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IoT-powered connected shipping for vaccine delivery

To better understand how IoT is impacting global supply chains in healthcare, Telecom Review Asia Pacific spoke to Seth Ryding, Chief Sales Officer, Telenor Connexion.

Seth Ryding, CSO APAC
November 25, 2021

Manufacturers are experiencing a heightened need for container connectivity. Shipping goods across long distances yields many opportunities for theft, accidents, tilt, and shock. With connected shipping, items are constantly monitored, ensuring that products like the Covid-19 vaccine have a consistent cold chain.

Covid-19 has placed unprecedented demands on the logistics industry. How can IoT address some key challenges faced by the industry?

When Covid-19 hit the world, business leaders across industries had to resolve immediate challenges to keep their business afloat. If anything, this pandemic is a reminder for businesses to embrace innovative technology to become future-proof. In an increasingly digitalized age, this has become the prerequisite for building resilience and continuity. In the logistics industry, for instance, IoT, together with 5G, powers connectivity that transforms and improves global supply chains, and in doing so, delivers positive impacts to countries and lives.

As we all know, vaccines were developed and produced in record time to prevent a pandemic disaster. Time was not sufficient to develop a complete vaccine in all areas and vaccines became more sensitive to temperature. Caregivers must know with full certainty that the cold barrier has not been broken for the vaccine batch they are using. IoT is used to connect and monitor parcels and containers and instantly notify if the cold barrier is broken or if the temperature for any reason became too high. The benefit is higher caretaker security.

Cross-border connectivity is a key use case and crucial to preserving national interests. How do IoT technologies ensure that Covid-19 vaccines have a consistent cold chain?

Only a few pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines covering the globe. For successful vaccine delivery, precision control of transporting conditions such as temperature and light is crucial to safely storing, managing, and distributing vaccines. Essentially, monitoring parcels and containers every step from manufacturing plants to caregivers is paramount to secure the vaccine quality.

IoT from Telenor Connexion enables seamless IoT connectivity independent where the shipment is situated, supporting transparency and traceability in the cold chain throughout the entire process. Data from monitoring shipments must be safe and also shared where this is needed, Telenor Connexion can offer these services.

How does 5G accelerate IoT and its implementations such as container connectivity?

The 5G evolution will bring many improvements to containers, and some of them today are already available in 4G technologies, used for enterprises like Sony. At the heart of Sony Visilion’s offering, for instance, are physical trackers that customers can affix to medical equipment or shipping crates. These trackers use LTE-M, technology, which is a 5G-ready technology.

Mobile (cellular) network technology has many advantages over using GPS trackers to monitor containers as it works both indoors as well as outdoors. For instance, goods in transit stored in containers deep inside a large vessel cannot receive GPS signals to report their location. With mobile technology, goods are traceable at any time because they are connected throughout most parts of the journey. And when they connect, they constantly report their location. Global IoT connectivity allows goods to connect to all the networks in all the countries they pass through, using mobile networks enhanced with satellite if needed. While 4G can track a location within a few kilometers, 5G can increase accuracy to around 15 meters. This will bring new possibilities to scenarios such as industrial indoor positioning to locate a pallet of vaccines in a warehouse.

The 5G standards contain some improvements for location-based services, especially applicable for local 5G networks. Such a local 5G network could be deployed in a warehouse where containers are stored. In this case, the local 5G could exactly pinpoint where the container is. This is possible because smaller radio cells are used and also the local network is tailor configured for an enterprise.

When containers are in transport, for example on a ship or on a truck, they will be connected to a public (nationwide) 5G. Here the location-based services will initially be similar to 4G.

What are other key industry use cases and what role does Telenor Connexion play in supporting the accelerated adoption of IoT across industries?

Standalone IoT is growing and new business models are emerging from connected products. The next natural step in IoT is when data ecosystems are evolving – when stakeholders from different industries share their data.

Utilizing data from different industries will demonstrate 1+1=3 scenarios, in cases such as vehicles reporting road conditions to weather centrals. Telenor Connexion has a mediator enabling role in the interplay between stakeholders.

How does Telenor Connexion overcome cybersecurity challenges in IoT use cases?

We help IoT organizations address their greatest risks and find rapid and cost-effective ways to protect themselves and their information. We do this by delivering secure end-to-end VPN communication with encrypted private APNs. On top of this, we are private monitoring traffic and logs searching for anomalies that might indicate weaknesses.

As an industry-leading expert partner in connectivity that understands IoT and security to keep data secure, Telenor Connexion is also ISO27001 certified and operates our processes according to best practices.

With whom is Telenor Connexion partnering with in Asia?

Telenor Connexion is an MVNO that provides seamless multinetwork coverage in more than 200 countries across the globe, with typically 2-3 networks per country. That means that there are relations with the majority of operators in Asia where Telenor Connexion gets to use these networks based on a roaming basis.

As Telenor Group fully or partially owns MNOs in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Pakistan, there are deeper collaborations on both technical as well as customer-facing levels that create additional value. For some additional markets where there are roaming restrictions, there are technical solutions in place that can either change the identity of a SIM card to a local SIM or platform functionality that enables the customers to manage all SIM cards globally through one portal.

In Asia, for instance, Telenor Connexion is working with dtac and Digi to offer a suite of 4G and 5G IoT services to businesses in use cases such as remote surveillance, water management, smart metering. There is room for so much more growth and applications as countries continue to digitize.

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