AntTail builds IoT cold-chain app using Mendix platform
February 25, 2020
Dutch company AntTail has achieved a logistics breakthrough for pharmaceutical drug delivery by using an IoT app built with a low-code platform from Siemens subsidiary Mendix.
The use of temperature-tracking data monitoring and transparency in cold-chain logistics is said to be reducing spoilage and waste while combating counterfeit medicines.
AntTail is a technology services provider specialising in cold-chain logistics for medical and perishable supplies. It has developed IoT data-tracking technology to safeguard medicine quality and prevent drug counterfeiting. The global counterfeit drug market is estimated to cost suppliers as much as $200bn annually in lost revenue.
The pharmaceutical industry also requires temperature-controlled logistics to assure the chemical stability of products moving through the supply chain from manufacturing, shipper, transit, loading, wholesaler and the final kilometre to the customer’s location.
Responding to these challenges, AntTail built an end-to-end IoT application with the Mendix low-code platform in six weeks that harvests and integrates data from more than 8000 mobile sensors to be analysed and downloaded on secure, cloud-based smartphone applications and customer portals.
AntTail leverages the Mendix low-code platform to integrate data seamlessly between geographically dispersed sensors, servers and handheld mobile devices for a transparent audit and monitoring trail. Relevant parties – from suppliers to patients – can access a product's location, storage conditions, light and temperature readings via smartphone or handheld device.
Data are delivered by wireless Bluetooth sensors that communicate with a secure cloud. AntTail's technology is said to be a breakthrough for the healthcare industry and has the potential to prevent medicine worth millions of dollars from being wasted.
Mark Roemers, co-founder and CEO of AntTail, wanted to fix the industry's logistical problems after working with pharmaceutical companies on their internal auditing process. He quickly saw an opportunity to apply IoT sensor technology to monitor the supply chain of medicine from its initial maker to patient end-user.
"The medication supply chain is long and fragmented and therefore prone to errors,” he said. “It happens often that the temperature becomes too high or too low or original medication is replaced by counterfeit drugs somewhere in the chain. Therefore we decided to develop a monitoring solution to make the supply chain more transparent and to optimise the quality of the medicine used by patients."
Three Dutch studies recently investigated the home-based storage of rheumatic medication, finding that less than ten per cent of these drugs are stored properly. Rheumatic medication consists of proteins, making it crucial to store these items between 2 and 8˚C. In practice, however, researchers found that one in five doses freeze, which changes the structure of the proteins. This impacts the effectiveness of the medicine and potentially causes allergic reactions. In many cases, patients do not receive the correct amount of active ingredients, with detrimental consequences to their health.
In the Netherlands, annual sales of rheumatoid medicine are €560m. The ability to monitor and ensure this single aspect – the correct temperature – of pharmaceutical delivery generates significant financial, reputational and health benefits to makers and users of these medications.
For the so-called last kilometre in the supply chain (typically a personal residence), Roemers and his AntTail team chose to work with Bluetooth wireless sensors named Ant in the packaging, measuring the temperature of the medicine shipped in a special box dubbed PengiunBox. Elsewhere during the delivery process, AntTail installs a more robust sensor named Rat to document and monitor the temperature in associated pallets, lorries and warehouses.
With Bluetooth connectivity, data are harvested and saved on the secure AntTail cloud (AntCloud) and downloaded onto the Mendix-built integrated platform, and accessed via smartphone.
The AntCloud distributes alert messages to all stakeholders via the AntTail phone apps when packages in transit do not meet the required specifications. In addition to temperature readings, the ANTlux also contains a light sensor that, after activation, triggers alerts when open or closed. This signals the potential of counterfeit activity with substitutions taking place in transit.
In the home, however, light readings are triggered by patient use. Here, a lack of light readings within a prescribed time frame indicates that the medicine is not being used properly. In this case, AntTail sends an alert, reminding patients to take their medicine.
AntTail selected the Mendix low-code platform for its seamless integration and flexibility with the workflow and standards of other vendors.
"Thanks to the agility of the Mendix platform it was very easy to build the app according to our wants and needs,” said Roemers. “It only took us six weeks to develop. Putting the system into practice in thirty different locations across the Netherlands was seamless. And since version control and debugging are integrated within the Mendix suite, we can be confident that the application always functions as it should."
The application enables consumers, doctors and pharmacists to check the storage conditions of the medication in the whole supply chain from the supplier to the patient's home.
"In the logistical process, medication is quickly rejected if it arrives at the pharmacy under the wrong conditions,” said Roemers. “Now we can take it one step further with AntTail's home-based monitoring that assures consumers their medicine adheres to the highest standards, even after leaving the pharmacy."
Beyond assuring patient delivery of high-quality medicine, sensor information also prevents medicine from going to waste.
"Currently only three per cent of the medication is returned to the pharmacy," Roemers said. "With IoT data, you can demonstrate that unused medicine has been stored under the right conditions and therefore can be safely used by another patient. This rigorous audit trail, or return policy, also reduces its environmental impact, since water treatment requires special resources to filter medicines."
Bram Voogel, customer success director at Mendix, added: "We're extremely proud that AntTail has chosen the Mendix low-code platform to create a solution that can truly make a difference in the daily lives of patients and so many others involved in the entire medicine supply chain. The application has created true transparency by making data easily accessible for the supplier, distributor, the pharmacist and the patient. By leveraging the Mendix platform, AntTail has brought an innovation to the healthcare industry lots of people can benefit from."