At FedEx, sensors and analytics fuel COVID-19 vaccine distribution

FedEx is relying on insights from its SenseAware ID IoT system and Microsoft’s Azure machine learning software to ensure coronavirus vaccines reach their final destinations.

At FedEx, sensors and analytics fuel COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Michaela Dusikova / Getty Images

Global logistics companies play an outsize role in ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines get to healthcare systems worldwide. For one of those shipping companies a decade-long effort to perfect package tracking is paying off, enabling stakeholders to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of coronavirus medications.

FedEx is using a sophisticated technology network to keep tabs on the millions of vaccine vials en route through a sprawling logistics pipeline that includes pharmaceutical companies, ground and air transportation giants, and healthcare systems responsible for administering the medications.

The network includes sensors and a cloud analytics platform that helps stakeholders monitor the progress of shipments in near real-time, according to FedEx CIO Rob Carter. “The proliferation of the internet of things has created a whole new ecosystem” for logistics, Carter tells, adding that FedEx has been awarded more than 50 patents for sensor-based logistics.

As the pandemic rages on, distribution of coronavirus vaccines is the most important mission for pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer and Moderna and their logistics partners in 2021. FedEx, United Parcel Service, DHL International and other delivery services companies ensure the medications are shipped in ultra-cold temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, or -70 degrees Celsius. Such cold chain storage, as the process is known, is key because exposure to higher temperatures may spoil the serum or at least reduce its potency.

But with countries struggling to meet their vaccination targets, pharmaceutical companies are ramping up production, heaping additional pressure on partners to ensure the medications are stored properly and distributed in a timely fashion.

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