Embratel Launches IoT Solution for Health Management

By Edson Perin

The system enables pharmacy managers to access online drug information and make decisions.

Brazilian telephone operator Embratel has announced the development of two Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to monitor the quality of medicines at pharmacies. The offerings are being produced in partnership with Fibo, Sierra Wireless, Konker and Bunker.

The first solution allows the automatic monitoring of the temperature and humidity of medicines, as required by Anvisa, the country's national health agency, for use at pharmacies. Currently, such monitoring is performed manually, at least three times a day per sensor; each pharmacy has an average of three to four sensors.

Embratel's Elisabete Couto

Elisabete Couto, Embratel's director of IoT, says a second solution involves a connected vaccine cabinet, which needs to be monitored to ensure the quality of the products stored within. "For the solutions mentioned, Embratel and Claro [Embratel's mobile operator] will be the provider of NB-IoT connectivity," Couto says. "Konker provides the IoT platform, Bunker manufactures the vaccine cabinets, Sierra Wireless makes NB-IoT communication modules and Fibo provides temperature-monitoring and -control applications."

According to Embratel, measurements of store environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, are automatically collected and recorded by the system, thereby preventing human errors or omissions in the recording of measurements. The solution, Couto explains, "sends alerts and notifications if previously programmed thresholds are reached—for example, temperatures above 27 degrees Celsius or humidity below 30 percent."

Both solutions will employ the Cat-M1 NB-IoT communication standard, which Embratel says will connect a large number of sensors at a low cost. The solution is plug-and-play, the company reports, and a customer can simply plug the device into an outlet to have instant access to the generated data. "The projects use tags equipped with temperature and humidity sensors," Couto states, "which transmit information through a local mesh network to a communication gateway located in the pharmacy."

With the first system controlling environmental conditions, temperature and humidity sensors are distributed at strategic points at pharmacies. These sensors, using a local mesh network, transmit information to a communication gateway within the pharmacy, which uploads data to the Internet via the Claro NB-IoT network. That data is then stored in an application database, which is available for online access by the pharmacy owner. Using this app, a pharmacy can view the history of measurements and alarms, the extraction of reports and the monitoring of device operation, as well as other information.

The vaccine cabinet solution includes a communication module that enables the uploading of data to the Internet via the NB-IoT network. Similar to the environmental conditions control system, information is sent to an application that allows the pharmacy owner to access online measurements, reports and alerts.

"In the case of vaccine cabinets," Couto says, "the system will allow the continuous monitoring of temperature and humidity levels, and will signal malfunctions, open doors and power outages. With this approach, customers can eliminate costly installation steps for network or Wi-Fi infrastructure, and reduce the time required to monitor the equipment, improving the quality of the activity and minimizing the risk of the required disposal of high-value products like vaccines."

The technology is currently in the testing phase for certification by Anatel and InMetro. "Once certified," Couto explains, "pharmacies will be able to dispense manual temperature and humidity records, making their relationship with the regulator more predictable and less burdensome."

According to Couto, the process of developing IoT solutions happens in several stages with partner companies until an ideal solution is arrived at for a client. She says it is only with this format that a user can work on what she identifies as the four layers of the Internet of Things—devices, connection, integration and applications—and fully meet customers' demands.