“Today’s laboratories look very different to ten years ago, but what about ten years from now?”
That’s the question Laura Elizabeth Mason, Science Editor, tackles in an article for Technology Networks. She points to the myriad ways technological advances have “drastically influenced” the approach used by scientists in the research lab, noting, among, that the integration of robotics and automation has revolutionized procedures, transforming tedious manual processes to automated liquid-handling systems,” while also discussing “the introduction of microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip technologies,” as well as the adoption of paperless workflows.
Not surprisingly, the cloud looms large in her overall assessment. “Cloud computing provides researchers easy but secure access to their data that multiple research groups can access data in real time, broadening collaborative capabilities across the world,” she notes, adding a quote from Christian Marcazzo, Vice President, Informatics, for PerkinElmer, Inc., who explains, “The emergence and progression of cloud computing, that fact that more and more computing that we do isn’t happening inside our data centers… but is happening on the web, and the capability and potential that comes from these cloud computing capabilities, can really transform our ability to handle large volumes of data.”
But there’s more to the cloud than just expanding access to data, Mason says. “The need for more efficient data handling systems has (also) translated into a surge in the development of machine learning and AI solutions,” she says, adding that machine learning allows for more thorough analysis of both unstructured and structured data through self-learned algorithms.
“By incorporating text analytics and machine learning into research workflows it is now much easier to scrutinize data, drive hypotheses forward, and establish future research direction,” she explains.
In short, says Mason, when it comes to laboratory evolution, great strides have been made over the past decade, and further technological advancements, including many made possible by the cloud, “are sure to bring us even closer to a fully automated ‘intelligent lab of the future’.”