The rapid pace of technological advancement in the past few years has resulted in the ascension of the Internet of Things (IoT), an online environment in which computers and objects can communicate via an internet connection. This seismic change has impacted many areas of modern life, from security to energy efficiency to medicine. Included among these transformations is a significant shift in how organizations can conduct environmental monitoring.
The IoT, along with other increased efficiencies in cloud-based computing, has paved the way for cloud-based remote monitoring systems. These systems do not require on-premise personnel to achieve total monitoring visibility of a facility, representing the most advanced method for organizations to manage their environmental monitoring needs. Such remote capabilities amount to a significant upgrade over standalone data loggers or other systems that are limited to on-premise monitoring.
In this article, we provide an overview of how cloud-based remote monitoring systems work, and outline four key organizational benefits that these systems provide.
How a Cloud-Based Remote Monitoring System Works
A cloud-based remote monitoring system generally consists of a central interface, accessed via computer, tablet, or smartphone, linked to data collection devices (such as data loggers) that monitor various environmental conditions. This is true whether an organization is monitoring a single warehouse or refrigerator, or multiple facilities located around the world.
While on-premise systems can be configured for remote access via a Virtual Private Network or VPN, these configurations are generally slower, less reliable, and less convenient than a fully cloud-based solution.
Remote monitoring systems make it possible to collect and monitor vast amounts of data about one’s facility — whether or not your personnel are physically on-site — keeping track of key parameters like temperature, humidity, differential pressure, and other variables safely and efficiently.
In industries where accuracy and timeliness are critical, the limitless scalability, and 24-7 remote monitoring capabilities of a fully cloud-based system present several advantages over systems that lack or are limited in their remote capabilities.
We will be reviewing four critical benefits of cloud-based remote monitoring systems like DicksonOne in detail: improved asset protection, increased safety, more efficient allocation of resources, and reduced costs.
Benefit 1: Remote Monitoring Improves Asset Protection
When it comes to protecting critical assets such as temperature-sensitive vaccines or pharmaceuticals, a remote monitoring solution presents several advantages.
While an on-premise system is limited by the human bandwidth available when it comes to monitoring the conditions of key assets in real-time, a remote system makes the process simple and reliable, which is critical in situations where full staffing could prove difficult, such as late-night hours.
This central and scalable visibility becomes increasingly paramount as organizations grow in complexity, with more and more critical variables that require attention and the limited abilities on-premise staff may have to track them with the necessary efficiency.
For example, many drugs must be stored at a specific temperature to ensure that their active ingredients remain effective. Vaccines are one example of temperature-controlled assets in the medical industry, which, if stored out of the recommended temperature range, may lead to the vaccine denaturing and becoming ineffective — in other words, asset loss. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandates certain requirements for vaccine storage, including storing them at a specific temperature.
The advantages a cloud-based remote monitoring system offers in visibility and timing could mean the difference between identifying and correcting compromising conditions for an expensive collection of assets such as a shipment of vaccines, which would represent a significant financial and logistical hit to the organization entrusted with their care, potentially representing hundreds of thousands of da
As for another asset, your company’s data, the security provided by a cloud-based system when it comes to protecting sensitive documents like validation data is as strong, and often stronger than what one would find with an on-premise system.
Benefit 2: Remote Monitoring Keeps Your Organization Safer
Remote monitoring enhances the safety of your organization on multiple fronts. Alarm capabilities can immediately notify your team to an issue no matter where they are, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Critically, this means that fewer people are needed on-site in situations where workplace conditions may be hazardous.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the emphasis it has placed on social distancing and limiting the number of employees needed on a job site represents one powerful example of the benefits of the ability to limit on-site personnel without compromising necessary environmental monitoring capabilities.
Furthermore, the continuous, up-to-the-minute nature of a remote monitoring system also allows for immediate visibility into conditions that could prove hazardous for employees or patients, ensuring that corrective action can be taken quickly if necessary.
For example, upon receiving a remote alert that a refrigerator is out of spec, one could review the historical trends for the data logger in question, make determinations as to whether something truly anomalous is taking place or if the behavior is consistent with something like a compressor kicking on and off, and continue to track the situation before deciding whether or not on-site attention is needed.
Speaking of alerts, the ability to customize alarms so that they only notify the personnel needed for corrective action limits alarm fatigue and further increases the efficiency of your monitoring system, which speaks to another remote monitoring benefit.
Benefit 3: Remote Monitoring Helps You Allocate Resources More Efficiently
Beyond improving the safety and security of your company’s assets, remote monitoring can help you better allocate resources. Instead of having the responsibility for monitoring divided among multiple on-site personnel, who may well be managing those responsibilities in conjunction with other critical tasks, complete monitoring can be conducted remotely by a single individual. This means that your organization has greater capacity to focus and improve on other areas of operations.
In a hospital environment, this could mean that more resources are dedicated to patient care and safety, rather than tasking nurses with the meticulous tracking of medication monitoring.
In food manufacturing, organizations that optimize resources with fewer personnel and time needed for monitoring could translate those extra man hours into better output and overall productivity, taking time and resources that would have been dedicated to monitoring and translating them into revenue-generating pursuits.
Benefit 4: Remote Monitoring Can Reduce Costs
Remote monitoring can help save organizations money in a variety of ways. As mentioned above, a leaner monitoring team can be thought of as a cost-saving measure, especially if those resources translated into additional personnel and hours dedicated towards revenue-generating pursuits.
Beyond that, the aforementioned advantages when it comes to asset protection certainly have a financial component, as a significant asset loss represents a substantial financial burden for any company.
While it is true that startup and installation costs for a cloud-based remote monitoring system may represent a more significant investment than, say, a simpler system of isolated data loggers, the advantages such a system confers are likely to benefit organizations financially in the long run. Also, depending on the scope of your monitoring needs, not having to provide server support on-site for your monitoring system could prove to be a cost savings.
For another example, in the aerospace industry a remote monitoring system could catch a fluctuation in humidity in time to take corrective action, representing a huge savings in cost and productivity in that those sensitive assets would not be lost due to adverse conditions.
For pharmacies, the rigorous requirements of Drug Distributor Accreditation (formerly VAWD) call for continuous temperature and humidity monitoring at the facility, without which the facility may not be able to even qualify for insurance. As mentioned previously, a remote system makes it easier and more efficient to conduct such monitoring, particularly if multiple facilities are involved.
Cloud-based remote monitoring systems represent the state-of-the-art for environmental monitoring. Is it right for your organization? Here are some questions to consider:
- Does your organization deal with valuable, condition-sensitive assets that require monitoring?
- Would the option to conduct monitoring with fewer employees on-site benefit your workplace’s safety?
- Are there employees involved in your current monitoring procedures whose time could be of greater value in other areas?
- Are you faced with monitoring multiple locations, making a systematic approach to oversight and asset management difficult?
- Is a long-term reduction in operating costs something your organization is striving towards?
If one or more of these questions is a “yes” for your organization, this may be the right time to evaluate whether or not a cloud-based remote monitoring system is the right solution for you.
Contact Dickson with any questions you may have about remote monitoring or DicksonOne.
About the author: Before coming to Dickson, Director of Services Antoine Nguyen spent more than 18 years in quality and validation roles in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.