Building a Smart Laboratory 2017

substantial soſtware installation on a local computer in which a good deal of the data processing is undertaken before passing the output to the database server. Tis has the advantage of distributing the total processing load over a number of clients, rather than the server, and may also allow a certain amount of personalisation of the client soſtware to support individual users’ needs. Te downside is that system upgrades

can become time-consuming and potentially troublesome, depending on the local configuration – although centrally managed systems are now making thick client systems easier to deploy, maintain and support. Tin clients typically access the application

and database server(s) through a browser. No local processing power is used, so the server and network performance are critical factors in providing good performance. Te use of a browser can significantly reduce deployment and upgrade costs, but may restrict or limit user configurability. With regard to devices, successful

deployments have been made with: l Small form-factor PCs on the laboratory bench;

l ‘Remote desktop’; l Citrix; and l A KVM switch operating between a desk-

bound processor unit with keyboards and screens on the desk and in the laboratory.

Tere is a growing level of interest in how consumer technologies can enhance the user experience of working with laboratory informatics tools. With their focus on sharing, collaboration, interaction and ready access to information, consumer technologies exhibit considerable synergy with the high-level criteria associated with current business requirements. Primarily, these focus on ‘mobile’ (portable devices), ‘cloud’ (access from anywhere), ‘Big Data’ (the need to be able to access and interpret vast collections of data) and ‘social’ (collaborative tools). Te big attraction of mobile devices for end

users is portability. A common complaint in the transition from paper systems to electronic is the loss of portability of, for example, a paper lab notebook. Te form factor of a laptop computer goes

part way to resolving this concern, but the emergence of compact, lightweight tablets holds far more potential. Although tablets are oſten considered to be ‘data consumers’ – great for reviewing data but less effective for data entry – careful design of the user interface can optimise their potential for narrow, dedicated functions or tasks.

Practical considerations

The degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance

Individual user’s positive or negative feelings about performing the target behaviour

Perceived usefulness

External variables

Perceived ease-of-use

A measure of the strength of one’s intention to perform a specific behaviour

The degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort

Fig. 8: Technology acceptance model Typically, mobile devices offer significant

potential for accessing data from remote locations, or for capturing certain types of data in the field. Te user experience can be enhanced by the use of mobile devices that feature simple, gesture-based interactions for on-screen navigation, consistent with typical consumer applications. Furthermore, the adoption of web technologies creates the opportunity to design a platform that supports all types of end-user devices, making critical laboratory data available anytime, anywhere, on any device in a global wireless and mobile environment.

“ There is a growing level of interest in how consumer technologies can enhance the user experience of working with laboratory informatics tools”

Te adoption of mobile devices for

informatics-based tasks raises a further question about how the host system is deployed and, in particular, how the mobile device communicates with the host. Synchronisation is one option, which has the advantage of not requiring remote connectivity, but it means that data must be held locally on the device. Wireless connectivity to a hosted system (SaaS or cloud) has the benefit of direct access to the system. From a business perspective, the cloud offers

an effective solution to the increasing demand for the implementation of collaboration tools across multiple departments, multiple sites and different geographies – including outsourced operations where the practicalities of deployment are largely

limited to configuration rather than physical installation of hardware and soſtware. Te benefits of a thin client – access from anywhere, low start-up costs and centralised support – has both financial and functional attractions. Pitted against this are concerns about access

control, security, and data integrity. Choosing the cloud is a risk-based decision, but if confidence grows sufficiently, it is a path likely to be adopted on a wide scale. Some informatics vendors already offer this

type of service. Cloud services generally fall into one of two categories: public clouds and private clouds. Public clouds utilise a single code base for the service to multiple clients. Te single code base limits customisation and integration, but helps keep costs down. A private cloud will typically offer a code base specific to an individual client, and will accommodate customisation and integration, but will normally come at a higher management cost. So far, the interest and uptake of cloud

solutions for informatics systems has been somewhat constrained by IP, legal, regulatory and security concerns.

Chapter summary

Te purchase and implementation of a laboratory informatics system represents a major cost to the laboratory. It also represents the start of a relatively long-term relationship with the vendor. Deploying a new system changes the working lives of laboratory workers and, as is the case with any significant change, planning takes on a critical role in the process. Understanding the full objectives of the project; setting success criteria, understanding the costs, both financial and in terms of resource, and understanding the impact on users, are all critical factors. n


Attitude toward

Behavioural intention

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