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environmental testing Tis might mean forcing step-by-step


operations, and requiring operators to add a digital signature. In addition, if a result exceeds limits or a sample is too late in reaching the analysis stage, a new routine kicks in automatically to retest or resample, for example. ‘Alerting people to limits is much better done by computers than by people,’ observes Turston of Termo Fisher Scientific. ‘Te way that people work in labs is much


more driven by formal methodology than it used to be,’ he continues, explaining that informatics helps with this. ‘Users follow steps and are prompted on what to do next. Tey


of functionality that customers want could be done by a LIMS or an ELN. In different parts of the business, users will have different requirements. For us it’s one platform and also includes instrument integration,’ he explains. ‘Our aim is to provide a comprehensive


ELP that embraces a much wider range of functionality and technology support than traditional LIMS or ELN – and in a way that ensures that our systems always add value, and never become obsolete.’ Similarly, through a recent series of


acquisitions and internal developments, PerkinElmer has developed its Laboratory


LABS HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO IN MOVING


FROM A PARTIALLY PAPERLESS SOLUTION TO FULLY PAPERLESS. THE TECHNOLOGY IS THERE. IT’S DOWN TO IMPLEMENTATION


MICHAEL GANNON


don’t have to learn every detail in tests every time more requirements are added. Tey can’t be expected to remember everything.’


Integration and reporting In addition to controlling the operators and the running of the tests, laboratory systems are also required to manage the instruments. And these themselves are changing and becoming more integrated with each other and with the systems, a process that is also reducing the potential for errors. Te other part of the process that is


becoming more integrated is the reporting. Tis is important for the customers of the lab – the water company and the consumer. Water companies need paperless ways to get secure access to results as soon as they are signed off by the lab, which informatics tools can provide. Turston gave the example of how one of Termo Fisher Scientific’s customers, United Utilities in the UK, publishes its analytical lab data on its water quality website daily for consumers to view. Tis data comes from the LIMS. Te other people who need good access to


laboratory data and to evidence that testing has been done in the proper manner, are the independent auditors.


Beyond LIMS and ELNs Many of these features and requirements take informatics tools well beyond the traditional roles of LIMS and ELNs. Indeed a range of recent product releases in this area have new names to reflect this. ‘We call it our Enterprise Laboratory


Platform (ELP),’ says Gabathuler about LabWare’s system. ‘It allows us to have one seamless framework and platform. A lot


10 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD


Execution System (LES). ‘A LIMS is passive, but this is active so it can catch problems earlier and this can cascade to operational excellence,’ notes Seabrooke. Te company’s latest move in this area is


a strategic relationship with Tibco Soſtware, which provides the Tibco Spotfire analytics and data discovery platform. ‘Now we have within our portfolio probably the best visualisation soſtware in this market. It is all about visualisation and mobility, and putting decision metrics in front of people who need to see them,’ he comments.


Mobility and the cloud Mobility itself is another emerging trend in informatics. In a minor way, the practice of collecting data out in the field on handheld devices has been around for years with devices such as PDAs. Now, however, there is far higher adoption of mobile devices in daily lives. Tere are also pressures on space in busy labs and this will drive adoption, according to Gannon of Orbis. ‘Mobile has been life


changing in the consumer world. Its adoption has been much faster there than in industry, but industry has to be cautious and vendors have to put more money into using it. Tere are always concerns about security, for example, if devices get stolen. Vendors don’t have solutions fully enabled on those devices yet, but if it is happening in daily life it will


happen in industry eventually.’ Indeed he believes that the push for mobile


data entry will help labs to become fully paperless within 10 years. Another trend that he predicts is the use


of hosting services and cloud computing. ‘Environmental companies want to drive down IT costs so will look at hosting options. More and more informatics businesses are being asked to provide hosting,’ he notes, although he adds that some security concerns remain among customers about putting their data in the cloud.


The future So what is the situation today? ‘In practice, labs have a long way to go in moving from a partially paperless solution to fully paperless,’ says Gannon. ‘Te technology is there. It’s down to implementation. ‘Resistance to going fully paperless is


possibly down to needing capital spend. If you go into a lab today, that’s pretty much doing the same business that it was doing four years ago; the case for change is not great,’ he continues. ‘And LIMS systems are pretty ground-breaking so customers don’t change easily. Clients tend to upgrade every three to five years.’ Nonetheless there is plenty of change going


on in the environmental testing industry. As Turston of Termo Fisher Scientific observes: ‘Data volumes and the number of different tests carried out will continue to grow and analytical chemists are going to spend much more of their time developing tests.’ He also anticipates a trend towards


Further


LabWare www.labware.com


Orbis Information Systems www.orb-is.com


PerkinElmer www.perkinelmer.com/labworks


Thermo Fisher Scientific www.thermoscientific.com/ informatics


Tibco Software www.tibco.com


much smarter instruments. For example, he envisages people doing full-spectrum mass spectrometry. Tis would mean that even if a particular material wasn’t looked for at the time of testing, analysts could go back and look for it in the spectrum at a later date. ‘Te challenge is moving


information


away from storing physical samples to storing data,’ Turston comments. ‘A LIMS needs to be able to interact with data much more strongly than it used to.’


Addressing all


these issues, will help environmental testing companies to manage their processes more efficiently and to continue to ensure that when you turn on the tap what you get is drinking water.


www.scientific-computing.com


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