At the recent SLAS2013 conference, IDBS's Director of Product Strategy Scott Weiss met with Technology Network's Informatics Editor Helen Gillespie to discuss a presentation he gave at the conference concerning how new technology and social software tools are being used in the lab. As a provider of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs), IDBS has been tracking a number of trends since inception.
"There are a lot of trends going on right now," observes Weiss. "From the cloud to collaboration to big data to operational efficiencies. Along with these trends, ELNs are becoming more complex and sophisticated. And, they are merging in to the broader lab management systems arena that is not regulated by GxPs and traditionally held by Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS)."
Other influencers are 'big world innovations' as Weiss names it, or the user experience. "Popular user experiences like "Angry Birds" are transforming what people expect," he explains. As a result, people are expecting the same level of simple to use, simple to understand tools in every aspect of their lives, including the lab."
Weiss went on to use mobile technology as an example. "The tools that are now in the commercial space are expected to take about two years to trickle down into the business arena. As an example, Gartner Group said that 2012 PC shipments only grew about 2.4%. This means that people are investing in different technology, and in this case that technology is mobile solutions such as tablets. In addition, the habit of being connected all the time, whether with a tablet or a smartphone, are creating an instant-on, always-on society."
Tablet applications have been available in the lab for several years, from note-taking apps to science productivity tools. Weiss estimates that these applications will continue to grow in the future. With regard to tablet ELNs, he points out that there are several browser-based solutions available but states that native tablet apps are typically more responsive and offer getter ergonomics since they were designed specifically for the tablet environment. "The ideal ELN system should support multiple interfaces," Weiss states. "Including thin client, tablet apps, web client, and third party app development."
"The third big trend is social networking," he adds. "It's all about using the internet to connect to others to share information, from photos to music to experiences. And here's where it gets interesting, because ELNs have the potential to drive innovation, not just enable the user to be more productive."
"Studies have found that innovation occurs in conference rooms where many people bounce around ideas," he continues, "not when they are alone at the lab bench. Thus it is the ability to collaborate on the tablet that is important. Users can connect with discussion threads; they can tag content and markup social data; they can subscribe to networks in areas of interest regardless of where they are or how many people are in their research department."
Weiss predicts that the drive to outsource and collaborate externally will provide the commercial incentive for informatics tools to embrace mobility. In particular, "the ubiquity of social networking will change the way we collaborate in R&D."
For more about IDBS, visit http://www.idbs.com.