When lives depend on it, the right cloud partner is crucial

Johannesburg, 07 Jul 2021
Read time 4min 20sec

Remote temperature monitoring using software that is entirely web-based is essential for organisations operating in remote regions. Beyond Technologies, an IOT company based in Johannesburg, South Africa, supplies just such a solution, thanks to the reach and power of AWS.

Beyond's ColdCloud solution is deployed in over 70 countries on five continents. It enables NGOs, ministries of health, vaccine distributors and healthcare providers to monitor and control their entire cold chain in real-time via the internet.

Biologicals like vaccines and blood often make a long and arduous journey from the manufacturers to the patient. Along this journey, healthcare providers must guarantee the integrity and continuity of the cold chain to ensure the products remain viable so they can quite literally save lives.

Beyond is in the business of ensuring the integrity of the cold chain so people don't die. Therefore, its non-negotiables are security, service continuity and data redundancy from a systems and technology perspective.

"In the early days, we had to rely on manually configured and maintained MySQL databases, which frequently suffered from out-of-sync replication slaves. To mitigate this considerable risk, we started looking at all the major cloud service providers. In the end, we found AWS to be the best fit in terms of cost-effectiveness, quality and spectrum of service," says Koot van Heerden, CTO at Beyond.

Beyond's switch to AWS took place before the AWS opened its data centre in Cape Town. "AWS had already started hosting annual conferences in South Africa, and despite not yet having a local footprint, the AWS team showed a real willingness to help, and demonstrated a future vision for AWS on the continent. The conferences also allowed us to spend some time talking face to face with technical experts about the configuration and migration of our systems onto the AWS platform," Van Heerden enthuses. The company felt confident that AWS's services provided the tools and global scalability necessary to build and maintain systems that can give both the company and its customers peace of mind.

"The performance and scalability of these products allow us to have all the speed and flexibility needed to provide an even better service for our clients. Having complete redundancy in data and services also ensures we maintain our ISO9001 and GAMP5 certifications," he states.

Beyond's ColdCloud portal and app puts the cold chain quite literally at their customers' fingertips, giving them real-time visibility of the cold chain. If the temperature gets too hot or too cold, or a door is left open, or the power fails – in that case, the right people get instantly notified and the appropriate corrective action gets taken.

"AWS' CloudWatch has been a game-changer for us in the monitoring and insights it provides into our systems," Van Heerden says. "We are currently collecting 800 metrics and have 100 alarms configured on AWS. Our systems consist of many moving parts that need to maintain perfect harmony to provide our customers with the service level they demand. CloudWatch has given us tremendous peace of mind knowing that we will be immediately informed of any issue that may impact our quality of service to our clients."

Through AWS, the company gained performance insights on Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), highlighting some critical bottlenecks in its systems' performance. RDS makes it easy to set up, operate and scale a relational database in the cloud.

"Having performance systems allows us to interrogate our data without any frustrations," he says. "This has, among others, led to the discovery of patterns in temperature data that indicates the efficiency of a critical vaccine refrigerator during power failures. Being able to inform our customers in advance before a catastrophic loss of vaccines or bloodstock is critical to our offering of providing predictive services that can save time, money and ultimately lives."

When they decided to move across to AWS, Van Heerden thought they would need to create Ubuntu instances and manually configure MySQL with replication as they had done with their previous cloud provider. "It was a welcome surprise to discover a fully managed, optimally tuned MySQL offering in the form of Amazon Aurora that also happens to offer instantaneous replication of our data," he states. "I must admit, I liked bragging about our data redundancy whenever I got interrogated on the subject by an auditor," he concludes.

AWS, in partnership with ITWeb, will host a webinar on cloud technologies facilitating online learning on Thursday, 22 July. Buti Manamela, deputy minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, will deliver the keynote address.

Click here to register.

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