Cooling down field data collection devices

In ForestTECH, Issue02 by FIEA

Mike Scanlon, a past ForestTECH speaker with 30 years’ experience with the US Forest Service, including Mobile Architecture, replied to a posting in February. He outlined in that posting that after the November 2015 conferences, that he started working on a protective case design that included active electronic cooling.

“The preliminary designs were promising” says Mike “but the feedback made it look like I was inventing a market instead of serving one. Some respondents indicated that the problem was solved with chemical ice packs”. Mike has since come back to us with information on ways to cool down your field data collection devices.

Questions posed and answers from Mike include;

1) What is your interest in cooling cases?

Most of my work is in Northern latitudes that rarely get to 38 C. I don’t have much opportunity to test cooling cases myself, so I can only comment on the design and point you to some reviews. My testing in bright sun has shown that my device can continue to operate until the screen approaches 50 C. In normal use, I can protect the iPad from these temperatures by keeping it shaded both in use and between uses.

2) What is a common scenario?

The most common scenario for overheating is when the device is left in a vehicle or backpack that is baking in the sun. Both of the devices I found are replacement cases. You would need to swap out your LifeProof or OtterBox case for something with much less protection during the cooling operation.

3) Can you breakdown the options?

The first case provides cooling fans that are powered by 8 AA batteries (or a USB cable). This case is designed for pilots who need to cool the iPad in an airplane cockpit. Pilots often need to leave the device in direct sunlight, but they usually don’t have to deal with high ambient temperatures at the same time.

The second case is a “gel-pack” design that redistributes heat. This design assumes that both the iPad and the case are starting with a reasonable temperature. If you hop out of your air-conditioned vehicle to work for an hour or two, it will probably be okay. If you leave the case and the iPad in the hot sun, you’re probably out of luck. I found this page with reviews, but I didn’t find a site for purchasing.

4) Are there other options?

The last option to discuss is the low-tech system of a chemical ice pack found in many first aid kits. Twenty minutes of a cold pack on the outside of your existing case should be plenty to get you back in operation. This site offers 25 ice packs for $20 US (plus shipping and handling). It seems rather wasteful to throw these away after one use, but when you consider the alternatives, it seems like a reasonable expense.

Local comments will be welcomed. You’re also welcome to get in contact with Mike at or Tel: 1+ 541 754-9254.

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