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Low-Cost Monitoring Systems For SMBs And The Cold Chain

Jun 07, 2013

Can Small Hospitals and Bio/Pharma Labs Implement Affordable, Fault-Tolerant Cold Chain Monitoring and Alarming During Shipment of Organs, Tissues, IVs and Vaccines?

Cellular technology combined with Cloud Computing may provide the answer.

Above: Organ Shipment Container

A recent article in the latest edition of Pharmaceutical Commerce (Link to article) titled “The Convergence of Environmental Condition Monitoring and Supply Chain Visibility” describes a robust system designed to provide visibility to the location and environmental conditions of temperature sensitive products during shipment and transit.  The system uses a combination of GPS technology with a 24/7/365 asset tracking service for pharmaceutical and biological materials companies worldwide. 


Backed by a $60B technology conglomerate, this package certainly offers a high level of monitoring and security. Still, what about the small and midsized Bio/Pharma labs, hospitals, and medical centers? What are their options for a robust environmental monitoring system for the cold chain, particularly if budgets cannot support the additional expenses from continuously staffed services? In the end, cellular communication technology in combination with a cloud service may provide one answer. The cloud service will typically provide SMS text, email, and phone alert capabilities to complement the hardware.


The use of monitoring systems for sensitive products (within the cold chain) is an established practice. Regulations have either been previously established, or are under current review/consideration. These regulations are tailored to geographic locations (US or International), and differ by application type (e.g: vaccines vs. organs for donation) The Pharmaceutical Commerce article outlines several of these quite well. Aside from regulatory requirements, many makers of such materials have implemented or are considering risk management strategies and policies to insure product safety and efficacy. Still, the challenge lies in the cost of implementation, wherein these strategies and policies (between the time the product leaves their shipping dock and the time it arrives and is received) can be tricky to follow.

Above: H1N1 Vaccine Shipment


Of course, shippers do their best to insure product and environmental integrity of their cargo, however, many have horror stories of compromised shipments or damaged materials. To that extent, compromised or damaged shipments lead to a loss of materials and valuable time, neither of which are ideal. These items may even be the result of extensive testing, and these setbacks can disrupt the entire project/development.

One solution would be to utilize the power of wireless cellular technology and a robust cloud computing data aggregation system. These cloud systems are most effective for collecting and analyzing sensor data. The wireless cellular communication medium (along with long-lasting battery backups) can help insure that materials are monitored for the duration of the trip. Such systems are highly sensitive in regard to environmental changes, and therefore insure that any deviations can be noted and flagged with an email, SMS text, or voice alert message. These messages are sent to one (or several) responsible individuals at any time. Escalation plans can also be built into the system, such that the absence of any one “individual” is not a cause for failure. These plans ensure that if conditions continue to deviate from the norm, other individuals can be alerted through a priority-based alert system.

For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and Sensor Cloud offerings, visit our website at or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

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