The need for technology to improve the business processes was always felt but many organizations were fence-sitters when it came to its adoption, more so in pharma and food logistics. The pandemic has infact pushed most organizations to adopt IoT-based technology to drive operational efficiency by reducing wastages, improving tracking and predictability of their supply chain. The demand has also surged where monitoring the indoor environment conditions, adjusting the storage temperature, or controlling the ambient conditions are vital to maintain business uptime and optimize business profitability.
As per market research estimates, the global asset tracking market is expected to grow to $ 32.6 Billion by the end of 2025, out of which the cold chain monitoring market is going to be $ 10 Billion. The logistic industry with the implementation of IoT is growing at a CAGR of 16.6% for cold chain monitoring alone.
A Smart Tracking and Environment Monitoring (STEM) device is an environmental parameters logger. It records the live GPS location, ambient temperature, humidity, pressure, goods mishandling, tampering of the package, and several other parameters. It assures correct handling of goods throughout the supply chain.
Implementing STEM based solutions will help organizations in discarding the damaged products reaching the customers thereby eliminating the cost of handling returns which not only is compensatory monetary claims but also brand image and reputation.
The data loggers for pharma logistics should be compact, portable, relatively inexpensive, and be able to work without any fixed cables & infrastructure. Battery-powered STEM is an ideal solution to track cold storage shipments in transit.
There are enough trends and evidence which indicate that soon we will be required to store and transport goods over long distances at ultra-cold temperatures, which could be even below-average temperatures of Antarctica.
With these changes in the market requirements, the STEM device also needs to evolve to work under extreme environmental conditions and stay connected to the cloud platform through multiple options on connectivity such as 4G,5G, LoRa, NB-IoT, and more.
Irrespective of the choice of STEM features you go for in the Pharma & Food logistics; these are the top five non-negotiable factors that should drive your selection of the STEM device:
- Accuracy of the Temperature reading
The temperature sensor used in the STEM device will determine the accuracy of the reading of the STEM device. While there are regular sensors at one end but there are also NIST-certified sensors that are certified by a non-regulatory agency of US department of commerce for sensor’s accuracy of the reading.
Temperature accuracy requirements vary widely among different vaccines and pharmaceutical logistics. Typically, a temperature reading range of -30 degrees C to +80 degrees C would cover for most applications.
- Additional Sensor Capabilities
The advanced cold chain data loggers can’t stop at only measuring temperature. Having sensors to measure additional data points like humidity, location, air pressure, tampering, physical shock is crucial for validation and assurance of a failproof Supply chain. These built-in sensors make the STEM device adaptable to customized needs and applications.
The list of sensors doesn’t end here, it can also measure acceleration, orientation, angular velocity, altitude, etc. Generally, the logistics industry focuses more on location & speed while the FMCG industry focuses more on temperature & humidity.
- Operating Life of the Device
STEM device is available as single-use and multiple-use. The single-use is relatively low on cost as it doesn’t come with a built-in battery but its usage is limited to single-use. The multiple-use device can be recharged and used multiple times.
The size of the battery and the configuration of sensor data upload time interval will determine the operating Life of the device once enabled to start capturing the data.
The configuration of the data upload interval can be the basis of the usage application. Like, if you’re using the STEM to track temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical shipments, you could set the recording interval to 5 seconds or less. However, if you’re using the STEM to track food shipments, you could set the interval to 10 minutes or more.
Typically 4000mAh with 10-sec data upload interval would give 200 days of operating Life which would meet most applications.
- Reliability and Data Security
STEM’s onboard memory and battery backup, with the ability to log data offline on the dedicated storage, ensure the sensor data parameters are logged even when the cloud connectivity is lost.
Secure cloud storage, notification system, remote reporting of analytics, insights, and alerts go a long way in the practical usability of the device.
5. Supported cloud connectivity options
Based on the practical usage of the STEM device the cloud connectivity can be over BLE, Wi-Fi, Cellular 2G/3G/4G/5G, LoRa, NB-IoT, CAT-M, LPWAN, LTE-M, Satellite etc.
The choice of Connectivity will require a specific module to be included in the STEM device adding for the device cost and additionally the service cost should be factored in for expenses towards the connectivity services.
Applications of STEM in other walks of life:
Location tracking of our near and dear ones for their safety is one of the most widely adopted applications of STEM.
With additional features such as geo-fencing and immovability/fall detection, it is now possible to get real-time alerts to address any emergency needs.
Immovable Objects Tracking
For many industries such as real estate, Highways, ports, oil & gas, and the life-saving health care industry there is a need for real-time tracking of critical assets ranging from heavy machinery & equipment. Also in our day-to-day lives enterprises need to track laptops, printers, trolleys, shipments, etc.
With STEM-based solutions, the utilization can be significantly improved and even the access can be made much faster through real-time visibility on the location and availability.
Vehicle Telematics / Movable Objects Tracking
Vehicles, Robots, Drones – all of them have mobility applications where the basic requirement is to sense environmental parameters such as current location, environmental conditions, video feeds, Telematics information such as battery/fuel level, acceleration/velocity, etc.
STEM devices can capture all of these parameters with the help of sensors and feed the information to the cloud platform over multiple remote connectivity options.
Head- Strategy & Business Development (Digital Solutions).
Napino Auto & Electronics Ltd
A technology enthusiast with 18 years of experience in the business and technology domain, with a strong attribute for innovation and launching new products /services/ business. Ashish is responsible for the product strategy of STEM-based solutions at Napino Digital Solutions and leads the Business operations vertical covering sales, marketing, partnerships, and service delivery.
Published in Telematics Wire