Updated on 17 September 2013
Technologies which address these concerns are becoming more widely available, allowing companies to segregate corporate data from personal data on mobile devices. All organizational activity occurs in a 'sandbox' over which the IT organization has full control and which they can wipe remotely if the device is lost or stolen or if an employee leaves the organization. This satisfies intellectual property and security concerns while allowing employees autonomy over their personal data. Enterprises are already using such technologies with company-issued devices, but it is clear that they have even greater applicability in BYOD scenarios.
Another challenge in integrating mobile devices with a LIMS is setting expectations. As anyone who has visited an app store can attest, devices are extremely well-suited to highly focused applications but not as strong when it comes to broad capabilities. Manual data entry, for example, is not an efficient use of a mobile device. That is why some LIMS offer streamlined connectivity to mobile devices. When users pull up a LIMS on their smart phones, the interface is noticeably different from what they would see on a desktop. Information, such as analytical charts and real-time results, is optimized for mobile devices. The key is to design application workflows that are well-suited to the mobile form factor and that take advantage of these devices' capabilities. With this approach, users quickly see the value in the right context.
Where Do Life Sciences Fit In?
While nearly all labs will integrate mobile devices with a LIMS in the future, some companies are still reticent. So which industries are early adopters? Process industries, such as water utilities and, oil and gas, which require remote sampling across large plants or geographies, have been among the first to get on board. Using mobile devices to scan bar codes or radio frequency identification tags and submit samples to the LIMS gives management access to more data in near-real time. This timely information allows a company to be far more nimble, while oftentimes producing superior products.
Regulation-saddled life sciences companies have begun using LIMS to integrate mobile technologies within the lab (albeit through company-supplied devices only) in both R&D and production environments. When samples are thawed in preclinical testing, for example, they lose some integrity, so pharmaceutical companies are now using mobile devices to scan barcodes each time a sample is removed from a freezer or replaced to be refrozen. While this could be done manually, as has been the common practice, readings would not reach the LIMS automatically and freeze-thaw events would often be missed, providing an incorrect evaluation of the sample's condition.
The future importance of mobile devices in business is unquestioned. We have passed the tipping point for mobile device adoption - at least in our personal lives - and it is time for the revolution to move into the workplace. For laboratory employees, this will be an exciting transformation, bringing new levels of efficiency and innovation. Integrating mobile devices with the latest LIMS technology is merely the first step. But given how it promises to speed sampling, improve data accuracy and provide faster access to critical information enterprise-wide, it is an important first step that is worth taking right now.