AM-TRAN: Medical Couriers and the IoT

Trust. It is the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective.

It can be hard to gain, but always easy to lose. Once lost, it’s a whole lot harder to get it back the second time. This covers everything from personal relationships to that restaurant you’ll never go back to.

Jim Hobbs, President of Am-Tran, runs a courier business with a focus on medical transport. He knows a lot about trust. His guys transport samples from hospitals to labs for analysis. It’s an important job. From a patient’s perspective, a given sample can represent a number of possible futures — some not so desirable. Waiting for test results can be a very stressful period. If something goes wrong in transit that damages the sample, it’s a big deal; and the trust starts to go away.

Jim’s people use temperature-controlled containers when moving samples from a doctor’s office to the lab. His customers have to trust that his team is keeping the samples at the right temperature the entire time they are in his custody. For Jim to gain a customer, he has to gain this trust. To keep them, he can’t lose it.

Am-Tran is one of many businesses that want to prove to their customers they’re treating materials correctly. Enter our new company, Dígame Systems.

Dígame (pronounced “DEE-gah-may”) is Spanish for “Talk to me!” and we’re giving the company that name to reflect how we think people will interact with the “Internet of Things” going forward. Increasingly you wont go to the web to find out about a thing. Rather, you’ll hold your phone up to it and ask it to tell you about itself.

In a previous post I talked about how Dígame is taking advantage of three new developments: the rise of near field communication (NFC) for contact-less payment in mobile devices, new infrastructure that supports wide scale app deployment, and back end systems to support software as a service (SaaS).

The value big companies see in NFC for payment has driven the creation of a world where 400 Million NFC-enabled phones will be built this year. Smaller companies that use NFC for things other than payments find themselves in a world where reader hardware is essentially free to the end user.

Dígame is putting together a system using inexpensive sensor tags that can be read with your phone or tablet. Download our app, touch your phone to our tag and it will talk to you. Start a sensor tag; toss it in the box you are shipping, read out the temperature history at the other end of the trip; all from your mobile phone.

The system will support variable-logging intervals, high and low temperature limits and text/email notifications when a tag is read that’s gone out of range. A rich web services API allows existing business systems to communicate with the database and tie tag IDs and temperature compliance information to shipments and other business events.

We are currently gathering requirements from potential customers and are looking for partners to work with that might be interested in participating in our beta program.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

John Price