As a technologist and a scientist, it is very gratifying to see the technologies that have transformed business and consumer markets being applied to the challenges in the laboratory and beyond. Miniaturization of components, sensors, machine learning, wireless communications, and big data have shaped other industries, and are finally positioned to make a huge impact in the science-based organizations that are doing the most for human-kind.
I’m not just talking about Elemental Machines. We’re doing great work here, but we’re part of a broader trend of concentrated energy and innovation, driven by technologists and scientists who understand both computing and the lab. These multi-disciplinary teams are tackling the processes involved in developing and manufacturing new chemistry and biology-based products. From protocol management and standardization to securely managing and archiving vast amounts of research data, the “smart lab” is one of the most interesting sectors to watch and participate in.
Companies like Benchling, a data-management and collaboration platform and Riffyn, who are developing experimental design software, are rapidly moving to the front of the pack, while the many dynamic ELN (electronic lab notebook) providers are hoping – once and for all – to eliminate paper-based notebooks (and pens) from the lab. At Elemental Machines, we are focused on yet another set of challenges – giving our customers data-driven visibility into complex processes with the Elemental Machines Sensory Network™, which provides visibility into the contextual variables that can affect their work, whether in early R&D or during manufacturing.
The good news? Widespread innovation means that teams have access to a growing number of solutions to support every stage of the product development lifecycle. New offerings are both automating and standardizing manual, time-consuming tasks – freeing staff to focus on more strategic work and improving outcomes, and reducing time to market in the long term.
The bad news? The category labels that have been around for a while – laboratory informatics, laboratory information systems (LIMS), and others – are expanding their definitions to accommodate the capabilities that this new generations of products add. The result? A whole host of legacy systems trying to expand their proprietary footprints, which will inevitably cause some friction for customers. Have you ever tried to get one LIMS system to talk to another? Easier said than done.
At Elemental Machines, we think the modern scientist needs modern tools and modern ways of sharing data. A pillar of the smart lab vision and value proposition is open systems that share data through modern APIs, and that are not limited by closed, proprietary infrastructure. But more on that another time.