The Birth of the Internet of Labs (IoL)

Arthur Trapotsis
Written by: Arthur Trapotsis

MS Biochemical Engineering, MBA, Consultant

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us. From adjusting thermostats online, to starting a car from an app, to viewing security camera video on a website, internet connected devices have already revolutionized the consumer market.

If you’re not familiar with IoT, think of it as a series of interconnected devices that are able to communicate with each other and transfer data back and forth over a network. This data, which is easily accessible by humans, is invaluable in today’s ever-evolving tech world by allowing everyday devices and tasks to become more automated and integrated with the natural pace of our lives.

While IoT has rapidly permeated all types of consumer products, up until recently, it has not integrated with laboratory equipment.  This is not surprising as lab equipment technology advances much more slowly than that of consumer goods.  But things are changing!

The Internet of Things in laboratories, or as I like to call it, the Internet of Labs (IoL), is about to take off — and in a short time all laboratory equipment will be connected to the cloud. This type of “Smart” equipment will enable researchers to be more productive by allowing them to remotely perform experiments, run processes, monitor tests, collect data and more.

From my perspective (a lab equipment manufacturer who is about to launch a cloud-connected device) I see the many useful things that can come from IoL. For example, data currently collected from our devices in the form of “paper printouts” will soon be accessible via computer, tablet and smartphone from anywhere in the world. Imagine all of the data from your lab equipment available when you need it, where you need it. The pace of research and development is bound to speed up.

Using our cloud-connected steam sterilizer as an example for what’s possible, the following is a list of some of the incredible benefits that can be expected as a result of the Internet of Labs.

  1. Increased Productivity — Productivity gains are realized by minimizing downtime, reducing waiting time and allowing researchers to work on multiple pieces of equipment remotely.  Many laboratory personnel utilize sterilizers that are in another room or on another floor and are unsure when/if the sterilizer cycle has been completed.  Believe it or not, but simply checking (i.e. walking to and from the autoclave) can take up quite a bit of time and interrupt other workflows.  IoL allows for alerts (e.g. Cycle Over) to be sent to a desktop or mobile device.
  1. Improved Traceability — Our clients are often interested in knowing how many times the sterilizer has been run in a given month and by whom. The Internet of Labs allows visibility into this valuable data, putting it right at your fingertips.
  1. Eliminates Wasteful Work Practices — Implementing a LEAN culture in a laboratory is one thing, but having the tools in place for continuous improvement is another. The Internet of Labs can help with LEAN initiatives in that it eliminates wasteful processes within a laboratory setting – processes such as the aforementioned unnecessary movement from room to room and collection of wasteful sterilizer printouts.
  1. Workflow Advancements — Need help scheduling sterilizer usage or setting up maintenance? Cloud-connected sterilizers will help reduce unexpected wait-time by allowing researchers to schedule equipment use (think virtual calendar). In addition, maintenance reminders will alert researchers about PMs ahead of time, allowing them to be proactive about maintenance instead of reactive.  Once scheduled, simply upload the maintenance dates into the aforementioned virtual calendar and everyone is on the same page.

As the idea of the Internet of Labs continues to evolve, laboratories must continue to adapt and prepare for future changes to their processes. Hang on tight and don’t be the last to get connected. If you have any questions, or further ideas about the Internet of Labs, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Arthur Trapotsis


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