IoT solutions power safe, speedy and cold COVID-19 vaccine delivery

Advances in Internet of Things technologies make it possible to monitor temperatures of vaccine shipments in transit and can greatly improve public confidence that vaccines are safe and effective.

What do you do when you absolutely must get your vaccine to the destination on time and keep it very, very cold? Advances in Internet of Things technologies make it possible to monitor temperatures of vaccine shipments in transit. 

On December 11, 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval for emergency use authorization of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the USA. But the Pfizer vaccine represents a logistical challenge. Shippers must keep it at an exceptionally cold minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit). This vaccine is the first of what is expected to be many COVD-19 vaccines which have very specific cold storage requirements. 

Also: What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now 

According to the Air Transport Association (IATA), 25% of vaccines lose effectiveness due to incorrect shipping. But advances miniaturizing Internet of Things solutions mean IoT can now play a key role in monitoring vaccine temperatures in transit to hospitals, pharmacies, and healthcare clinics. 

Fedex's SenseAware is an example of how far this technology has come. Forrester first highlighted this in 2013 when FedEx developed SenseAware to monitor shipments. Recently announced updates to the seven-year-old technology miniaturize it and add a raft of new capabilities. SenseAware ID sensors now use Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology. When attached to shipments, the sensor transmits its location and temperature data every two seconds. BLE beacons throughout the FedEx US network pick up the transmissions and relay the data to display on monitoring dashboards. We expect these product updates will lower the cost per package for monitoring, making it more cost-effective to deploy at scale. 

Fedex claims the benefits of using BLE in this updated logistics solution include: reduced energy demands which make the sensor device more reliable and environmentally friendly. Customers can proactively monitor environmental data and receive real time updates on the location of products throughout the transport process, and FedEx can proactively adjust transportation routes if weather or traffic delays threaten to impact delivery times. 

Using IoT technologies like this can greatly improve public confidence that vaccines are safe and effective. 

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This post was written by VP, Principal Analyst Nigel Fenwick and Principal Analyst Michele Pelino, and it originally appeared here.