Internet of Lab Thing: A vision
I have always been fascinated by Sci Fi representation of labs. The voice of a central Artificial Intelligence can be heard in the laboratory to provide services to laboratory workers and trigger general alerts in catastrophic movies. I think there is some truth in this imagination of the laboratory of the future, but it is a safe bet that the laboratory 5.0 will not look exactly like what is imagined. Let’s investigate!
Internet of Lab Thing: What are we familiar to?
We already live today with many systems that have enabled the digitalization of the laboratory:
- Internet allows access to knowledge bases, and enables systems communication
- LIMS, ELN, and all other software and database systems make it possible to enhance data, manage them and ensure their quality and traceability
- The laboratory processes are formalized, through operational, quality and automation oriented methodologies, generally transcribed in the laboratory’s QMS
- The instruments are becoming more and more automated, from the gas chromatography machine that automatically draws chromatograms, to new automatic sample collection machines, for example
We have adopted these examples for a long time in our daily laboratory life, and we now perceive the possibility of going further in the digitalization of the laboratory.
Internet of Lab Thing: What do we already expect for tomorrow?
Today we expect a lot from artificial intelligence, in its ability to analyze data, make decisions, make complex calculations much faster than humans.
Databases and the value of their data are fueling the development of big data, data science, and machine learning to exploit data beyond everything that has been done so far.
The good old robots already widely used in industrial production are evolving towards the concept of “cobots”. We will also have to familiarize ourselves with these “collaboration robots” that are intended to work closely with humans, not separately.
As for the Internet of Things, it is already part of our daily life at home and has not yet entered the laboratory environment. This Internet of Laboratory Things (IoLT) will reveal the potential of all these technologies, in particular by allowing the interconnection of intelligent systems, sensors and machines.
Internet of Lab Thing: So, what’s next?
The complete integration of all these technologies will lead the laboratory to the next stage of its digitization. And the integration of every lab components together will be made possible thanks to the IoLT: from humans to instruments, from instruments to databases, from sensors to central AI, etc. Sensors and lab instruments will be connected to the network and able to communicate with the whole laboratory information system. Humans also, on the same level as AI, will be able to supervise, communicate, control data, sensors, instruments, etc. That’s IoLT.
Internet of Lab Thing: “Connected humans”
Human-computer interactions will be pushed to their climax with full adoption of technologies such as :
- Virtual and Augmented Reality
- Speech recognition
- Gestures control
- Biometric authentication: fingerprints, voice prints, facial recognition. Even all together for very secure systems are fully possible
All these technologies are key accessories connected together thanks to the central IoLT technology.
Humans can therefore also be connected remotely. This leads to few or no humans physically present in the lab, only machines will remain there, and humans will keep control of them from their chairs at home.
Human consideration in all of this
Human is replaced in performing risky, repetitive tasks, and where he can also make mistakes. Human is also replaced wherever the “machine” is more efficient than him: in tasks that require physical strength, high computational or decision-making capacity, etc. But he is not replaced in his most interesting and rewarding tasks, he remains the master and configures the machines, initiates the systems, maintains them, supervises them, and values their results. He remains present from the initiative of the existence of these systems to the exploitation of the results.
Furthermore, each man can certainly be replaced by 1 machine capable of doing 10 times what a human is capable of. But each human can then supervise / control / etc. 10 of these machines. The ROI is easy to estimate, either on its financial or human dimensions.
From Sci Fi to Reality
A centralized artificial intelligence will have access to the ubiquitous cameras in the laboratory, and to all sources of knowledge and control: the AI will be connected to the sensors installed in the building, it will also have access to all the databases, etc. It will have in the end a capacity of surveillance and control at the height of what authors of science fiction have already imagined, like the Red Queen in Resident Evil films, a lab version of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey to cite only these (and certainly not the most reassuring). But are people willing to accept this? This is undoubtedly a new change which
can be difficult to adopt. But what is the point of worrying if in the end there is no longer any person physically present in the laboratory.
IoLT: the key link for integration into laboratory 5.0
Humans are already all interconnected with each other and with knowledge bases thanks to their Smartphones. It is a cultural fact perfectly acquired by modern society. These intermediate systems for interconnection will be deployed in all ecosystems, and laboratories will not be spared. Interconnection systems will appear to interconnect the laboratory in its different components. Whether the laboratory equipment is natively connected or not to the lab network, they will be equipped with totipotent communication accessories. These accessories currently have a singular name: “IoT gateways”. This
name is a bit reductive in my opinion, it should probably be seen as a “Smartphone” for equipment, for databases, for central AI, for humans in the lab. These IoT Gateways are the building blocks of the IoLT, the final link that will soon allow the integration of physical, digital, and human systems. Paving the way for a synergy of systems whose potential surely exceeds us. For the time being.
The lab 5.0 will arrive.
The IoLT will play a major role as a key link for the lab integration of systems and technologies, and it will be a revolution in the way of working and even living. Are we ready to accept this? This will again be a new challenge with regard to the changes to be adopted.
If you thought the lab’s “digital revolution” was getting closer to its objectives, I think there’s still a lot to do, with a lot of surprises to come. We may still be at the very beginning of what we call digitalization.
Connected Labs is sponsoring and exhibiting at the Paperless Lab Academy 2020 European edition and will be available for you to contact
Thomas Perraudin, Co-Founder of Connected Labs
Thomas is an experienced entrepreneur and computer scientist, fond of technological innovation. Founder of Cerebellis, a company specialized in software development for biology and health industries. He partnered with SoftNLabs in 2019 to create a new IoLT solution: Connected Labs