From Ice Cream to Organs: Five Unusual Items Tracked by the IoT

The Internet of Things can be quite effective as an asset-tracking tool.
Published: March 24, 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT) is typically associated with smart homes or vehicles. One compelling, and perhaps lesser known, use case for the IoT is asset tracking. The IoT can enable items to be tracked anywhere, any place, at any time. It can also provide information about an item’s state and environment, including the level of humidity or light exposure, or any evidence of tampering.

Ice Cream
Those in the business of selling and shipping ice cream face quite a logistical challenge: how to transport the popular icy desert across the terrains of varying climates. No one likes melted ice cream, especially not when it hits profit margins. If ice cream arrives at its destination spoiled, it could cost the manufacturer thousands of dollars. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of temperature changes during transit.

For example, in one case of spoiled ice cream, an IoT-enabled asset tracker pinpointed the exact moment when the temperature changed and caused the ice cream to defrost—it was when the shipment was transferred from one vehicle to another at a depot. This type of information has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, in addition to protecting a company’s reputation.

Vaccines and Medicines
The pharmaceutical sector ships time-critical and extremely sensitive assets. Take vaccines, for example. Pharmaceutical companies must now ensure that a shipment of vaccines is closely monitored and secure in order to ensure its safe arrival at its destination, wherever in the world that may be. With advances in cellular, GPS and location-based technologies, it is now possible to pinpoint the exact location of these vital assets, thereby enabling quick and decisive action should an issue occur. The IoT can also track environmental variables, such as temperature, humidity and exposure to light, which may damage medical cargo.

Organ Transplants
It is hard to think of a more precious and time-sensitive delivery to track than blood or organs scheduled for transplant. In addition to monitoring temperature and other environmental variables, tracking can enable vital minutes to be saved. It is possible for the delivery company to geofence a hospital, enabling an automatic alert to be sent as soon as an organ arrives, or even when it is close to arrival, helping to ensure hospital personnel are on hand to collect the delivery. In this case, every second counts.

Exam Papers
The delivery of exam papers is not a particularly risky business. However, returning the completed answers from students is a different story! It is not uncommon for sacks of completed examinations to go missing if they are not tracked. It may be the case that a courier has lost a package, or that it has been left behind in a depot. This can cost an examination board thousands per delivery. Trackers can locate the assets and, importantly, also detect tampering by monitoring if the package has been exposed to light or been opened.

Human Remains
Lastly, and perhaps most sobering, is the use of the IoT to track the transportation of human remains. For example, at companies that specialize in turning ashes into precious jewelry, IoT technology can assist the accurate tracking of such a sensitive cargo. This can help to ensure compliance with shipping regulation, which can vary according to each country.

Through a combination of sophisticated sensor technologies and advances in cellular technology, the scope for accurate asset tracking via the IoT has increased significantly, providing organizations with valuable savings in terms of speed, cost, service and reputation.

Mohsen Mohseninia is the VP of market development for Europe at Aeris. He has more than 18 years of experience in the telecommunications sector, where he has engaged with C-levels to define, design and deliver business solutions, enhancing efficiency and productivity. Prior to joining Aeris in 2013, Mohsen was the head of M2M for Logica in the U.K., responsible for the development of strategy, go-to-market and sales. Prior to that, he spent more than four years in the Middle East and Africa, where he established a telecom business for Logica in the region. Mohsen holds a Ph.D. degree in numerical computations from the university of Hertfordshire, in the U.K.

Richard Jennings is the CEO and co-founder of TrackerSense. Previously an entrepreneurial telecoms executive, Richard has been responsible for the strategic direction, governance and financial management of an international multi-platform telecom operator in emerging markets, and also a fast-growing B2C UK-based telecom provider. Most recently, he led the disposal of the B2C customer base to the Post Office. An expert in high-growth strategies and management buy-and-build opportunities, he has an in-depth understanding of the financial and technical challenges faced by global telecoms in today’s competitive marketplace.