Congratulations to our neighbours on the science park, AstraZeneca and Oxford University for their success in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s great to see British science excelling and in these difficult times, we’re now able to see a way out of the pandemic.
The vaccine has had a bumpy road with rumours of deaths around their trials and suspected side affects but thankfully none of these were true and finally on 30th December 2020 it was given MHRA approval and 100 million doses are now being produced for the UK.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University should be highly praised for their efforts over the past year in developing a vaccine which is effective and produced at cost, not making a large profit from such a global crisis.
It’s been a long road and a tough Christmas for everyone but the end is coming, lets hope we can celebrate Easter normally.
With discussions about a vaccine being available as early as September, something we all hope happens, if not sooner, once the vaccine is available in large quantities it will need to be distributed. Forgetting about the politics of where the vaccine is manufactured and where it is to be distributed, there are logistics issues to be addressed when moving vaccines around.
Vaccines usually need to be kept at between 1 – 8°C and sometimes much tighter controlled temperatures such as 2 – 5°C. Specialist packaging normally is used to ensure the temperature does not exceed these strict limits and a temperature logger is included with shipments to provide assurance that this has been the case.
Once delivered, the vaccine is stored in fridges for longer term storage until it can be used or reaches its expiry date. Fridges are also monitored using temperature loggers which can be designed for longer durations than those used for shipping. Infrequent checking with a USB device or real-time monitoring is normal, so that if a problem occurs and the fridge is showing a rise in temperature, staff are alerted before the contents of the fridge are damaged.
Temperature monitoring is of vital importance for vaccines because if the vaccine has exceeded its temperature limits it can be damaged. Further, there is no way to tell from the naked eye if this has happened, it will still look exactly the same and if used, the patient will live their life believing they are safe from a dangerous disease when they are not.
Hopefully, it is a question of when, not if, there is a Covid-19 vaccine and it will be one of the most sought after medical products ever. As such, it will require a huge volume of medical shipments, packaging and the services that go with it for many months if not years. The distribution challenge will be huge, given the millions of people who will need to be immunised to kill off this virus for good and the difficulty of reaching some regions, achieving this successfully will be no small feat.
Certainly, from the camaraderie we have seen across the globe in efforts to suppress coronavirus so far, it gives us great hope that everyone will work together when a vaccine is available to distribute it as quickly and safely as possible.
Like all businesses in the UK we are following Government guidelines and our staff are working from home where possible. We are still here to answer your calls, emails and enquiries and are still able to fulfil orders.
We are working with our partners to try and keep our stock available during this time. Shipping of fresh produce and pharmaceuticals will continue throughout the lockdown and we will do our best to support our customers through this time.
Smashtag which manufactures a Bluetooth temperature logger for temperature monitoring sensitive products through the cold chain industry has teamed up with LINKFRESH, the leading global provider of supply chain ERP solutions for the fresh produce industry. Smashtag has recently launched its low cost wireless temperature logger, ‘Chill’ which uses Bluetooth to download the recorded temperatures to a smartphone, making it much easier for customers to get their temperature data back securely without expensive custom radio equipment.
The partnership with LINKFRESH will allow customers to integrate the recorded temperature data directly from Smashtag Chill into their ERP system. The temperature data can then be attached to the appropriate consignment, quality control or traceability record and enable rapid identification of any shipment at risk of temperature damage, as well as building a complete traceability picture for that shipment.
Matt Sims, Smashtag MD says “It’s great to find a local partner where we can maximise the usefulness of shipping temperature data with a customer’s internal ERP system. We know that linking both systems will be of great benefit to customers, reducing the time and effort required to ensure the highest quality of products.”
Richard Jones CIO at LINKFRESH says, ”At LINKFRESH we are always looking for ways to innovate and increase the value of data to our customers. For many years LINKFRESH has electronically captured traceability data throughout the fresh produce supply chain; this partnership with Smashtag adds another dimension to the data. We are very excited about the possibilities the partnership with Smashtag will provide.”
We’ve launched Smashtag Chill, our Bluetooth Temperature Logger for monitoring your shipments. Used in conjunction with the Smashtag Chill app for both Android and iPhone devices, the new data logger monitors the cold chain more easily, quickly and at a lower cost than traditional approaches. Ideal for use in the transport of fresh produce, frozen foods, refined foodstuffs (such as chocolate, wine and cheese) and pharmaceuticals, Smashtag stores data securely in the Cloud and makes it available for authorised users anywhere in the world to access.
The new Smashtag Chill temperature logger works with any smartphone or tablet
Ease of use and sharing of data
The state-of-the-art temperature logger could not be simpler to use. To start logging the temperature, users simply press the button on the tag, which can either be attached to a box via its self-adhesive pad or left loose in a container. If, during shipment, the temperature exceeds pre-set limits, the red alarm light will begin to flash. Once the product has arrived at its destination, the recorded temperature data can be downloaded via Bluetooth using the Smashtag app on an Android or iOS device by again pressing the button on the tag. Once downloaded, the temperature data is sent up to the Cloud where it is stored and shared with the appropriate parties.
Matt Sims, MD of Smashtag, said, “The market research we undertook at the beginning of our product development found that a number of companies had boxes full of old USB data loggers that they needed to get rid of and, on further discussion, we were told that a number of them had never been downloaded because they couldn’t get the software to work! Meanwhile, the suppliers who put the loggers in the containers at source complained that they never got the data back from their customers, so it was clear there was a problem we could solve.”
“As almost everybody has a smartphone and wireless networks are everywhere,” explained Matt Sims, “Bluetooth was an obvious technology choice. Being low cost and simple to use, we believe Smashtag will allow more people to acquire temperature data more quickly.” In addition, with Smashtag the cold chain remains unbroken. “Although many refrigerated trucks and containers today are temperature-monitored,” continued Matt Sims, “your product can be moved between vehicles, breaking the chain of data. With a Smashtag within your packaging, you can be sure your product has been kept within the correct temperature range throughout its journey.”
Data security was a key consideration in the design of the new system. “USB devices pose a big security risk,” said Matt Sims. “If someone wanted to hack into your system, installing a virus or malware via a USB device would be a perfect way to do it. The risk is so great that cyber security specialists are starting to advise businesses to avoid using USB devices altogether.” Smashtag temperature data can be downloaded by any phone with the app anywhere in the world, but not everyone is allowed to see it. Once the data is downloaded from the tag, it is sent to the account of the tag’s owner in the Cloud. “Your temperature data being protected is important but more important is making sure Smashtag is not a back door into your company’s wider internal systems,” added Matt Sims.
Accurate and robust
Smashtag Chill’s casework provides IP67 protection and the device can operate safely in a temperature range of -30˚C to +70˚C. The sensor on the Smashtag is specified to ±0.5°C and the product is CE, FCC and IC approved. Powered by alkaline batteries, there are no restrictions for use in the holds of aircraft and the logger has a minimum operational life of 45 days and a shelf life of 12 months.
Smashtag uses alkaline rather than lithium batteries for environmental and safety reasons and the company also offers recycling as part of its service to customers. March 5, 2019
There are certain industries in which it is absolutely crucial for logistics companies to keep products within a strict temperature range. Two of these Industries include pharmaceuticals and fresh produce. Here, we explain a little more about the importance and issues facing businesses operating within these industries and what they can do to protect from losses.
In the case of pharmaceuticals, maintaining temperatures within a certain range is crucial to the efficacy of the medicine. If drugs are allowed to become too hot or too cold, it can render them useless and they can even become harmful. At the very least it can reduce their effectiveness. The greatest danger is if the recipient of a pharmaceuticals order is unaware of the cold chain breach. Without knowledge that the efficacy of the drugs may have been compromised, clinicians may treat people with drugs that are unlikely to have the desired effect or vaccinate individuals with vaccines that are unlikely to provide the presumed protection. The knock-on effect of that speaks for itself.
Perishable produce is another area in which an ambient temperature is crucial. Well managed transportation is key in reducing the risk of the food becoming rotten and slowing down the process of decay by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Certain foods, in particular meat and fish, can become harmful to the consumer if they are allowed to become too warm. Fresh meat for example should be kept at an optimum temperature of 1.5°C. The two outcomes of failing to keep perishable food fresh by maintaining an optimum temperature are wastage and illness – these outcomes are disastrous for both company and consumer.
How much are we wasting?
In the developed world there are strict rules and regulations regarding the cold chain and on the whole every possible precaution is taken to ensure that cold chains and temperature ranges are adhered to. The trickiest part is monitoring to ensure that no breach has occurred. Maintaining a specific temperature range throughout the process of transportation can be challenging. In the United States, estimates suggest that 12% of total food waste happens as a result of failure to provide appropriate refrigeration during transportation.
The solutions – are they really enough?
Currently many logistics companies use USB temperature loggers in transportation containers to check that the storage temperatures do not rise too high or drop too low. USB monitors however can be fiddly and time-consuming to use and can even pose a security risk. Cyber security companies are now advising businesses to ban USB devices as they are considered a security threat. Viruses and malware can be stored on USB devices and then transferred into business IT systems with disastrous consequences.
A new dawn…
The new alternative from Smashtag is a state-of-the-art Bluetooth device which is simpler and safer to use than the old-style USBs. Our Bluetooth device uses a simple mobile app to report on temperature fluctuations occurring whilst products are being transported. The device works via a self-adhesive pad which can be attached to a box or left loose in a container. The device records temperature and reports any undesirable fluctuations to the ‘Chill’ app, which then sounds an alarm. The Chill app not only records the data but also uploads the information to the Cloud and this information can then be viewed by anyone who needs to see it. The Chill app and device are accurate, simple to use and provide easy to access data. A straightforward and modern solution to the problem of transporting goods at an optimum temperature? We think so! Why not give it a try to see how much easier it could make your cold storage shipments?
Cyber security is a growing concern of businesses and individuals alike. The dangers of software and systems being targeted that are vital for the running of an organisation with the potential for personal data and intellectual property to be stolen mean that the concern is certainly warranted.
Many cyber security companies are now advising that companies ban the use of USB devices as these often represent the easiest way to access devices connected to a network. The small USB memory sticks that replaced my stack of CD’s actually have a big problem, viruses and other malware could be loaded onto them without me knowing.
In 2018 IBM banned it’s staff from using portable plug-in devices to reduce the risk from cyber attacks. The debate continues as to whether this is completely enforceable and what impact it has to productivity and work habits however it is a simple way to close a very open security door.
We made the decision not to have a USB connector on the Smashtag temperature logger for security, environmental robustness and ease-of-use reasons. In the pharmaceutical industry in particular, security of intellectual property is vital for keeping a competitive edge and for our other customers, security must be a priority, as our lives and businesses run on computer systems.
Lithium batteries have been a revolution for many battery driven devices as they provide a much higher energy density then previous technologies and thanks to their large volume production they are also available a low cost. The major problem that they have compared to other chemistries is their volatility. Lithium is abundant in the universe but is very reactive. A favourite science experiment of mine is to simply drop lithium metal into a bucket of water and watch it go!
Speaking to a chemistry professor as part of our original business developments in technology his opinion was that it is the membranes in the batteries that cause the problems as they themselves can be volatile, rather than the lithium itself being the root cause of explosive reactions, but regardless, they are classed for transportation purposes as “Dangerous Goods”.The reasons for this classification are obvious, over the past 10 years there have been several major accidents caused by Lithium batteries. In 2010 a UPS 747 crashed in Dubai due to an onboard fire said to have been caused by lithium batteries and other cargo plane crashes have also been linked to fires started by them. These incidents have led to tighter regulations on how these batteries are allowed to be transported.
For the purposes of temperature loggers, the IATA regulations mean that you only need to declare the lithium batteries in your shipment, if one of your packages contains more than 5 temperature loggers. This also assumes that there is no damage to any of the loggers or the batteries included in them, that the battery is fitted inside the logger and is not attached to the logger as spares or as an additional power source, that all the batteries inside the data loggers meet the requirements set out in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria 38.3 and that the batteries contain less than 1g of lithium.
For safety and environmental reasons Smashtag Chill does not use lithium batteries and instead we have chosen to use two ordinary Alkaline cells to provide the necessary power. Regulations are constantly changing and some carriers have stricter rules on which types of lithium batteries they will transport for you. This article is meant to provide useful but basic background information and should not be considered as offering legal or safety advice for transporting lithium batteries. Any would be shipper of products containing lithium batteries should review the official documentation provided by the chosen carrier and if in doubt seek expert advice.
Smashtag Chill is being developed to meet a broad and growing market for temperature monitoring of shipments – ensuring that goods arrive in the best possible condition, and in so doing nurturing the relationship between all those involved in the ‘cold’ chain through easy access to reliable data.
Smashtag Chill evolved from comments made by an existing laboratory equipment customer about problems that they were having, and whether IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) could be the basis for making both temperature logging more straightforward and the data more accessible.
Since that first idea, we have conducted extensive market research across companies and sectors ranging from pharmaceutical multinationals to artisan foodstuffs suppliers, and including veterinary, life sciences, fresh and frozen produce, importers, exporters as well as packaging companies.
In more than 200 conversations and face-to-face discussions it soon became clear that, while there were solutions in the market, none was really meeting users’ requirements for being easy-to-use, providing useful data and at the same time being cost-effective.
Some of those we spoke to had spent years trying to find an appropriate solution, others had ‘given up’ and just did what they felt was best in terms of thermally-insulated packaging while others just accepted a level of returns without knowing where the problems lay or who was to blame.
Some companies felt ‘under the cosh’ in terms of looming legislation over temperature-sensitive goods or just did not know how to gather the data necessary to establish best practice. Some just passed the problem on to their customers – or at least those customers willing to pay for monitoring!
In parallel and based on the experience the founders of Smashtag have built up of a wide range of IIOT applications, a technical development was initiated taking in rapid-prototyping, concurrent engineering and structured software development as well a range of advanced design tools.
We plan to have initial sample quantities of Smashtag Chill available in Q4 2018, and hope that you’ll be as excited about this new type of temperature monitoring tag as we are!