Insights & Resources3 min read

Could IoT Help Improve COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Systems?

With the COVID-19 vaccine starting to roll-out in several countries, IoT could be a valuable tool in tackling the logistical hurdles of vaccine delivery.

Risa Takenaka
Vaccine Delivery
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every country and resulted in roughly 1.6 million deaths globally, to date since last January. However, the massive scale of the pandemic has also spurred unprecedented innovation, funding, and collaboration towards the search for a vaccine, and remarkable progress has been made in the past few months. A few weeks ago, the UK became the first country to extend temporary authorization for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech- with plans for 800,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine to be distributed in the country by mid-December. Following the UK’s lead, Canada also approved emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine, and the first batches of the vaccine were delivered to the country by plane yesterday.
Exciting moves have been made in the United States as well, as the FDA met on December 10th and approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s request for emergency use authorization (EUA), which allows vaccines that have not been officially approved yet to be used during public health emergencies. Moderna has also applied for an EUA in the United States and several other vaccines are at different phases of human clinical trials. Since FDA approval, things have moved quickly, and an intensive care nurse in Long Island, New York, became the first person to receive the vaccine this morning.
The mood surrounding these breakthroughs seem optimistic, and many are hopeful to return to some semblance of normalcy in the coming months; this could very well be the case, considering the US vaccination programme’s objective of vaccinating 100 million people by April. However, one major logistical challenge to creating widespread access to the vaccine includes finding a way to efficiently transport shipments from manufacturing plants to their destinations. This is further complicated by the fact that some vaccines, such as the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, have optimal temperatures - around –70° Celsius - which must be maintained to keep their efficacy. I’m no expert on temperature but, wow, that’s pretty cold.

How IoT Can Assist in COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Systems

Many freight and distribution companies are exploring the internet of things, or IoT, as a potential solution to these logistics issues related to the COVID-19 vaccine. IoT refers to an ecosystem of interrelated computing devices or machines, each marked with unique identifiers and which have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring external interactions with humans or computers. Telnyx is an example of a network provider that offers wireless SIM cards which can be used to build IoT devices, and the data collected by these devices transfer over our network.
Specifically for this use case, the ecosystem of interrelated devices are wireless sensors which can be placed on vaccine refrigeration units during transport to track temperature, light, and humidity. The sensors are useful because they collect data points to give real time insight on these conditions, and can be embedded with logic to notify supply chain coordinators if the conditions fall outside of a certain threshold. This visibility is critical to quickly deploying necessary next steps if things go wrong, and ensures that vaccines will remain in their validated state during the transport process. Given the scale of this pandemic and the urgency around vaccination, precautionary measures like these are critical in our ability to deliver the vaccine as effectively and quickly as possible.

Challenges to Adopting IoT Solutions

As with any emerging technology, there are barriers to adoption which can make it difficult to implement these solutions at scale. Some common issues with IoT solutions include:
  • Data Security: The information collected from these sensors must be accurate, untampered with, and secure. Data collected from IoT devices and carried across public networks have an inherent risk of being discovered by other devices.
  • Data Management: The massive amounts of raw data collected from these devices can complicate the process of visualizing information and drawing insights. For example, in this use case, data from sensors can be cross examined and trackled alongside other information such as geospatial, traffic, or weather data over time -- a valuable IoT solution must enable some functionality to display this data in a simple, intuitive interface.
  • Network Connectivity: IoT devices are only as effective as the networks they rely on. Single cloud or single site networks can go down during outages, resulting in the temporary pause of important data collection.
Thankfully, Telnyx’s wireless solution addresses all of these issues.
When it comes to security, we ensure that your data avoids exposure to the public internet with our end-to-end private connectivity. Our private network creates a gated ecosystem for your data to pass through, which makes it less prone to breaches or hacking. We’ve also made it easier to track granular metrics into SIM usage and behavior in our Mission Control Portal interface, because we know that data is most valuable when it can be analyzed with ease. We offer complete visibility into your SIM usage so that you can quickly use this information to identify trends, find new opportunities, and inform business decisions now and in the future.
Finally, our multi-site, multi-cloud infrastructure, multi-network infrastructure ensures that you have global coverage that never fails. Remember the recent AWS outage that took down half of the internet with it? Or how about the Google Cloud outage that happened just this morning? We never rely too much on one cloud service provider that’s why, when you choose Telnyx, you choose a network that’s unaffected by cloud service outages, which do unfortunately happen from time to time. Additionally, Telnyx SIMS have network redundancy, and all major countries have access to at least 2 tier 1 operators, which provides quality coverage everywhere in the world.
Logistics and delivery systems may not be the first things that come to mind when you think about how quickly you’ll be getting the vaccine, but it is one of the most important facets of the roll-out. This is just one of the many spaces where IoT will continue to drive efficiency and add value to our current business processes. As the applications of IoT devices expands across industries, Telnyx is committed to providing the highest quality wireless solutions through our reliable, redundant network and easy to use SIMs.
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