The COVID vaccine is a goldmine for the digital supply chain monitoring industry

CHICAGO: More than half of vaccines go to waste globally every year due to temperature control, logistics and shipping problems.

Logistical obstacles pose a significant risk to rapid deployment efforts COVID-19 vaccines, but have led to a boom in business for companies like California-based private Cloudleaf, German SAP SE, and others that sell technology for tracking shipments from factory freezer to shot in the arm.

Cloudleaf, supported by Intel Capital, the risk arm of chip maker Intel Corp., uses sensors attached to material containers to track location, temperature, humidity, vibration and acceleration.

Sensors send data to the cloud, where an artificial intelligence algorithm can predict if action is required to prevent a product from being exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range, known as excursions.

Cloudleaf CEO Mahesh Veerina said orders were up 500% this year. To keep up, the company had to expand its workforce and increase capital spending by up to 80%. A similar growth in capital spending is expected in 2021.

“I have CEOs calling and saying ‘Hey, can we do this in the next 4-5 weeks’?” Veerina said.

The business boom has also increased the need for new capital. Cloudleaf has raised millions of dollars this year and plans to raise “very significant” capital next year as well, Veerina said.

The vaccine from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech must be shipped and stored in extremely cold temperatures or on dry ice and can only last in standard refrigerator temperatures for up to five days.

In contrast, Moderna Inc’s vaccine, which is expected to receive U.S. regulatory clearance as soon as Friday, can be stored in a regular refrigerator for up to a month.

These varying requirements have increased the risks of logistical incidents.

According to the International Air Transport Association, a quarter of all vaccines are degraded by the time they arrive at their destination due to incorrect shipping procedures. Losses associated with temperature excursions in the healthcare sector are estimated at approximately $ 35 billion annually.

Given the scale and breadth of the COVID-19 With the launch of the vaccine, losses could be significantly higher in 2021, analysts said.

At least two trays of COVID-19 The vaccine doses delivered to California needed to be replaced after their storage temperatures dropped below minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit), US Army General Gustave Perna said Wednesday.

Blockchain and sensor-enabled cold chain monitoring tools can help reduce losses and mitigate the risks of vaccine theft or counterfeiting.

Moderna uses SAP’s digital solutions to help serialize and distribute its vaccine. Applications are designed to prevent counterfeiting of medicines and allow collaboration with contract manufacturers and wholesalers.


Similarly, Israeli startup Varcode, which produces smart tags that measure time and temperature and can track and trace products throughout the supply chain, has seen a multiple increase in orders.

Before the pandemic, orders for Varcode tags would range from 100,000 to 1 million units. Since the middle of this year, CEO Joe Battoe said some of the companies involved in the distribution of the vaccine have been asking for billions of tags. This, in turn, has led to a 200% increase in Varcode’s capital spending this year.

Battoe said the pandemic “has been good for our business”.

Varcode’s low-cost cloud-based, blockchain-enabled technology not only sends alerts when a product exceeds the prescribed temperature range, but also captures the cumulative time that the product has been outside the temperature range.

Its smart tags are serialized and a smartphone is enough to scan them. Each scan leaves a digital trace, reducing the risk of theft or counterfeiting.

Labels can track individual vials, making them more suitable for vaccine distribution in small, rural areas that may require fewer than the minimum number of doses.

Varcode tags are made in Israel. Growing demand, however, prompted Varcode to invest in a unique printer and applicator that would generate the tags at the site where the vaccines are made and apply them to the carts going down the conveyor in real time.

Battoe believes the global market for $ 5 billion cold chain monitoring technology could grow 50 percent next year, thanks to the vaccine’s launch.

“I don’t think we would attract attention … if it weren’t for the size and sensitivity of these vaccines,” Battoe said.