UCOT fully understand that for companies to adopt their world first supply chain technology, they need to make the transition from their customers’ legacy systems as smoothly as possible. UCOT’s CEO John Baird has been in many situations in his previous roles as CTO where potential vendors only offered the option of a solution that included a lengthy process to migrate to a new solution.
That’s why one of John’s first priorities has always been to ensure that UCOT’s world first supply chain technology works with any current product labelling system that their customers are already using. Or, if preferred, it can work independently of their legacy systems without any disruption to current systems that a company may have in place.
What is UCOT’s world first supply chain technology?
UCOT is a world first supply chain ecosystem built with the latest narrowband-IoT (hereafter NB-IoT) and blockchain technologies and provides total traceability of the supply chain in real time. UCOT starts with a small NB-IoT sensor which can be embedded in a product’s packaging. The sensor has its own battery life, can communicate in real-time with the internet, and commits the gathered information into a secure blockchain database.
The gathered information includes, but is not limited to:
· GPS data to trace and map out the geographical journey.
· Temperature, humidity, exposure to sunlight and other environmental conditions that may impact the quality of the product.
· Whether the product has been tampered with, removed from the packaging, or is subject to counterfeit.
What makes the UCOT solution so compelling is that the information gathered from the NB-IoT sensors is sent to a secure blockchain database in real time independently of any third parties needing to report back or scan barcodes / QR codes / NFC tags. What’s more, current product labelling methods can be kept in place as UCOT’s technology works independently of and is complementary to those.
How does UCOT’s supply chain technology work in practice?
Rather than having an NB-IoT sensor embedded in the packaging of each product, companies can start off by having one NB-IoT sensor per pallet or container. This has a few advantages:
· It minimizes the implementation costs as one IoT sensor can monitor and report on the status of all the products inside the pallet or container.
· It doesn’t interrupt a company’s current supply chain processes as they can continue to use their own method of labelling products, such as barcodes, QR codes and NFC tags.
· The current labels, when queried for information, can inherit all the information from the NB-IoT sensor monitoring all the products inside the packaging it’s been embedded in.
Let’s show you how this may play out in practice by using vaccines as an example. Vaccines can become less effective or even destroyed if they are exposed to temperatures outside the recommended storage range, usually between +2°C and +8°C. Therefore, it’s important to know at what temperature they are throughout the entire supply chain.
Another big issue for vaccines is that they are often subject to counterfeit and theft. We’ve actually been contacted by a South American country, who regularly gets sent shipments of vaccines straight from the factory in another country. However, after people had been treated with them it turned out some of the vaccines were actually counterfeit and were not just ineffective, but adversely impacted the health of the people that were administered the vaccines.
Normally vaccine vials are individually labelled with a barcode or QR code that can be scanned for information. The boxes in which the vials are transported will be similarly labelled, as well as the pallets on which they’re transported.
The issue with this type of labelling is that it doesn’t provide manufacturers and recipients of the vaccines with all the information they need. They lack oversight of the temperature in which the vaccines have been transported, while the labelling can be easily copied by counterfeiters or the content of the vials removed and inferior product inserted instead.
This is where the NB-IoT sensor comes into play. One NB-IoT sensor can be embedded in the pallet’s packaging and can monitor the integrity of the packaging of the pallet to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with. When it detects that the packaging has been tampered with, the NB-IoT sensor will send an alert to the manufacturer in real time. As the NB-IoT sensor also reports on GPS, the manufacturer will know exactly where in the supply chain the incident occurred and can take immediate action.
The NB-IoT sensor also monitors the temperature and other relevant environmental conditions of the pallet, which means that the manufacturer can ascertain whether the vaccines were transported in the right environmental conditions. Again, the manufacturer can be alerted immediately should preset parameters not be met.
When the pallet arrives at the end customer and the NB-IoT sensor hasn’t raised an alert for tampering with the packaging or a too high or too low temperature, the manufacturer can assure the end customer that they’re receiving the real product and that it was transported within the right temperature range.
The information from the NB-IoT sensor can be applied to all the vaccines within the pallet, up to the moment that the pallet is broken down in smaller parts. The manufacturer also has the ability to make the information of the supply chain available to their end customer. Should they choose to do so, this means that when the end customer scans a QR code of a vaccine vial, they can see the temperature was within the right parameters until they broke down the pallet’s packaging and that the vaccines weren’t subject to counterfeit. This helps manufacturers provide transparency of the supply chain and increase the confidence of the end customer.
It will depend on the supply chain of each product whether protecting the packaging at the pallet level provides the manufacturer and end customer with all the required information. After all, the pallet may be broken up in smaller parts before the product gets delivered to the end customer.
In that case, a decision can be made to embed NB-IoT devices in smaller packaging, such as a box. In the end, it all depends on the amount of assurance a manufacturer wants and the requirements the end customer has. We always recommend to start with a trial at pallet or box level and then drill down to individual products if more granular detail is required.