Can IoT Help Preserve COVID-19 Vaccines During Shipping?

The race to manufacture a viable COVID-19 vaccine raises an important question: Given the logistical challenges of delivering vaccines to billions of people across the planet—with many stops along the way—how can they be safely distributed?

Vaccines need to be temperature-controlled or they will lose their efficacy. According to the International Air Transport Association’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics, currently, about a quarter of vaccines deteriorate due to mistakes during shipping, such as pallets being left out of cold storage for too long. Additionally, about 20% of temperature-sensitive biopharmaceutical products also degrade during shipping. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise worldwide, that rate of potential degradation could be devastating. Fortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) technology offers a potential solution.

Because IoT sensors can help logistics professionals spot and fix weaknesses in the supply chain, they can help preserve vaccines. For example, IoT sensors can be placed on vaccine pallets. These sensors can collect and analyze light, humidity, and temperature, as well as send notifications with location details to vaccine stakeholders if an issue arises. Additionally, once health care organizations receive the vaccines, they can refer back to a dashboard that gives them details about the vaccines’ transport details and supply chain history. 

A second IoT technique that can help vaccine distributors involves scannable barcodes that send data to a blockchain system in the cloud. Like the sensors, these barcodes collect supply chain history and send notifications when scanned. When a shipment is delivered, health care workers can scan the barcode and immediately receive details concerning the safety of the vaccines, as well as advice on how to preserve them based on their transport history.

Five Measures Organizations Can Take to Reduce IoT-Related Security Concerns

As IoT evolves, the number of connected devices and data collected grow exponentially. Therefore, privacy risks related to the technology are becoming an increasing concern. For example, by 2023, IoT endpoints overseen by chief information officers are expected to grow threefold from 2018, according to the IT service management company Gartner. Below are five steps organizations can take to reduce security risks related to IoT. 

  1. Security professionals need to be able to visibly identify all endpoints within an IP address. They also need to be able to analyze device information, including manufacturer names, models, serial numbers, and the type of firmware.
  2. Risk management must be routine for IoT deployments, given the complexity as new devices are continuously added.
  3. IoT devices typically process private data such as customer information, which may be housed separately from control systems. Therefore, protecting data within the IoT chain should be considered just as vital as securing IoT devices.
  4. Organizations need to know exactly who has access to IoT devices. They need to authenticate every user, allocate specific types of access only to users who should have that access, and ensure user credentials haven’t been stolen.
  5. Security professionals need to determine how to use analytics and monitoring capabilities in line with access policies. That is, if a monitoring tool detects a possible security breach, how can the tool be used to protect the affected device and connected networks?

Guide to the Internet of Things

Hearables work thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), which has the potential to completely transform the healthcare field and other industries. In the IEEE Guide to the Internet of Things, an eight-course program, participants learn about IOT-applications, challenges, and future opportunities. This program is designed for professionals working in engineering, IT, computer science, and related fields across all industries.

Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist to receive a custom quote for your organization today.

Interested in the course for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network!


Kaplan, Deborah Abrams. (11 August 2020). Why cold chain tracking and IoT sensors are vital to the success of a COVID-19 vaccine. Supply Chain Dive.

Fontaine, Arthur. (11 August 2020). The IoT domino effect: five steps to manage IoT risk. Information Age.

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