The IoT – Internet of Things — has become an accepted part of our daily lives. Distributed sensors, wireless networking and cloud computing enable us to control lights and HVAC systems from our smart phones, either from home or from a hotel room while on a business trip. More recently for scientific professionals the same IoT technology stack applied to the lab has spawned the concept of the IoLT – the Internet of Lab Things – and just as the IoT enables the Smart Home, the IoLT enables the enables the Smart Lab.
While the Smart Home promises homeowners some increased measure of control and convenience, the Smart Lab is poised to deliver far more strategic value to science-based organizations. Smart Labs are fundamentally transforming the way modern science is done by changing the way we gather, understand and utilize information. The Smart Lab is built on connected technologies that address some of the core challenges in today’s labs – sensors, network interfaces and cloud-based computing platforms are being specifically adapted to meet the rigorous requirements of science-based environments.
The foundational concept of the Smart Lab is connectivity – either deploying devices with intrinsic networking capabilities or adding connected capabilities to existing legacy devices. In all cases, the goal is the the seamless gathering of critical information. The modern lab generates staggering amounts of data. However, in many cases collecting and consolidating that information in a uniform, interchangeable fashion remains a highly inefficient process – if it exists at all . Smart Lab technologies are poised to streamline data gathering from existing equipment and eliminate data gaps – places where data isn’t gathered and should be (equipment, process, etc.).
The other core aspect of the Smart Lab is the implementation of open, standards-based systems that are designed to facilitate the seamless flow of data between data sources and data consumers. This ease of access facilitates highly valuable modalities on the backend: components such as comprehensive, reliable archiving and increasingly sophisticated data analysis rely on the Smart Lab to deliver information accurately and seamlessly. Information interconnectivity is one of the key ways to reduce the data silos that plague so many labs while simultaneously making the data more valuable through higher availability.
For the modern scientific professional, Smart Lab technologies hold a number of promises: making previously unavailable data accessible through better connectivity, improved access to existing data and facilitating the wider exchange of information among data consumers. Over time, these capabilities will help simplify and streamline lab operations and enable teams to use the massive amounts of data to generate new insights and discoveries.. First things first, though.