Where tracking is performed in today’s supply chains, it is usually done semi-automatically: barcodes are scanned and location noted at the scanning point. Now, with SenseAware ID, a lightweight sensor that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communications to link to WiFi access points, FedEx is offering tracking throughout the FedEx Express network. In the news release announcing the offering, FedEx says “detailed location data provided by SenseAware ID is a critical differentiator for healthcare industry customers, and FedEx expects to use this new technology with anticipated COVID-19 vaccine shipments.”
There’s a backstory here: FedEx now has a family of SenseAware devices and services, which it has been building out since 2010. A more comprehensive offering, SenseAware 3000, uses a datalogger device that monitors temperature and other conditions (as well as location); the device is returned to FedEx, or reused by the shipper, after a delivery. That service, which is tailored to the temperature-controlled needs of life sciences, can cost around $200 per shipment.
SenseAware ID is identity and location only. “The enhanced package visibility data provided by SenseAware ID will give FedEx healthcare customers the opportunity to closely monitor and proactively protect shipments using additional FedEx healthcare services, including cold-chain storage, thermal blankets and temperature controlled containers,” says the company. It will be ready for use in November.
A widespread infrastructure is already in place to handle the temperature control needs of life sciences, but the players in that infrastructure (packaging, instrumentation, and air, land and sea carriers) are scrambling right now in preparation for the billions of dosages of Covid-19 product expected in coming months.