Bold ideas at smartLAB 2017
The smartLAB presents a few provocative questions to today's laboratory day.9 Feb 2017
1. Why are laboratories 10 years behind when it comes to digitalization?
At least that's what it feels like. Digitalization and networking are firmly anchored in people's personal lives: We store vacation pictures in the cloud, stream video on demand and can turn our lights or heat on at home while we're still on the road. Things are very different in the lab, where data is often still recorded by hand – sometimes even copied from the devices – and archived on paper. Central device control or data management? Error message! The reasons for this include multitudes of regulations and long product life cycles for laboratory devices. But does this have to be the case?
SmartLAB demonstrates how far innovation has come, and that modern technologies can absolutely be connected to older devices. Here, the regulated environment of the laboratory is not necessarily a barrier, but can even become a technology driver. Data glasses, for example, have no very practical use so far in daily life, but in the lab they can provide helpful support by displaying work steps for carrying out SOPs, or safety instructions.
2. Could my colleague hurry up with the centrifuge?
In theory there are more than enough centrifuges in the lab, and they are almost never all in use at the same time – and yet when you want one, they're all taken. Suboptimal utilization of lab equipment creates unnecessary wait times that would be easy to avoid. The simplest analog solution for this problem would be a booking schedule on the device. But how up-to-date is that?
The smartLAB showcases how live device overviews enable dynamic booking of capacities. Only authorized persons can then access certain devices. The utilization is documented and alerts sent automatically when a device becomes free. This enables experiments to be planned more efficiently.
3. Oh no, now the device is broken.
Device malfunctions and unplanned stoppage times are not just annoying, they also cost unnecessary time. But how do you prevent this, especially with high-use devices?
One fundamental need for long-lived and reliable laboratory equipment is regular maintenance and calibration. These are essential to ensure precise measurements and long apparatus life.
SmartLAB shows that intelligent networking can support optimally calibrated and maintained laboratory devices. Plus, calibration can take place during low-use times – you just have to schedule it properly. With a central overview of maintenance intervals, servicing can easily be planned in advance.
4. Why is there so much stuff everywhere?
Already scarce work spaces in the laboratory are often not used efficiently. Sometimes there's no room to do the work, because devices are in the way that aren't even used that often.
SmartLAB shows how the innovative integration of equipment into work surfaces can create additional space. New, mobile honeycomb modules enable flexible use of a device in various laboratories – on demand. This device sharing efficiently reduces long pathways, unnecessary costs and the space required for each work area. And what if the device is malfunctioning? No problem: with intelligent design it's easy to exchange defective components without having to replace an entire installation.
5. Do you have to be a scientist to work in the lab?
Okay, we understand that this is a pretty provocative question. But let's ask it this way: Do you really need to call a technician if a device isn't working? Digital instructions on the device or via augmented reality are the phone support of the future. And when it comes to scientists: even non-experts can be easily guided with digital instructions. This doesn't apply to every activity, but it can certainly play out for some routine tasks.
In the smartLAB, work steps are displayed on digitally supported protective goggles, for example to carry out SOPs. Direct device interaction or video documentation are also possible. All this could significantly simplify on-site technical support in the future.
6. Wait, where did my data go?
Not even the U.S. government is safe from hacking. So how secure can global data exchange between laboratories at different research institutes, or within an international firm, really be? Another, related question: if the server fails – can all the data be saved? And what happens in 30 years – will it all still be readable?
Data backups are not a new problem, and there are already tried and true systems available. SmartLAB works with IT standards that enable easy implementation of these systems, with data stored on-premise or in the secure cloud. Various configurations for digital, networked and secure communication are imaginable, based on requirements and needs.
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