The Evolving Relationship of LIMS and Mobile Devices
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An Interview with Abbott's Clive Baron about the new STARLIMS Version 11 and how it will leverage mobile devices
Since the 2010 acquisition of STARLIMS by Abbott, the LIMS division has grown to 400+ employees while STARLIMS is now installed in some 800+ laboratories in 40 countries worldwide.
At the recent Pittsburgh Conference (Pittcon) in Philadelphia, PA in March, 2013, the upcoming release was announced of a new STARLIMS Version 11 to be available in June. The new version will expand STARLIMS user functionality to include mobile device applications, advanced analytics and HTML5 compatibility. According to the company, these features will allow STARLIMS users to work on the "right screen for the task" with an expanded platform to access LIMS information anywhere. Technology Networks' Informatics Editor Helen Gillespie sat down with Clive Baron, General Manager for STARLIMS Global Commercial Operations, for more insights into the new version and its capabilities.
Gillespie: How does STARLIMS leverage the cloud?
Baron: We've been partnering for the past two years with one of the leading cloud platform vendors and are now ready to go to market after beta testing the new version with a number of customers. Version 11 will leverage an enabling technology that allows the lab and its users to focus on mission-critical business needs, such as their research, not trying to perform routine sample management tasks. STARLIMS Version 11 takes advantage of cloud technology to offer access anywhere using any device, but the core system is on a secure server behind the customer's firewall.
Gillespie: How do the mobile device attributes of STARLIMS 11 work?
Baron: The world has gone mobile. According to research by checkpoint.com, 89% of mobile devices in a business environment connect to a corporate network. But people use different mobile devices for different tasks. Our approach with STARLIMS 11 was to re-define the LIMS user experience with features that enables users to use the right screen for the right task. For example, a lab manager can check the lab KPIs or release urgent samples while out of the lab. Or, a lab client can request analysis, view sample status, and download reports using the browser-diagnostic HTML5 module. It doesn't matter what they use to do this, the system automatically delivers the right screen for the particular mobile device.
Gillespie: Tell me more about Abbott's approach to mobility; how did you come up with the new capabilities in STARLIMS Version 11?
Baron: We spent a lot of time analyzing the way mobile devices are used and we found that people use devices for specific tasks, so there was no need to replicate the entire STARLIMS functionality for say a smartphone.
Instead, the main STARLIMS 11 system is still desktop-based, while HTML5 compatibility enables the use of native mobile applications that allow users to perform specific tasks on mobile devices using HTML5-based forms. Existing XFD forms running on Internet Explorer will continue to be the primary platform. The key was to streamline the workflows to use mobile technology in the way that made most sense for the lab. HTML5 enables STARLIMS 11 user to take advantage of the camera, GPS, barcode scanning and other features that mobile devices offer.
Mobility isn't about taking your desktop screen and putting it on your tablet. These tools are very different. What we've done is taken the basic product and extended it into the mobile arena with interfaces for the appropriate tool.
For instance, we partnered with Microsoft to create built-in Windows screens for evidence collection at a crime site using the camera and GPS features of a tablet. In another case, we used a JAD decision designer tool to configure a template that enables the user to review KPIs, perform results approval and sample log-in on a mobile device. The design is scalable. Once published, the system automatically indicates to the device which OS and screen to use. The tablet screen is different from a smartphone screen. For example, results release is a smartphone app because not a lot of data needs to be viewed.
Gillespie: What are STARLIMS new advanced analytics functions?
Baron: We pushed advanced analytics into the mobile sphere. STARLIMS 11 has advanced analytics capabilities with out-of the-box dashboards that can make an immediate impact on laboratory operations, such as optimizing workflow and identifying bottlenecks. Viewing data from powerful visualizations provides insights and trends to help make better decisions. Again, lab personnel can access a dashboard from anywhere, from their mobile device.
Because the advanced analytics delivers fast answers to ‘what if?’ questions, this means that lab planning considerations can be rapidly turned into actionable solutions. A lab considering a new test for its clinical menu, for example, would want to analyze potential revenue and profitability. With advanced analytics, financial projections, profit and loss estimates and workflow and productivity data can be accessed on the spot for prompt analysis and decision-making.
All these applications and functions will be offered out of the box with STARLIMS Version 11 and enable users to start up quickly.