Four benefits of implementing IoT in the laboratory
The Internet of Things (IoT) is finally becoming established in the laboratory, allowing researchers and scientists to work more efficiently, minimise failures and even improve their work-life balance.
A recent article in the Nature journal provides a fascinating snapshot into the way IoT is changing lab work, clearly showing a shift in the way researchers and scientists work. What’s noticeable is how behind the industry is in comparison the prevalence of mainstream connected devices (TVs, cars, fridges, heating systems). This is in part due to a lack of the right technology, but also a budgetary constraints and knowledge of how IoT can work.
What would increase use of the IoT in the lab environment is clarity on the benefits of IoT. There are concerns about security and the economics of IoT, but these often outweigh the benefits. To start your journey to an IoT enabled lab here’s four compelling benefits:
1. Protection of your work
How much is your work worth? Being able to monitor the environment that your samples or experiments are in can be vital to the preservation of your project. For example, a malfunctioning freezer that slowly warms up can damage samples over a period of time without you noticing. If the freezer failed you may notice within minutes or hours, bit a slight change in temperatures can compromise a whole experiment. A wifi enabled sensor on a freezer can monitor temperatures constantly, and can notify you via a desktop computer dashboard or phone app if the temperatures change even slightly. You can then make plans to fix the freezer, service it or move your samples. Experiment saved. One example in the article noted that samples from deep oceans cost millions of dollars to retrieve but could be destroyed with something as simple as a malfunctioning fridge or freezer. The OpenIO platform allows you to monitor from anywhere and act quickly and locally. OpenIO edge processing and full two way communications keep your assets and data safe.
2. Improve your work/life balance
Find yourself missing important family time due to your lab commitments? Laboratory work is not 9-5 and many scientists find themselves at the lab on weekends or evenings to monitor samples or change environments.
“For Jared Farrar, an MD–PhD student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who uses the Thermo Fisher system to monitor his real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) runs, the technology allows him to spend more time with his family. At weekends, he says, he can drop into the lab, set up a few reactions, then monitor their progress from his phone to see when he needs to return to swap plates. “The greatest benefit is it takes me out of the lab,” he says.”
3. Reducing budgets and maximising resources
The IoT can help you access interoperability, streamlining your lab operations to save time and save money on changing all your devices to one vendor.
The IoT equalises equipment in the lab, where previously you would be tied to a certain vendor. IoT fosters integration between instruments regardless of their vendor and allows you to manage one integrated platform – the OpenIO LabBook a dashboard for example.
The OpenIOLabs system is designed to facilitate interoperability in the lab, our hardware ‘joins up’ your lab equipment and our ScriptML™ software allows you to monitor, analyse and control one place.
4. Fine tune your work
Big data is one of the great advantages (and challenges) of an IoT enabled system, and what you can then do with it. Having a wealth of data available means you are able to fine tune work like never before. You can monitor data in real time and make decisions on the go, rather than completing a large piece of work and then hoping the results are what you were aiming for. Flexibility like this means you can be more agile in the way you work, and get the most from your lab work.
ScriptML™ is a powerful programming tool giving you the control you need to manage demanding tasks. Work in the best language to meet each challenge, bring it all to one screen, capture it along with meta data to keep it in context.
What’s stopping IoT?
One of the main sticking points with the IoT are concerns about security, for example, how easily can someone hack into your cloud-stored data? This is part of the reason it has been slow to become established in the lab, but the Nature article agrees that the risks pale into comparison with the benefits, especially if you use a platform that manages security end-to-end
The IoT can create a working environment that is flexible for the researcher whilst also reducing risks of failure. Lab work is always going to be challenging and constrained by time and budgets, so why not let the Internet of Things help you?