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Vaccine Monitoring for Healthcare Applications

By John Ebury

February 13, 2022


DPS Telecom gear is frequently utilized by utility, telecom, and transportation companies. I recently worked to provide a solution for a less common industry from us: medical. This client was needing a solution to monitor their freezers and refrigerators used for vaccine storage.

All Industries Have Critical Equipment in Need of Quality Alarm Monitoring

Although this client wasn't a utility or telecom company, they still shared the common thread of protecting critical infrastructure. It started by an incoming email. Here is a snippet:

Auto alarm notifier that can handle 4 separate temperature readings (for example fridge, regular freezer, and ultra cold temp -90C readings) and capable of making phone calls to notify of temperature excursions. Something similar to a Sensaphone 1400.

Also, sensor probes that monitor vaccine freezer and refrigerator temperatures that can communicate with the alarm notifier.

What my client was looking for is referred to as an "auto dialer" (or "autodialer"). When used for monitoring, a basic autodialer includes:

  • The ability to dial an emergency contact(s) via phone when an alarm occurs.
  • A voice message replayed to the emergency contact. This is usually either a prerecorded message, or a pre-recorded message in your own voice.
  • Capability of acknowledging or clearing the alarm over the phone.
  • Additional features that may provide for the capability to accept incoming calls for status checking or even programming.

Early Failure Detection Coupled With Instant Notification Reduces Your Risks

With the rise of the recent pandemic, the need for temperature monitoring with alarming has increased within the medical industry. Practically, the consideration of temperature ranges when storing the vaccine is critical for its shelf life.

Pfizer-BioNTech released a storage and handling summary for the COVID-19 vaccine, which includes temperature ranges for:

  • Ultra-Cold Freezer: -90C and -60C (-130F and -76F)
  • Freezer: -25C and -15C (-13F and 5F)
  • Refrigerator: 2C and 8C (36F and 46F)

Based on the manufacturer's storage requirements, there were clear temperature ranges which needed to be followed. Not only that, it was obvious there was a serious need for early failure detection. We were dealing with what may be considered potential life-saving measures for some.

Not All Off-the-Shelf Vendors Are Alarm Monitoring Experts

There are plenty of off-the-shelf products that meet the basic requirements for our client. With RTUs or auto dialers, it's a pretty simple procedure to call a contact when dangerous temperatures are detected. However, when handling sensitive medical supplies extra consideration must be given.

Those of you familiar with Murphy's law know exactly why you shouldn't settle for basic solutions. Especially so, when items of a critical nature are at risk. For our client, this was their highly sensitive medical supplies (and potential lives) which needed that extra consideration.

As you can see, there is more than just a financial impact that would be felt, should the vaccine storage temperatures become compromised.

Redundancy Provides You With Fail-Safe and Risk Reduction

Basic solutions don't provide for redundancy. An auto-dialer can perform one form of notification - a phone call. What about the other forms of communication which provide an equally (or more) effective notification? When you couple notifications such as emailing and SMS/text messages with phone calls, you create a redundant notification system.

In order to create a redundant notification system, you're going to need the added feature of an Ethernet port. An Ethernet port will now allow you to communicate across your LAN and/or internet connection. Paired with a traditional phone line (POTS) connection or wireless connection (3G/4G/5G or LoRaWAN), you now have created network redundancy.

If you don't have redundancy within your solution, then your solution is not giving you maximum risk reduction. Refer to Murphy's Law when choosing your solution. Redundancy is key to minimizing risk.

Exceeding Your Minimum Requirements Doesn't Have to Hurt Your Budget

I was ready to put together my recommended solution for this particular client. The NetGuardian LT G2 was the perfect fit for my client's needs. It included all the requirements for my client and offered further value than just a basic off-the-shelf product.

The NetGuardian LT G2 is part of DPS Telecom's small-capacity RTUs. It's equipped with the following features:

  • Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) connection meeting my client's basic requirement. This provides a voice message via a phone call for alarm notification.
  • Ethernet Port to connect to your LAN and/or internet. Paired with the POTS, it creates a redundant communication and notification network. You can now have alarm notifications sent via email and SMS text notifications.
  • D-Wire Sensor port for communication with DPS sensors. This is perfect for monitoring the temperatures of freezers and refrigerators.
  • Analog inputs allowing connection of sensors for additional monitoring points.
  • Low current draw (100-200 mA at -48/24VDC), which limits battery draw when running on emergency backup power.

Your Project Deserves Equipment That Meets Operation Specifications AND Intended Application

My next task at hand was to pair a few temperature sensors for the identified temperature zones. Temperature surveillance is a common component of site monitoring. There were many sensors to choose to from. For this particular order, a temperature sensor with an external probe would be appropriate.

After a rather routine task of selecting a temperature probe for the refrigerator, I encountered a conundrum. We only had one temperature probe rated for -130F in our inventory. After closer review, I learned its design was intended for measuring the surface temperature of pipes. This project required a perfect match, so I moved on to my next option.

Relying on Reputable Vendors Ensures High Quality and Durable Gear for You And Your Project

At DPS, we sometimes find ourselves in this situation: having to source a niche product for specialized project. We have established relationships with manufacturers and vendors for this precise scenario. For temperature probes, we choose reputable names such as Vaisala and Thermalogic to source from.

Not much time elapsed after contacting our vendors, before I had the perfect sensor for the project. First, I found a sensor which exceeded our needs, with a range of -148F to 122F. Now, with an appropriate sensor added to our inventory, I was ready to present a proposed solution for our vaccine monitoring project.

You Need a Partner for Your Project's Success - Not Just Pricing

I put together a topology for this proposal and included it with the proposal. This has proven to be very effective for our clients. With every proposal, the illustration provides our client with clear understanding on how our solution recommendation works with their stated needs. The most value arises when our clients communicate key details not disclosed when the project was initially conceptualized. We can then update our quote PDF to include the right equipment.

DPS Can Provide a Solution for Your Project - Regardless of Your Industry

The proposed solution was promptly accepted by our client. At DPS, our gear is not designed for one industry in mind. Telecom and healthcare may seem very different, but any industry has the potential to benefit from alarm monitoring.

Contact us today at 559-454-1600 and have DPS provide you with a solution tailored to your needs.

John Ebury

John Ebury

John "JP" Ebury has a background in Technology and years of experience in Writing, Project Management and Quality Management. With 13 years of previous experience in a government agency, his attention to detial makes him the ideal person to provide assistance with even the most challenging procu...