and medical fridges have precise electronic controls for accurate temperatures and efficient cooling for optimum storage and energy use. They have locks, alarms, self-closing doors and monitoring systems.

But at Hannover Messe this week, Liebherr is going a step further to unveil a new pharmaceutical refrigerator equipped with intelligent connectivity. Built with Microsoft technologies, the prototype features remote monitoring and predictive maintenance for greater efficiency and reliability.

“In this market, the temperature has to be precise and the refrigerator has to be reliable all the time,” says Andreas Giesa, Liebherr project manager of e-commerce. Many pharmaceutical and medical organizations store delicate supplies and samples more valuable than the fridge itself and are legally required to ensure storage at proper temperatures.

Liebherr’s new fridge stems from a collaboration with Microsoft to digitally transform Liebherr’s fridges and freezers, and help industries that rely on cooling. The prototype features a communication module based on Windows 10 IoT Core, which collects fridge data and sends it to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

Azure Stream Analytics produces real-time insights on temperature and other data. Azure Machine Learning does predictive analysis to look for any changes in performance that need maintenance or early repairs.

“In advance of any actual damage to stored products, the customer can be pre-informed and the system will generate a service ticket in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” says Giesa. “The relevant technician will then be able to plan this into their service call. The system helps ensure reliability.”

The system uses Power BI for data visualization, enabling customers to see complex data from many sources in a single dashboard. It also allows customers to remotely monitor key performance data, including the accuracy and stability of the fridge’s temperature.

“Imagine you are a big laboratory with a hundred medical fridges. It’s hard to get an overview to see if the fridges are running well,” Giesa says. “Now you can see the state of all one hundred medical fridges in one view.”

“We see Microsoft as a technology partner that enables us to create added value for our customers faster and easier,” says Steffen Nagel, Liebherr managing director. “The digital offers and added value from this digitalization are important for everyone.”

For Microsoft, the collaboration is part of a drive to fuel intelligent systems that improve the way people work and live.

“Liebherr is creating intelligent, connected appliances that support new service-based business models and stay up-to-date with the latest software innovation, ensuring the best possible experience for their customers in the future,” says Sanjay Ravi, worldwide managing director of Discrete Manufacturing at Microsoft.