Tirthankar Dutta, CISO, Star-Disney India

Star-Disney India ropes in Tirthankar Dutta as CISO

by | Feb 20, 2021 | C-Track, IT Security

Before moving to Star-Disney, Tirthankar Dutta was Sr VP and Head of Information Security at Infoedge India, an internet classified company.
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Tirthankar Dutta, CISO, Star-Disney India

Tirthankar Dutta, CISO, Star-Disney.

Tirthankar Dutta has joined as the Vice President (VP) and CISO of Indian media conglomerate Star-Disney India, a Walt Disney subsidiary in India.

In his new role at Star-Disney, Dutta will spearhead the company’s security transformation initiatives and provide the necessary direction and guidance to the CTO/CFO and key Disney-Star business leadership members.

Besides, Tirthankar Dutta will also manage information security governance processes, chair the information security advisory committee, and lead information security programs and project priorities at Star-Disney. He will be internally assessing and providing necessary recommendations around security controls to the Disney leadership in India. Dutta’s responsibility also includes establishing an inclusive and comprehensive security program for Disney and developing essential support for internal information systems and technology research capability.

As an IT professional with over 14 years of experience, Dutta has led several IT and IT security projects in top financial services, travel shopping, and IT services companies such as Religare, Expedia, HCL, TCS, and IBM.

Dutta has established and implemented large information security programs, including deploying a patent-pending fraud detection solution that protected thousands of clients from phishing attacks. He has been credited with performing evaluation and selection of IT security tools and successfully implemented IT security systems to protect availability, integrity, and confidentiality of critical business information and information systems.

Before moving to Star-Disney, Dutta was the Sr VP and Head of Information Security at Infoedge India, a pure-play internet classified company. At Infoedge, he led the information security program and built cohesive security and compliance programs to address state and Country statutory and regulatory requirements effectively.

About Star India

Owned by the Walt Disney Company, Star-Disney India is an Indian media conglomerate with its headquarters in Maharashtra. The media company offers content in eight languages through its 60 channels. Its network reaches approximately 790 million viewers a month across India and globally.

For other recent C-Track movements, click here.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

AI, ML see rapid uptake in measuring customer loyalty

AI, ML see rapid uptake in measuring customer loyalty

The COVID-19 has transformed the way businesses function. In the wake of social distancing measures that are likely to remain in place for an extended time, a large pool of customers are swiftly moving toward new-age digital and mobile marketplaces. Moreover, the tendency has transitioned from just brand to purchase experience, quality of service, and customized needs. This has driven top CRM players to realign their AI-based offerings in line with the growing enterprise need to measure customer loyalty effectively.

According to a McKinsey report titled “The Quickening,” e-commerce has experienced the same amount of growth in three months during the COVID that would have erstwhile taken ten years. Due to this, consumers are going with fitting, reliable brands and have the products and services they are looking for.

Microsoft has also echoed similar sentiments in its blog. According to Microsoft, COVID-19 has greatly changed consumer behavior, and consumers are now buying more online and gravitating toward contactless pickup of purchases. It adds that retailers who invest in digital technology are better positioned to deal with this new shift and stay connected with existing customers while also attracting new ones. Use of AI and ML to measure customer loyalty has become increasingly relevant for businesses.

Battle of the giants

Understanding this new shift in consumer behavior, global CRM leader Salesforce has introduced a new brand loyalty management solution that will enable its customers to strengthen customer trust and engagement. The latest offering has been introduced, keeping in mind the rapidly evolving unique enterprise needs to reward and retain their customers amidst the global pandemic.

Starting in February 2021, Salesforce will integrate the new brand loyalty solution with Salesforce Digital 360Service Cloud, and Tableau, allowing enterprises to offer a customized loyalty experience across the entire customer journey.

Salesforce said that the solution would help enterprises of all scales and sectors to launch more customized experiences. According to the company, enterprises can leverage this solution to expand their loyalty programs to stay current with customer expectations. It can also help drive business value by creating loyal, lifelong customers. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021? )

Salesforce, though, is not the only CRM leader trying to capitalize on this new opportunity. Microsoft too is continuously looking at making its Microsoft Dynamics 365 more evolved and enable its customers with deep, intelligent insights.

Another CRM major SAP has been quite aggressive in leveraging AI and ML learnings to improve customer interactions. In October last year, it launched a new SAP Customer Data Platform to connect every data source in an organization and external data to create unified customer profiles. SAP claims that the tool enables enterprises to provide a complete understanding of customer preferences and behavior.

Technology to play a big role

Most businesses are looking at leveraging advanced technologies and solutions to understand customers’ specific needs. There has been a growing focus on smart solutions based on artificial intelligence and analytics, which can help organizations determine the best ways to engage with specific customer needs and include promotions and offers based on real-time data. For example, a retailer can identify which of his customers are near a store, using geolocation-based notifications or whether customers have used their bonus points or can be offered some new incentives to get them back.

In 2021 and beyond, enterprises, especially, retailers will see the growing adoption of tools based on artificial intelligence to deliver unique customer experiences and drive impactful brand engagements. Top CRM players such as Salesforce, Microsoft,  Oracle, and SAP are expected to add new machine learning capabilities in their CRM offerings to enable their users to automate the customer loyalty measurement process and deliver more incredible customer engagement benefits.

Telcos eying the edge opportunity for 5G growth

Telcos eying the edge opportunity for 5G growth

Top telecom operators are rapidly building strong foundations for future 5G networks. The next-generation wireless technology, which is ten times faster than the current LTE networks, has the potential to transform people, processes, and policies innovatively. Given that many global service providers have turned to bolster telco edge capabilities and putting them at the core of their 5G infrastructure goals.

According to a GSA report, as of December 2020, 140 operators in 59 countries/territories have introduced commercial 3GPP-compatible 5G services. In the next couple of years, 5G is expected to make substantial inroads in many countries, including India.

However, to leverage the real potential of 5G, telcos need to develop new structures that can provide continuous support for high bandwidth and low-latency applications and effectively execute their administration. This is where the Telco edge could help win big!

Evolving business needs

As 5G moves to the mainstream, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as autonomous cars, connected appliances, and robotic processes, gain the necessary fuel to communicate and share data faster than ever. Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson estimates around 5 billion IoT connections by 2025, up by the existing 1 billion connections today. That’s huge! Such a spread connected network will also result in an explosion of data that could strain the existing cloud ecosystems.

The biggest challenge will be: how to manage, process, and deliver this high volume data and support low-latency based real-time applications using prevailing communication networks in a secure, reliable, and efficient way.

Telco edge enables enterprises to lessen reaction processing to milliseconds, thereby eliminating the need to transfer data to the centralized cloud. By taking cloud services and resources together, edge deployments provide benefits such as latency reduction, bandwidth scale, and mobility support, imperative for the next-Gen time-sensitive applications and services.

Edge will enable mobile network providers to move the value chain upward and unlock new revenue streams. It adopts cloud-native technologies to distribute the network infrastructure cost, just like Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering.

Collaboration route for ample opportunity

With 5G services growth inevitable in the near future, top Indian telecom service providers, such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and VI are also gearing up to further their edge clouds and leverage it as a new revenue opportunity. India’s service providers can take a cue from many global telcos who are aggressively building a distributed cloud approach.

While ‘edge’ may be uncharted waters for telcos to date, the year 2021 is likely to be a defining year from the telco edge deployment perspective. South Korean wireless telecommunications operator SK Telecom and Japanese Telecom operator KDDI recently launched 5G edge cloud services. American multinational telecom company, Verizon as well is exploring the potential of AI at the Edge of the network to locate and provide necessary real-time support to relevant IoT resources. Companies like Renovo, a connected car startup, and electronics giant LG are among the organizations testing telco edge services on Verizon’s network.

Many other telcos worldwide are screening the automated environments and investing in AI and machine learning capabilities to save OPEX and open-up new exciting revenue streams in the 5G networks.

However, telcos are not the only ones battling for their share in the edge computing market. Global hyperscalers such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are building their edge capabilities and have their unique strengths, such as global reach and high investment potential for R&D.

The year 2021 is likely to see both Hyperscalers and mobile network operators forging strong partnerships to enable AI and Edge use cases.

 

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

Pavan Duggal

Dr. Pavan Duggal, Indian Cyber Law Expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur, Indian telecom market observer and commentator

“This policy change will force users to re-think their use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp users need to change their usage patterns, and if possible, find other messaging platforms that have stricter data privacy policies. I’ve been using WhatsApp since its inception for virtually every aspect of my conversations. But with new integration and privacy policies, I plan to filter my conversations, particularly regarding my banking details. WhatsApp and Facebook should stop taking people for granted.”

If you are a WhatsApp user, it is quite likely that you would have seen a notification from the messaging application that it has updated its privacy policy. WhatsApp has said that it will inevitably begin sharing users’ data with Facebook in a month’s time. According to WhatsApp, all WhatsApp users need to read and accept the new terms before 8 February to continue using its services. Those who do not accept the policy will have to give up access to their accounts.

The revised policies will allow WhatsApp to share various forms of user data with the Facebook platform. What is more concerning is that the data could be accessed by multiple third-party applications that a WhatsApp user may use on Facebook.

While the cross-platform messaging solution remains end-to-end encrypted, which implies no one can access the content of WhatsApp’s messages and calls, the new policy means sharing a host of critical user information. It includes information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

A step change

The social media giant has backtracked from its earlier stance as an advocate for user privacy. One must recall that in February 2014, at the time of WhatsApp’s acquisition, the US-based Facebook maintained that it would keep the messaging company autonomous, discarding any overlap concerns with Facebook or Messenger app.

That apart, Facebook’s past record, when it comes to user privacy, has been far from stellar. The social-media giant has often been accused of surveillance and data-mining by internet watchers.

In early 2019, data of 49 million Instagram users and 419 million Facebook users were disclosed. In 2020, another hacking scandal erupted where cybercriminals leaked personal details of 267 million Facebook users. As per media reports, the leaked database was available for sale on the Dark Web without any password for just under $600, intensifying concerns around SMS spam and phishing.

The business case for new-alternatives

Facebook-WhatsApp integration may not be brand new since WhatsApp had been in one form or the other was sharing user information throughout its corporate family. However, compared with what has happened previously, the user does not have the option of not sharing his personal data.

There is no doubt that the new WhatsApp policy will dilute users’ privacy and trigger intense debate around data security and finding new alternatives to the social messaging app.

The question is: should users search for a more secure alternative to WhatsApp? At present, there are various alternatives such as Telegram, Signal, Snapchat, and Hike, for Indian users. Telegram has an upper edge explicitly since it was developed to contest WhatsApp’s dominance and has already gained a substantial presence in the Indian market. It also claims to have the multi-data center infrastructure and encryption policies superior to WhatsApp.

“Use signal,” Tesla Founder Elon Musk had tweeted in response.

Better World has designed a quick survey, aimed at garnering a consolidated view of users’ response to the policy change announced by WhatsApp.

Please click here to take the survey. 

Your participation matters. On the survey’s completion, Better World will share the link to the report 

Deepak Kumar

Deepak Kumar, Founder Analyst and Chief Research Officer, Better World | BM Nxt

“This policy change has the potential to trigger a longer-lasting debate than being envisaged now. It raises a fundamental question: does a service provider have the right over user data just because it is being shared or stored with the platform? The ramifications could be wide and deep, and regulators will likely step in to redefine the finer contours of privacy.”

 

Jatinder Singh

Jatinder Singh, Director – Strategy and Insights, Better World | BM Nxt

“Given the history of privacy breaches faced by Facebook, it is understandable that WhatsApp users should get concerned about sharing their personal information. However, it needs to be seen if WhatsApp’s abandonment is a viable option, especially for a country that has become heavily dependent on its use. Overall, the move could cause a dent in the growth aspects of WhatsApp in India and give an opportunity for competiting messaging platforms to expand their presence in the Indian market.”

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

In 2020, cyber-attacks reached a new scale, disrupting the business community and Information security professionals. Malware, phishing, denial of service attacks, DNS tunneling, SQL injection, and zero-day exploits have seen a massive explosion in every large organization. According to a report from antivirus, cloud, and endpoint security firm McAfee, since 2018, the cost of global cybercrime has reached over $1 trillion. If that wasn’t enough, the industry has noticed a new pattern of cybercriminals investing in plug-and-play obfuscation software-based toolkits to infect corporate networks for financial gains. (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020)

Obfuscation is a proven technology widely used by security professionals and coders to make the source code anonymous and incoherent. The technique helps businesses secure their critical data and prevent hackers from using reverse engineering techniques to discover an enterprise network’s vulnerability and launch attacks.

The recent cyber intrusion in the software  IT monitoring and management software company Solarwinds was executed by an obfuscated advanced persistent threat (APT) that mysteriously took nine months to discover. (See: SolarWinds hack: CISOs need to revisit cyber resilience?)

However, as usual, hackers appear to be a step ahead of network protectors. Call it money as a motive or an innovative mindset; cybercriminals always develop enterprising ways to infiltrate defenses. Obfuscation-as-a-service is one such recently exposed illegal business model developed by cybercriminals. Professional hackers try to make money from selling such techniques on subscription-based models to other hackers.

As-a-service model for orchestrating a hack

Those who trust that the as-a-service models are currently only transforming legitimate business models will probably live on a different planet. Over the past few years, cybercrime as a service model is swiftly making inroads into the dark-web. Professional fraudsters and cybercriminals use illegal platforms to sell cyberattack tools, procedures, services, and a host of software programs to evade detection and launch fully automated cyberattacks.

Obfuscation-as-a-service model is operating on similar lines. In 2020, many instances were discovered by cybersecurity monitoring agencies and solution providers where hackers provided automated obfuscation service and android pocket kits (APKs) on a subscription basis to fraudsters. In the wake of a growing remote workforce, most organizations are introducing workplace productivity apps that can be accessed quickly by employees through their mobile phones. As such cracking mobile applications, especially android, through obfuscation has become a prime focus area for cybercriminals.

The entire business of purchasing and selling obfuscation service happens through illegitimate darknet marketplaces, making it very challenging for governments and law-enforcement authorities to keep a consistent track. This new development of obfuscation-as-a-service is perturbing for enterprises with global footprints, which have a massive amount of data located on different clouds. This unlawful cybercrime service model can give a ready-to-launch platform to even newbie cybercriminals who regularly exploit weaker networks.

What’s the remedy?

To protect networks from obfuscation techniques or deobfuscate malicious codes launched by hackers, organizations need to ensure the uppermost security level that fills the unwanted gaps. Applying integrity controls, encrypting as much as possible, transforming program codes and making them unintelligible, inserting anti-debugging logic are some of the fields that should be strengthened.

While there is no perfect solution that can give full-proof code security, a host of commercial tools can be tested and implemented to make your security architectures robust.

Most importantly, in 2021, organizations and cybersecurity leaders should set-up quality budgets to train their in-house talents and develop innovative solutions to fortify their resilience levels and mitigate new-age obfuscation security threats.

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity, EY

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity, EY

In Focus

Jaspreet Singh

Partner, Cybersecurity, EY 

It’s about leading the cybersecurity organization in the new normal.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a series of unprecedented shifts in global and Indian economic conditions amidst extensive industry disruptions. Over the last ten months, there has been a significant remolding of how services and products are delivered and consumed. Remote working has become a reality and, in some ways, ‘the new normal,’ while online models have primarily driven consumption of goods and services. These drastic and sudden modifications in business environments have significantly impacted the ICT  and cybersecurity priorities and investments across organizations.

Almost all enterprises have responded to this precarious situation by empowering their employees and engaging customers through remote working interventions, policies, and tools. Without a doubt, this response has been brisk and useful to an extent and has brought to light chinks in many an organization’s armors in the realm of cybersecurity.

Coupled with an insurmountable surge in the volume and sophistication of cyberattacks in the last two quarters, India’s CISO community had to move ahead with a steely resolve to address these challenges. (See: How COVID-19 has changed cybersecurity focus for 2021)

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity at EY, outlines the top challenges faced by the CISOs in India in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also shares best practices that organizations could embrace to steer them through the complex maze of cybersecurity issues and help them firm up their cybersecurity posture.

Essential, and yet troublesome—thy name is remote working.

Covid-19 is creating a global ‘work from home’ culture, as organizations see employees working from home as a feasible long-term option if regulatory issues can be addressed.

However, cybercriminals are using it as a massive opportunity as people are often connected to the corporate network through their home Wi-Fi connections, which are not secure due to weak router configurations or multiple poorly protected IoT devices connected to the same network (among other things).

Cybercriminals are also using this time of great fear to target people with phishing attacks using coronavirus themes. Cybercriminals are also leveraging and targeting video communication platforms for hijacking teleconferences, and we have also found maze ransomware targeting managed IT, service providers, on a global scale.

Adapting to the new normal is the biggest challenge for the CISO.

Today’s enterprises need to secure access to their organizational resources, regardless of the user or application environment. This means that the biggest challenge is about adapting to the modern distributed workplace and embracing a mobile workforce while protecting people, devices, and data, irrespective of their locations. (See: Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles)

Addressing the remote working conundrum—in search of a feasible and effective intervention

It is highly critical for organizations to review their cybersecurity strategies given the global pandemic and follow their renewed realization of IT dependence. IT teams are organizational warriors who have worked day and night and played a crucial role in helping most organizations adapt to the work-from-home culture.

The initial focus of all organizations has been on enabling work from home in the fastest possible time, due to which security was not kept on priority. This resulted in a major risk.

Cybersecurity also needs to align itself to see through risks to the organization—its people, processes, and technologies. The organization would have to align its cybersecurity strategy to changing IT strategies and investments.

Post the pandemic, the cybersecurity organization is slated to undergo a drastic transformation.

The cybersecurity industry will see a sharp increase in the demand for adapting to technological solutions for remote working and security solutions to reduce risks to the IT infrastructure.

The cybersecurity skills shortage will also worsen as these skills would be necessary to protect the IT infrastructure and address the likely increase in cybersecurity compliance.

Never trust, always verify—‘zero trust’ as a critical component of the cybersecurity system for Indian organizations. 

Zero trust teaches to “never trust, always verify.” It has a significant role in how people access organizational resources, regardless of where the request originates from or what resources one accesses.

Jaspreet Singh, PartnerCybersecurity, EY

With 17 years of rich industry experience, Jaspreet owns the P&L of Cybersecurity for North India at EY. He advises organizations across telecom, tech, media, and entertainment sectors, and has been instrumental in helping them become cyber-ready businesses of the future.

Over the years, his advisory and evaluation skills have helped many businesses progress through the cybersecurity value chain.

He also shares the additional responsibility of developing the cybersecurity practice in Bangladesh and the Middle East for EY.

Expertise

  • Data privacy
  • IT security and governance
  • IT strategy
  • IT program management
  • IT attestation services
  • Datacenter security
  • Network security
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Business continuity planning and crisis management
  • Ethical hacking

Honors and awards

  • Chairman Value Award, 2014
  • Consultant of the year, Cybersecurity, 2017

It is not about users being un-trustworthy; instead, it is about firmly authenticating, authorizing, and inspecting all traffic flows always to ensure that malware and attacks don’t sneak in accidentally or maliciously.

Many organizations are knowingly or unknowingly following, in principle, the ‘zero trust architecture.’ However, moving to a complete ‘zero trust’ architecture will take time. Organizations need to mature to a level starting with strong authentication in general.

It will be essential to consider each investment carefully and align it with current business needs. Fortunately, each step forward will make a difference in reducing the cybersecurity risk and returning trust in the entirety of your IT Infrastructure.

Aim to build resilience across the value chain.

You must be prepared to deal with the attack. You have to be able to investigate the incident quickly, make smart decisions, and take actions immediately.” Effective resilience programs look not only at the infrastructure within the four walls of the organization but also look to consider the impacts of customers, vendors, partners, and other participants across the value chain.

*The article was originally published as part of a Better World–Microfocus Coffee Table Book initiative titled Accelerating Enterprise Innovations. You can read the e-Book by clicking here.

A case for cloud-enabled COVID-19 sensors and loggers

A case for cloud-enabled COVID-19 sensors and loggers

Deepak KumarFinally, the Covishield vaccine has been approved for emergency use in India. Starting 2 January, a dry run commences for the vaccination program across the country. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of the end for the century’s biggest threat to humanity. Use of COVID-19 sensors for temperature monitoring and control can help.  

COVID-19 has indeed been the biggest economic disruption in a century. However, it is also turning out to be a giant digital-transformation catalyst for the healthcare sector, with a windfall for the logistics sector along the way.

The necessary thrust for this rapid transformation come from the urgency to overcome transportation challenges for some of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Leading pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna, along with their tier-1 logistics partners like UPS and FedEx, have been at the forefront of innovating processes and technologies for the purpose.

The key challenge, as we know, has been to maintain the vaccine vials at temperatures as low as minus 70 degree Celsius until they get thawed and administered to people.

Warehousing and logistics innovations fast-tracked

As we know, the need for storing and moving around truckloads (and airplane loads) of mass vaccine vials at –70 degree C posed a giant challenge at the very outset for pharma majors, particularly Pfizer. Clearly, the supply-chain team at Pfizer started to perfect a shipping solution soon as the scientists initiated the vaccine development program in the labs.

By October 2020, while positive breakthroughs were being achieved by scientists in vaccine development, Pfizer’s supply-chain team had worked out end-to-end logistics plans with partners such as United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx to deliver vaccine boxes to various parts of the USA as well as to different locations around the world.

Transportation and storage need two-pronged strategy

GPS-based temperature monitoring on the move was an obvious solution but putting it into practice was not an easy task.

As we know, special boxes were designed for transporting the vials. Each box was fitted with temperature sensors and a GPS device, which was used for tracking the temperatures inside the boxes from a monitoring center. Already, in instances where the temperature of a box crossed an upper (or lower) threshold, any further movement of the box was stopped and it was immediately recalled.

At pre-shipping stage, UPS, for example, had created an ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer farm, from where the shipments would be done to the destined locations. These ULT freezers too were equipped with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring and maintenance purposes. As per an article posted by UPS on its website, “Cloud connectivity will enable sensor-based remote monitoring, control and predictive analytics across banks of ULT freezers. A continuous stream of data will detect performance characteristics to provide critical “onboard” information to ensure proper sample management, leading to increased efficacy of biologics.”

“Future ULT freezers will introduce guided access capabilities, which will allow the tracking and visualization of vials in laboratory management systems and at freezer access points,” the article, penned by Dusty Tenney, CEO of Stirling Ultracold, further noted. Stirling Ultracold is the company making the ULT freezers for the storage of vaccines.

ULT freezers with Covid-19 sensors

Figure source: Stirling Ultracold.

Global distribution may need to be ‘with the box’

The company has readied the ULT freezers in three different form factors (see Figure), each suited for the three key stages of a vaccine supply chain. The large ULT freezers are designed for manufacturing and warehousing bases for storing large number of vaccine vials; the mid-sized models are aimed at large pharmacies and hospitals; and the portable models are well-suited for serving the needs of local points of care, including remote and mobile points. All these models can maintain ultra-cold temperatures in the range of -80 degree C to -20 degree C, and are fitted with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring and control.

For a global distribution framework to be truly effective, all these different form factors need to be used at their respective target locations. In other words, while the big boxes will need to be deployed at warehouses, the mid-size boxes will need to installed at the hospitals in cities across the world ahead of the vial shipments. This important to ensure that vials can be stored at these hospitals when the shipments arrive there in ultra-cold boxes containing vials protected with dry ice packs. (Dry ice can only keep the boxes at ultra-cold temperatures of -70 degree C for up to five days, and is not readily and sufficiently available).

Likewise, the portable ULT models also need to be shipped in advance in satellite vaccination centers and remote locations.

All the time, remote monitoring of the ULT freezers and vial boxes is constantly being done to ensure that the efficacy of the vaccines is not lost due to change in box or freezer temperature before the vial being thawed for use. 

While vanilla GPS solutions are being used for now, there is enough room for involving technologies like robotics and internet of things (IoT) in the delivery and monitoring process.

For example, if we consider the process of changing the dry ice in boxes, a human intervention could be time-consuming and hence cause the temperature of vials to rise to detrimental levels. However, with the use of robotics, this task can be accomplished in a safe and assured manner. As far as IoT is concerned, building management system (BMS) IOT connectivity is already available for Stirling’s ULT freezers.

The ULT freezers as well as shipment boxes for vaccine vials come fitted with COVID-19 sensors that can have battery lifespans of up to 10 years and support datalogging in the cloud, which makes them suited for real-time remote monitoring. For example, in case of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the solution comprises SenseAnywhere’s AiroSensors and Pt100 smart probes.

Why other vaccines too need digital monitoring and upkeep

Covishield, the vaccine candidate from Pune-based Serum Institute of India, may not require a very stringent temperature control and monitoring mechanism. The vaccines, which received the emergency-use approval and for which the dry run commences on 2 January 2021, can be safely stored in regular refrigerators. The storage temperature requirement for Covishield is 2–8 degree C, which also gives it a huge edge over other vaccine candidates in India.

Nevertheless, use of COVID-19 sensors can doubly ensure that the vials are constantly being maintained at the required temperature range. This is because power supplies can be quite unpredictable in smaller cities and towns and not all pharmacies and refrigerators are supported with power-backup facilities. By mandating that refrigerators used for storing vials be retrofitted with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring the temperatures, governments and health watchdogs can determine the efficacy efficiency of a vaccination program. In case of power failures and ineffectiveness of refrigerators, the necessary corrective actions may be taken in a timely manner.

Warehousing and distribution companies engaged in the logistics of COVID-19 vaccines would particularly need to get equipped with appropriate sensor mechanisms. It goes without saying that IT teams at these organizations will have a special role to play in ensuring integrated and foolproof solutions in this context.

See also How smartphones could be Covid-19 testing game changers

and Aarogya Setu needs to overcome more privacy issues

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