As we close out 2019 and look to the new year and decade, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the dominant technologies that revolutionized the life sciences industry in the last decade and look forward to some of the anticipated technologies that will revolutionize the next decade.
There is no doubt that the 2010s belonged to the Internet of Things (IoT), from smart homes to connected health products and now industrial applications. More and more machines are connected to the internet every day to continuously monitor and streamline processes. The growing prevalence of IoT, in turn, drummed up demand for better data storage and retrieval solutions. Enter the Cloud, which provides virtually unlimited storage as well as global access. Furthermore, the Cloud is able to accept data from all sources (machines), thus eliminating data silos and instead creating data lakes.
We at Elemental Machines have specifically focused on extending the reach of IoT to the life sciences. Workflows in life sciences can be pretty specialized, so it takes some insight to build compatible IoT solutions that make the workflows easier, thus making the lives of the scientists and engineers who perform them easier. We’ve found there are several ways in which IoT can benefit those who work in the life sciences space.
One of the biggest challenges for life sciences is scientific reproducibility. Each year $28 billion are lost chasing reproducibility issues. By using IoT, it’s possible to continuously gather and monitor data, even when you are not onsite. This provides context, making it easier to fill in the missing gaps of what really happened while you were away. Typical applications for using IoT in life sciences include cold storage monitoring, CO2 incubator monitoring, and environmental monitoring.
Studies that involve animal subjects or clinical samples can also benefit from IoT solutions. Monitoring ambient environments for vivariums helps ensure animals are housed under conditions that match their circadian rhythms and minimize handling of the animals. Deviations from those conditions can induce undue stress that can affect study outcomes. By using an IoT monitoring solution, study coordinators can continuously monitor and respond to aberrant conditions with the aid of real-time alerts. Similarly, clinical samples are also sensitive to environmental conditions. By continuously monitoring conditions with an IoT solution, it’s possible to pick up on freeze/thaw cycles or other aberrant conditions that could impact sample integrity and thus study outcomes.
IoT devices such as Element-T and Element-A, pictured above, can continuously monitor environmental conditions in vivariums
IoT solutions for life sciences applications is not just limited to monitoring equipment and environments. Data generated by such systems is instrumental in supporting quality and regulatory compliance, such as GxP, ISO, and FDA CFR requirements. For those reasons Elemental Machines has created solutions supporting such requirements.
Through much of this year, we’ve seen examples of how our IoT solutions work in real world circumstances. For example, we’ve uncovered how environmental conditions in laboratories can shift seasonally from winter to summer. This can be exacerbated during heat waves, such as the one most of the US experienced in July. Continuous IoT monitoring solutions can catch fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and light levels that can impact scientific outcomes. Another instance when an IoT solution becomes invaluable is during a power outage, such as the PG&E power outages this year in California. And for those of us who live in the colder parts of the country, we are susceptible to power outages during these winter months due to bad weather. In such cases, it’s a good idea to have a reliable IoT solution in place to keep an eye on the machines in your laboratory and alert you to any out of spec conditions.
So what do we think is on the horizon for the next decade? Well, it will surely build on the progress of this decade. As more devices are connected to the internet, we are equipped to extract more insights from all the data collected. In order to do this, we need to be confident about the quality of data input- continuous monitoring through IoT gives us this confidence. While the vast amounts of data collected may overwhelm current data analytics tools, new machine learning (ML) algorithms will be able to accommodate large volumes of information and deliver meaningful insights on equipment utilization, predictive maintenance, while artificial intelligence (AI) will be able to identify process improvements, leading the way for hyperautomation. Lastly, data visualization will become increasingly important as information is gathered from various sources. Again, traditional methods fall short, and we expect to see more augmented and virtual reality tools for industrial applications. We’re looking forward to building new tools for the life sciences industry that incorporate many of these technologies for the purpose of accelerating science!
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