Elpro introduces a real-time tracking system for cold chain shipments


Also: more innovative cold-chain actions during the Covid-19 pandemic

Applying Internet of Things (IoT) principles to the life-sciences supply chain is a no-brainer: high-value products going through many hands from point of origin to point of dispensing call for careful monitoring. Yet IoT applications have been slow in coming. That might change now, as exemplified by Elpro’s newly introduced Libero G service.

According to the company, the Libero G datalogger can sense temperature, humidity, light, tilt and shock, and, with the incorporation of LTE-M and NB-IoT communication protocols, can provide ongoing messaging for up to one year (or 110 days for a single continuous use). When combined with the company’s liberoManager cloud-based database, the logger enables the shipper to establish 24/7 monitoring and trend-based alarming for preventive actions or overall performance orchestration. Significantly, the service generates this data wherever the logger is in use, freeing the shipper from concerns (and potential cost) of logistics providers, and (for the most part) regardless of the transportation mode. According to Elpro, there is no fee for this service, which will become available in Q4.

Such real-time, global monitoring has been available in a variety of setups, usually through a global logistics provider and sometimes from the container provider (such as for air freight). There are also a number of data services that offer to collect data when multiple tracking mechanisms are used. Now, though, centralizing the data collection on one IoT device seems to provide a real breakthrough for the industry.

Pharmaceutical Commerce has been reporting a number of novel instances where cold chain technology providers have assisted in the response to the pandemic; here are a few more:

Pelican BioThermal, by way of its recent NanoCool acquisition, has been assisting a national retailer that has been testing its employees for virus antibodies. The testing requires blood samples to be shipped from worksites across North America to a central lab. The NanoCool technology enables a shipper simply to fill the container, pressing a button to activate a cooling system (based on evaporative cooling, not an electrically powered system), close up and send it on its way. Pelican BioThermal envisions the technology to be well-suited to direct-to-patient deliveries.

Varcode, a newly established company in the US, has developed thermochromic technology to be used to sense temperature fluctuations, combined with a label that can contain a conventional barcode. Now, the technology is being developed with several diagnostics companies for lateral flow assays (LFAs) or remote testing of SARS-CoV-2 antibody presence. LFAs are an established method of performing a test; a body fluid (such as blood) interacts with an agent that in turn causes a line of color to appear within a test strip. FDA has already granted emergency-use authorizations (EUAs) to several SARS-Cov-2 detection kits.

According to Varcode, the test strip can be incorporated into its barcode assembly, and together the test and barcode can be read by a smartphone app and then communicated to, for example, a public health authority. In theory, the technology would obviate the need to ship the test strips to a central lab; alternatively—and if temperature sensing is a requirement—that feature could be built in. The barcode enables consistent identification of the sample source.

Marken, the clinical-trial logistics service-provider subsidiary of UPS, has announced the expansion of its Miami capacity of test kits for ongoing Covid-19 vaccine and therapy research. The company routinely provides test assembly for clinical trials; now, with the massive industry response to vaccine and therapy development, it is shipping test kits throughout the US and Canada. The service is an extension of its direct-to-patient and home-healthcare services, and makes use of the UPS global network to serve 80 countries worldwide.

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