In October 2015, a refrigerator thermostat at Stanford Children’s Health failed, spoiling ten different types of vaccines and causing 1,500 kids to receive ineffective vaccinations. Unfortunately, failed thermostats are not an unusual issue and can cause ruined blood samples, vaccines and other important tests, costing millions of dollars and placing lives at risk.
To prevent lost bio samples, hospitals are now turning to IoT-monitoring platforms which deploy sensors to alert hospital and lab administrators of temperature irregularities in real-time, helping them fix the problem before it starts.
One solution to losing bio samples: connected thermostats
DataToWeb is an IoT monitoring platform from the company based in Montreal, Canada, that reduces the risk of losses, facilitate the management of regulation complacency and reduce workload related for the management of temperatures in hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies by automating temperature readings and alerting when there is a deviation.
I spoke to their CEO, Hakim Rouab, about their services. Like many startups, temperature regulation through IoT was not their original intention; rather, they pivoted from home energy monitoring.
Roubac was prosaic in admitting that it was great to being in a sector where we can provide a business solution to an identified problem. “We’re bootstrapped. we are very happy because we struggled with energy monitoring and now we are very lucky to have found a business where customers pay for the service that we provide,” he said.
In discussing the need for temperature monitoring, he said:
“We’ve heard so many bad stories about what happens when a laboratory or hospital’s fridges and freezers are not at the right temperature. 80% of our customers previous to our services, were having a person go around several times a day (usually between two and four) and manually check the temperature of each fridge or freezer.
There are significant consequences if hospitals fail to meet basic monitoring standards, and they cannot operate if they do not monitor their supplies accurately. There’s also the need in many instances to monitor room temperatures and humidity. Every time there is a big issue in hospitals, it is typically just before national holidays, we heard of an example when someone in maintenance just shut down the entire supply of Co2 for their incubators throughout the entire hospital.”
It’s easy to predict a media outcry if patients realized the need for “do-over” tests due to incorrectly stored samples. Roubac noted:
“When someone has a liver biopsy or blood sample, you don’t really want to ask ‘Can you come back for another test, we had the throw the first one out!'”
DatatoWeb also has the advantage of being within the health industry but not subject to the restrictions of regulation due to the nature of their data. “We don’t store patient data, only machine data, so we don’t require all of the regulation around privacy of people” he explained. “Our system is safe to hacking, people cannot access data from our server.”
I asked what would happen if their service failed, as technology is wont to do very occasionally.
“We’ve used the services of Compose since 2015, we had problems with our previous databases, so we now use mongo DB,” he replied. “Because this is an alert system, we really don’t want to have downtime. We had downtime once with our previous database and it wasn’t great. Luckily, our customers typically use back-up.”
The next step for DatatoWeb is to scale their business outside of Canada and expand their customer base.