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Given what the world is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I suppose one could say there are benefits to growing up in a country which was always at war. I was a soldier as a volatile South Africa transitioned to democracy. Because of my experiences, I am called upon when change is about to happen in an industry, the future is uncertain, and energy and heavy lifting are in high demand. I know how to deliver in situations where there is chaos and no clear answers.

I programmed some of the first e-commerce websites in Africa and I witnessed some of the first global intranets being rolled out by big corporations. I was involved in business development when the world moved from dumbphones to smart phones. I saw the death of retail and the birth of e-commerce, which started as a trickle and became a flood. I witnessed, first hand, the implosion of the publishing industry.

The latest chapter in my life puts me smack dab in the middle of yet another upheaval, as I re-enter the world of cold chain management, via my association with DeltaTrak. The project that initially brought me into DeltaTrak’s sphere was the company I started called MOST. In 2013 my brother, who is a large citrus exporter, was in need of a real-time tracker that was not yet available on the market. Within nine months, we had built the first prototypes using off-the-shelf components and open source software. Our revolutionary monitor was one of the first IoT products in an M2M telematics space.

During a time that will undoubtedly be remembered as the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II, logistics and supply chain experts are forced to develop new strategies for meeting the ever-increasing demand for shipping food, PPE and other products to consumers around the world. The impending mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will create yet another level of uncertainty, specifically in terms of transport (mainly air) and storage. As the air-cargo industry develops plans to ship an estimated 20 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, the question everyone is asking is, “Are they ready?” Furthermore, are the dispensing locations ready to effectively manage storage of the vaccines once received?

When I was in business development in the publishing industry (2008/2009), I floated the idea that we should buy a mobile operator, because of my belief that content is only as strong as its distribution channel. And what better distribution channel than an operator and companion electronic devices? Where the COVID-19 vaccine is concerned, distribution will also be the key to it all – how to get it from manufacturer to healthcare provider to patient, while maintaining its effectiveness. This is where DeltaTrak comes in.

I am excited to be a part of the DeltaTrak team because, like me, they have been solving important problems for a long time. This team is well-equipped to manage the cold-chain challenges that will accompany distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. Historically, anywhere from 5 to 20% of vaccines are rendered ineffective during transport, due to temperature excursions. The use of dry ice, thermal shipping containers, unique storage/transport temperature requirements and the sheer volume of doses, could cause the percentage of lost COVID vaccines to be significantly higher.

There is a lot at stake, both on a national and global level. However, it is at times of great challenge that opportunity arises. DeltaTrak’s history of innovation positions us to make a long-term contribution in the fight against Coronavirus. In anticipation of FDA vaccine approval, we developed multiple products to help manufacturers and healthcare providers bring peace to an anxious world. Three-in-one vaccine monitors have been designed to address customized temperature management profiles. Real-time tracking and cloud-based data storage enable stakeholders to receive alerts and share information, identifying temperature excursions during shipping, storage and dispensing. Coronavirus will pass, and humanity is resilient. Our solutions must be designed with the long-view in mind, and solution providers must be prepared for a world where more global health crises could be on the horizon. For more information on DeltaTrak’s COVID-19 temperature monitoring solutions, please reach out to me or one of my DeltaTrak colleagues.

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Erich Hugo is a Senior Business Innovation Expert working in the IoT and Logistics industry. He has worked globally and the products and services that he has developed are commercial in over 160 countries.

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