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Why QR codes will play a major role in COVID-19 vaccine shipping
As the world gears up to move past the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain companies have been grappling with vaccine delivery issues. All of the vaccines developed thus far require specific storage conditions that put immense strain on existing cold chain monitoring solutions.
The most challenging constraint has been the need to store the vaccine at temperatures ranging from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius to -70 degrees Celsius.
The storage time for each vaccine also differs, with some requiring constant monitoring for close to 6 months. Traditionally, products that require storage in such frigid conditions are transported with dry ice boxes, with condition monitoring sensors and data loggers placed inside the box.
As flawed as this type of solution may be, there are newer options available, and condition loggers that sync with database platforms using dynamic QR codes could make a big difference in the months ahead. With the world having already started shipping vaccines to distribution hubs, keeping the supply chain reliable, transparent and affordable will be critical.
Ease of use
There are many data logging solutions that the logistics industry has relied on over the years for collecting information on shipping conditions.
The most widely used solution is the RFID scanner. These devices rely on radio waves to transmit data back to control centers. Traditional RFID tags aren't compatible with dry ice shipments, however, as they need special technology enhancements to work in these extra cold conditions. These modifications drive prices higher and reduce the margin of error across the supply chain.
Even if costs weren’t an issue, though, using an RFID system isn't straightforward. Employees need to be equipped with special scanners that can gather data from RFID tags. If conditions happen to be unfriendly towards radio waves, RFID systems tend to be less than reliable.
Other dry ice-compatible data logging technology is likewise tricky to use. Bluetooth data loggers work only if the receiver is within a fixed range of the data logger, and signal disruption is a known issue. USB data loggers are susceptible to cyberattacks. What’s more, these devices have to be placed within the dry ice box itself and unfrozen before their data can be captured. Continuous monitoring is a challenge as a result.
QR code data loggers, such as the ones developed by Finnish company Logmore, have changed the nature of data logging. These loggers are attached to sensors that are placed within the dry ice container and transmit data to small QR code screens placed on the surface of the box.
As a result, anyone with a smartphone can scan the code and transmit data, at any moment in any stage of the supply chain.
These inexpensive devices display updated QR codes every few minutes, and this makes constant monitoring a breeze.
The COVID-19 vaccine might be one of the most critical shipments the world has ever had to deal with. Monitoring the condition of the vaccine deliveries through easy-to-use and reliable devices is critical. Industry experts estimate that 25% of vaccines arrive at their destinations in an unusable state.
Despite all the precautions that logistics companies take, packages tend to get knocked around. And the freight industry has been scrambling to get outfitted with deep freeze-friendly containers.
RFID tags and USB sensors cease to work when they move out of place or get damaged in some way. Similarly, Bluetooth transmitters can get knocked out of place and move out of the range in which they can transmit data.
All of these disadvantages make QR code data loggers an increasingly obvious choice. These blocks of shapes can store a surprising amount of information. Using GQ codes, data can be embedded both vertically and horizontally, which means multiple variables can be stored and tracked at once. This is in contrast to standard barcodes that can store data just horizontally.
Even if a portion of the QR code logger is damaged or if the code doesn't display fully, an employee can still scan the code and retrieve information. QR codes are extremely resilient and are built to withstand the rigors of international shipment. These loggers are also extremely adaptable and can be used to track vaccine transports. This makes them extremely scalable.
Transparent and accessible
Without the need for specialized software or hardware, QR code data loggers allow logistics companies to share shipment condition related data with their customers easily. Given the criticality of the vaccine shipments, condition monitoring data has to be accessible for everyone, including the consumer.
EU laws already stipulate that all medicinal packaging requires QR codes that detail all product information. While there aren't any plans to provide vaccine shipments to consumers in this manner as yet, the EU's standard shows how QR codes make data more accessible.
Such a scenario is impossible when using USB data loggers or RFID scanners. The need for special software that captures data alone makes it impossible for it to be distributed easily.
QR code data loggers such as the ones developed by Logmore are fully compatible with dry ice shipments and integrate with automated reporting to stakeholders. They require no additional infrastructure. Stakeholders don't even need to install an app. Data is accessible across both desktop and mobile platforms, and the multiple data points tracked can be aggregated into an analytics package.
Elegantly low tech makes for a compelling choice
On the surface of it, QR codes seem like a low-tech option, and companies might fall into the trap of chasing the most complicated sounding solution. Dry ice-compatible QR code data loggers are an elegant and simple solution to traditional condition monitoring constraints. The world will soon recognize the vital role they'll play over the coming year.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes
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