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How IoT is Transforming the Pharmaceutical Industry? IoT can help pharmaceutical companies figure out the logistics, shipping and the transit conundrum

By Prabhakar Chaudhary

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Internet of Things or IoT corresponds to the inter-network of physical devices that are embedded with sensors, actuators, electronics and network connectivity, etc, in order to facilitate connectivity and easy exchange of data in real-time.

Owing to its practical applications, IoT holds the potential for completely revolutionizing the pharmaceutical sector by enabling and automating remote monitoring of patients, discovery of drugs, its access and more. The coming together of IoT with the increasing digitization of data in the pharmaceutical sector opens floodgates of opportunities for massive disruption and industrial overhauls.

IoT Bringing in the Paradigm Shift in Pharmaceutical Sector

The evolving times demand faster and easier access to healthcare services. By the same token, the pharmaceutical companies are also required to expedite safe and secure movement of drugs, clinical outcomes, better regulated transit and delivery. The need for speedy operations, invariably, falls down to harvesting data in a way that is both, well-organized and effective, complemented by required analytics.

The latest technology, made available with the advent of IoT, can be used to aid this paradigm shift in the functions of the pharmaceutical sector. The connected technology can be deployed for covering different verticals, such as manufacturing, monitoring, distribution and control in-transit. With the help of the real time availability of data, pharmaceutical companies can ensure proper quality, while minimizing or completely avoiding any chances of pilferage, wastage or fabrication.

Utility of IoT Sensors

Withstanding the radical changes promised by the technology, IoT sensors have been increasingly deployed on the production floor. As a result, pharmaceutical companies have been successful in assimilating huge chunks of data across various departments, including manufacturing units spread across the globe. As a consequence, companies are able to control, manage and supervise everything that occurs over the production floor, in real-time and remotely. Initiating a chain reaction towards better efficiency and control, companies are also able to successfully reduce the cost of production, augment the utilization of equipment and minimise wastage, owing to better visibility and control.

How Technology is Helping in Logistics

In addition to production, IoT can also help pharmaceutical companies figure out the logistics, shipping and the transit conundrum. The path to smooth pharmaceutical logistics has been fraught with challenges, given the complex requirements. By utilizing low-energy sensors, pharmaceutical companies gain real-time visibility in the movement of goods. Besides, the sensors can also be deployed to smarten up the warehousing and optimising routing. While in transit, IoT can also be trusted for taking care of medicines & vaccines. Certain vaccinations and medicines need to be maintained under specific temperature and physical conditions. Sensors can ensure the same, while also monitoring the environment of these pharmaceutical products in real-time and reporting or managing any anomalies.

IoT Enabling Organizations to Assemble Data

Furthermore, while IoT enables organizations to assemble data from a wide gamut of functions and processes, the same can also be utilized to establish greater collaboration within the sector. With the new technology at their disposal, regulators need not tediously skim through thick and heavy logs maintained offline. Instead, the data can be processed via the analytics platform leveraging predictive algorithms and presented in a way that offers the highest visibility to different stakeholders. In fact, stakeholders are no longer limited by the geographical reach to go through the progress reports, and may remotely gain complete visibility in the way processes are being carried out.

The upcoming times spell massive opportunity for the growth of IoT adoption in the healthcare sector. As per market estimates, the Internet of Things market for healthcare, currently estimated to be USD 41.22 billion, is set to grow at a CAGR of 30.8 per cent, to reach USD 158.07 billion by 2022. The impressive figure only goes to validate the role and utility of IoT in the crucial healthcare department, and in effect, pharmaceutical.

Higher Risks

However, a word of caution is mandated here. As per IBM, the Life Sciences sector is most prone to cyber-attacks, with the risk being higher than other important sectors, such as Financial Services and manufacturing. The need for connectivity, visibility and easy flow of information in the pharmaceutical sector cannot be over-emphasized. However, while the digitalization of data would significantly help companies escalate operations and gain visibility, theft or fabrication may cost them in billions. If in case any sensitive information is compromised, the same would prove to be detrimental for the pharmaceutical company's repute and trust.

Hence, ensuring safety of data of is the key. Pharmaceutical companies need to act with further vigilance, while collaborating with third party IoT deployment. Opting for service providers that have due processes for safeguarding data, such as digital signatures, role-based controlled access etc, without affecting utility and flow, would prove to be beneficial for the companies.

Prabhakar Chaudhary

MD, HAL Robotics

Though he is from the engineering background, he has spend most of his time working for the team that builds great products @HALRobotics. He is focused on working with enterprises to make use of IoT to solve their specific problems.

He has 15 years of professional career working in the technology world. During this time, he has built dozens of products, enterprise applications and led many business units. He believes that in order for companies to stay relevant in today’s world, they have to push product innovation faster and harder.
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