The company, called Koovea and set up by three friends in 2015, started selling monitors in 2018 and has seen sales rise from €200,000 to €2million in two years.
Users put the Bluetooth sensor inside a fridge or freezer, link it to a supplied router, and are then able to get alarms, reports and monitoring of the temperature via their smartphones.
The routers can be installed in vehicles, so temperatures can be monitored in cold boxes during transport, vital for the refrigerated transportation of the vaccines. “It can be set up in seconds. There is no need to fiddle with cables or software or anything like that,” said Adrien Content, Koovea president and one of the three founders.
“One of our sensors is good for temperatures of up to -200C so that is the one which is of most interest for some Covid-19 vaccines, which have to be kept at -70C during the logistics chain. Our other sensors are good for -20C, which is the temperature at which many other vaccines have to be transported.”
The company has been in contact with all the firms involved in the handling of vaccines in the upcoming vaccination campaign, and Mr Content said there is a great deal of interest.
“It is not just the ease of use which is important but the fact that we are French-based, make all the equipment here in France, and have all the French and European regulatory approvals.”
The company provides sensors to clients with the monitoring services for a fixed monthly fee, starting at €23 for one freezer or fridge. Batteries in the sensors and routers last between two and three years before needing to be replaced.
Around 60% of business so far is with the health sector, which has monitoring requirements far stricter than even the food industry.
Mr Content said the decision to manufacture at the company’s offices in Montpellier was taken because of the need to keep quality standards high.
“We found that although the subcontractors in Asia were able to offer lower prices, the quality control for parts we need was just not good enough,” he said.
“Our equipment in the health and food sectors has to work perfectly because people’s lives depend on it.”
The company has taken out three patents to protect its inventions. Most of its business so far has been in France but it is getting inquiries from other European companies and is in the early stages of exploring how to supply its services to the US. “There is really no one out there with a similar product,” said Mr Content.
“There have been cold-chain monitoring solutions out there for years but they are difficult and expensive to set up and use.”
Covid vaccines which have to be kept cold have highlighted that many French pharmacies – some figures say 40% – rely on domestic fridges to store temperature-sensitive medicines.
Many do not comply with a requirement that temperatures are monitored at least once a day.
Pharmacies are recommended to keep fridges at 2C. The vaccines are expected to be able to cope with 5C temperatures just before use.