FreezFiler

In short

FreezFiler is kleinlabs’ solution for automated lab freezer inventory. Standardized sample boxes are equipped with a QR code. A camera on the top of the freezer detects  insertion, removal and rearranging of sample boxes.

All actions with boxes are stored in a database which could be accessed from mobile devices or PCs. The system outputs stickers for lab journals which could be used to retrieve samples fast and secure by scanning the labels via the camera of a mobile device or PC.

Free rack spaces don’t have to be found by opening the freezers but by having a look at the graphical mapping in the system. This reduces open door times and reduces damages on samples, saves rack space, amount of freezers, energy costs and time.

The FreezFiler solution can be installed on any upright freezer and is economic starting from with the first freezer it is installed on.

Before FreezFiler

Researchers in different areas of science need to store samples in laboratory deep freezers in temperature areas of -80°C. Those samples are usually organized in standardized boxes and standardized racks. A freezer can hold up between 400-700 boxes. Quite often researchers share space in the freezers which means, they have to organize the freezers.  This is done quite often via paper entries, sometimes database is used – in both ways an update of the position of the a sample box needs manual effort – and therefore discipline: if a box location “gets lost” by either someone without permission is moving it or by the owner himself forgot to update and track the location, the retrieval of a box is hard, takes time and the freezer’s door is open for quite a while. This puts the samples in the freezer in danger and costs a lot of energy.

The FreezFiler Solution

The mission of FreezFiler is to simplify the life of the user by tracking the location of the sample boxes automatically. Any manual work which exceeds the situation before FreezFiler has to be considered to be only acceptable if it is a single task while setting up a sample box. Reoccurring manual work like check in / check out procedures or manual change of databases reduces reliability due to the human factor.

Read on to understand the components, and the workflow of the patent pending FreezFiler solution or just have a look at our introduction video. It is less then 3 minutes long and offers also closed captions to watch the video silently.

System Components

The solution is based on the following components:

The Labels

The labeling of boxes and notices with machine readable codes is the main concept of the FreezFiler solution. There are two label types:

  • Machine label holding only the QR code which is used for automatic detection via the freezer camera.
Machine Label
  • Human label holding the QR code to be recognized by a camera operated by the user (e.g. smartphone, PC) and additional meta information.
Human Label

The Sample Box

We are using standard sample boxes, enhance them with FreezFiler machine and human labels, and they are ready to got with FreezFiler!

Sample Box with FreezFiler Labels

The FreezFiler Cam

This cam is mounted on the top of the freezer and detects every movement of a labeled sample box. It is not only capable of detecting insertions and removal of sample boxes, but also detects the position in the rack and the position of the rack. This makes it possible to recognize the exact position of a sample box in the freezer.

The FreezFiler Server

The FreezFiler server receives the video streams from the FreezFiler Cam  and computes detection vectors and code recognition. This data is aligned with a database residing on the FreezFiler Server.

All sample boxes, their positions in the freezers and the actions on the boxes are stored in a database. Additional tables hold user accounts and group relations. This database is the main access point for the user via the FreezFiler app.

The FreezFiler server

The Label Printers

There are two printers in the solution:

  • Printer for machine labels
  • Label printer for human labels
Human label printer

The FreezFiler App

The researcher connects to the FreezFiler solution via the FreezFiler app. This web app could be either used on a PC or via a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. The app uses the device’s camera for recognition of the machine and/or human labels.

FreezFiler App Main Screen

Detailed operation of the solution

First acquisition of a sample box

The central element of the solution is the QR code of the sample box. When using a box for the first time, the user picks a pre-produced machine label and sticks it on a sample box (in fact, even a pile of such boxes can be pre-produced so, that a user just picks a ready labeled box). Then the FreezFiler application is used to acquire the QR code. The user will be notified that the box is new to the system and is able to edit the data of the box. After editing the data, a human label may be printed which should be sticked on the side of the box for easy recognition in the freezer. Another print of the same label could be used in the lab book. Labeling sample boxes is already mandatory in many institutions, so it presents no additional work for the user, the double use of the human label on the lab book even saves time as the data has to be entered only once.

Find free space in freezer

The FreezFiler database has knowledge of all space in all freezers. The user gets a visualization of the freezers with possible space along with a recommendation of a freezer and rack. Still the researcher may choose a placement in any of the free areas of the freezers. FreezFiler will note, where the sample box was inserted.

Inserting the sample box

Now the Sample Box could be inserted into the freezer. This is the point where the patent pending FreezFiler solution delivers all its power. The camera which is mounted on top of the freezer monitors the movement of the freezer’s door.

 

Insertion of a sample box

Now the video stream is analyzed continuously by FreezFilers AI to detect codes, their position and movements. On successful detection, an audio acknowledge is played to inform the user on the success. No manual check in of the sample box is necessary.

Rack and sample box detection and tracking

Now the position of the sample box in the freezer is known to the FreezFiler solution and inserted in the FreezFiler database.

Retrieving a sample box

The sample box could be removed from the freezer at any time, which is noted in the same manner as the insertion described above. There is no need for a manual check out at the FreezFiler solution.

Lab notebook label scan

In the case the user does not remember the position of a sample box either the label in the lab notebook could be scanned by FreezFiler app or the user can issue a full text search or browse in the FreezFiler app.