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LABORATORY INFORMATICS GUIDE 2016 | WIRELESS LAB


ONLY CONNECT: GETTING DATA INTO THE COMPUTER


Robert Roe explores some of the ways it may be possible to connect up all the instruments in a laboratory to the informatics system


E


very issue of this magazine carries reports on the immense power of modern computing to make


science and engineering faster, cheaper, and easier. Yet the solution to one intractable barrier to scientific computing may lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from the multi-billion dollar behemoths of high-performance computing, with the humble Raspberry Pi. All the compute power in the world is of


no use to a scientist if they cannot get their data into the computer quickly and easily in the first place. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in the analytics laboratory.


24 | www.scientific-computing.com/lig2016


As if the problems of incompatible data formats from different vendors’ analytical instruments were not enough, simple laboratory operations – such as using a weighing balance – are not networked into the informatics system. Data has to be recorded by hand and then keyed into the system, resulting in demotivated lab staff and increased risk of transcription errors. However, according to Oscar Kox,


business development manager at iVention, a Dutch provider of the cloud based LIMS/ ELN solution, the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero may change all that. Kox and his colleagues from iVention have some ideas


for a new, cheap system that could be used to link instruments retroactively. Kox said: ‘We had a very informal discussion recently to find out if we can make 100,000 of these $5 PCs and put our software onto them and just build them straight into an instrument.’ The Raspberry Pi Foundation launched


what is the smallest and cheapest member of the Raspberry Pi family yet, at 65mm × 30mm and costing just $5, on 26 November. Adapting it to provide a cheap interface could solve what is, in Kox’s opinion, one of the largest issues in laboratory informatics – the high cost of linking laboratory instruments. It can cost thousands of dollars


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