Seeking Global Asset Tracking Solutions for Ice-cream Freezer Cabinets


Unilever is the largest Ice Cream manufacturer in the world, with over a billion smiles delivered every year in over 40 countries. Every day, millions of consumers choose our products from the frozen cabinets in the local baker, at a beach kiosk, or in a convenience store. These freezer cabinets keep our ice cream perfect for consumption occasions, but also present an issue relating to getting lost or stolen from the points of sale. We are looking for low-cost solutions (with a cost of not more than €10 per cabinet) to know the location of these cabinets in real time.  

Each operating country should have a central hub with the system providing the option for individual regional sales teams/distributors to manage their fleet of cabinets. Ideally, we would like an IoT/Telemetry solution that provides information on 3 parameters viz. cabinet location, temperature performance, sales from the cabinet. However, we do realize that these come at a price so a very low-cost option that gives cabinet location should suffice.

We are happy to be guided by expert advice on the most efficient and cost-effective solutions regarding the choice of IOT networks (e.g., LPWAN, bluetooth, cellular or wideband network) that we should consider.

Several off the shelf and customised solutions from several companies have been studied and found to be too expensive for implementation across our cabinet fleet.


The solution should be easily retrofittable by non-technical personnel at the points of sale on existing cabinets that are in operation. It should meet all global and local legislation on safety. It should not entail any additional need for electrical wiring etc as this would affect the CE certification of the cabinet. Ideally the beacon or tag should have a battery lifetime lasting over 8 years.

Solutions proposed should be easily retrofittable at the Point of Sale or in the warehouse as a single man operation taking no more than an hour. 

Relevant standards 
All cabinets purchased by Unilever must comply with the regulation of the country in which it will be installed (e.g., CE, UL, CCC, NOM 022 etc.). Where no local legislation is applicable, the cabinets comply with CE or UL (Underwriting Laboratories) rules. Hence any retrofit solution being proposed should ensure that the above approvals on the cabinets are not violated as the responsibility/ liability for the optimal performance and safe working of cabinets should rest with cabinet manufacturers.

During prototype phase if approvals are difficult or time consuming to achieve then we could consider prototypes for in house lab testing. However, units that are to go into point-of-sale outlets later would need necessary approvals.

Desired Outcome

  • A very low-cost solution of not more than €10 per cabinet and retrofittable on existing cabinets.
  • Trial size: One or two countries with about 200 cabinets retrofitted with the solution would be a good start to test technical feasibility and commercial viability.

  • Opportunity to eventually retrofit this to Unilever’s cabinet fleet of over 1 million units.

Development Timeframe

Solutions should be available for testing in 2022, with a view towards industrial application in 2023.

Additional Info

  • While no budgets have been set apart for this development, Unilever would consider supporting cost of prototypes for testing. However, we would expect to know indicative costs of these prior to any development prototypes being produced. Support for field testing including test locations can be provided.
  • This is strategic as part of the ongoing initiatives to bring digital connectivity to Unilever’s selling systems.

  • Target innovator community (students, SMEs, start-ups) can be considered.

  • Early test of prototypes in one country or region but the application if successful will be global – in all countries where Unilever has an ice cream business.

  • Unilever would ideally like to own the IP or have exclusive use of the IP if development funding is provided. However, this can be discussed in more detail going forward. 


TechInnovation Challenge

Proposal submissions are open from 13 Sep 2021 10:00AM to 31 Dec 2021 12:00PM