November 26, 2020
SODAQ completed 50 successful runs tracking the location and temperature threshold of vaccine shipment containers from va-Q-tec by using the Nordic Semiconductor NRF91 communication module.
SODAQ notes these containers are going to be used for sending Covid-19 vaccines across the world. The vaccines need to be stored in a controlled environment between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for at least 96 hours during transportation. “The pharmaceutical industry is estimated to incur $15 billion in product losses each year due to temperature deviations alone. Approximately 1.5 percent of all pharmaceutical shipments are marked as scrap due to logistical failures.” according to FedEx.
SODAQ is known for the development of the ultra-low-power and ultra-thin tracking smart label. This solution uses a printed battery and besides location, it senses impact, acceleration, temperature, and the opening of a box. The solution SODAQ designed for the vaccines comes with a rechargeable standard lithium battery. That battery, 6mm thick, is actually the thickest component of the entire device. All other components such as the Nordic nRF9160 chip, the temperature sensor, USB recharge connector and the antenna are all slimmer enabling the device to be inserted into the double-sided cardboard layer of the transportation box.
The test run involved fifty single shipments. Not all these runs were with va-Q-tec boxes. All runs performed exactly as intended, something that does not occur often in proof of concepts using prototypes. The test included the recharging of the device, reusing the device on the same box, and reusing the device on a new box and shipments to various European countries such as Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, France, and Spain and in addition the US and Canada. In all countries either LTE-M and otherwise NB-IoT connected properly and correctly to the device.
The global connectivity for the pilot was provided via APIs from monogoto, the innovative IoT Connectivity company which provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for secure cellular connectivity. The monogoto connectivity solution includes a self-service management platform and over 400 APIs, for flexible product prototyping and production IoT networks. Programmed to only send data when in rest, the solution can be moved onto airplanes. The solution from SODAQ and Nordic can also handle different types of cooling boxes using liquid nitrogen or dry ice by applying a different temperature sensor (range: -80 to -20 Celsius).
Attaching a traditional tracker to the outside of a box makes it impossible to stack the boxes and makes the sensor vulnerable. Inserting a device into the box itself is out of the question, the water and aluminum foil keeping the box cool, block every signal from within the box. SODAQ solved this by inserting an external temperature sensor into the box and making the sensor so flat it can be stuck between the cardboard or cover of the box.
The device will cost approximately €27,50 when produced at over 100,000 units, whereas alternatives cost 3 to 4 times as much or are based on less effective solutions such as beacons, RFID, or Bluetooth. None of these work in all the different environments to which the vaccines will be shipped.
SODAQ is actively acquiring customers for the production version of the device.