Some really exciting IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled solutions are helping governments, communities, individuals, and organizations address some really tough global issues, such as how best to provide humanitarian disaster relief in times of crisis. As IoT companies bring connected devices and solutions to market, however, product testing must be a priority. Not only is security an issue for many IoT devices in today’s connected world, where data is a hot commodity, but so is quality and reliability, which are both key to ensuring continued adoption of IoT solutions and enabling maximum value for end users.
Product testing is particularly important for solutions that operate in vertical markets such as healthcare and medicine. Assets like pharmaceuticals must be monitored closely along the supply chain to ensure they maintain efficacy and safety. In particular, the delivery of temperature-sensitive medicines to remote and/or harsh environments may rely on IoT-enabled asset monitoring to provide crucial visibility into the transport process.
Currently in proof-of-concept and testing phases, the Skypod solution is a collaboration between AT&T, Softbox, a UK-based temperature-control packaging provider, and Softbox’s customer, pharmaceutical company Merck, that aims to safely and successfully deliver temperature-sensitive medicines using connected drones. Field trials have already taken place throughout areas of Puerto Rico. The Skypod consists of an LTE (long-term evolution)-connected drone, an IoT-enabled smartbox, and a thermal-insulated receptacle for packages—in this case, medicines.
AT&T provides the connectivity that allows the Skypod’s sensor data transmission, and the system’s Web and mobile app reporting dashboard uses the AT&T Asset Management Operations Center. AT&T’s network also supplies connectivity to the drones, providing a communications path for flight plan and telemetry data between the drone and ground control system. The system also provides near-realtime data about Skypod’s location, as well as internal and external temperatures of the box and, if applicable, light exposure data that would suggest a box had been opened or otherwise damaged. The two companies say Skypod is an adaptation of a previous “connected flask” prototype that was developed in the AT&T Foundry and showcased earlier this year.
If the connected drone solution comes to market, it would offer an innovative model for delivering temperature-sensitive medicines to people in remote areas and areas affected by natural disasters or other crises. Such a vital service could save lives and drastically support nations’ and organizations’ humanitarian disaster-relief efforts. It could also open doors to similar solutions, such as delivering other types of emergency equipment, provisions, or temperature-sensitive items.
In order to accomplish these missions—notably, saving lives during times of extreme need—the solution will need to be thoroughly tested. After all, IoT solutions that offer great promise are only as good as they are effective in the heat of the moment. In a connected world, the need for vigorous product testing and heightened security measures built into the manufacturing and product testing processes are more important than ever.
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