Lab Informatics at PITTCON 2017: Beyond Yesterday’s LIMS

Technology Networks
Informatics / Articles
Mar 27, 2017
By Josh P. Roberts

When it comes to laboratory informatics, there’s no place like PITTCON. North America’s preeminent analytical chemistry trade show, held earlier this month in Chicago, may have more-than-halved in attendance compared to its heyday in years-past. But it’s still the place that all the major (and many minor) vendors show off their wares. Customers learn how to choose, implement, and validate a system, and users get lessons from experts and tips from each other about how providers are solving the issues plaguing them — even if they didn’t realize they were plagued.

Lab informatics can be many things to many people. It runs the gamut from tracking and controlling instrumentation, to standardizing and automating processes, to logging, storing, and being able to search the data produced, even to managing samples and inventory, and collaborating in real-time with colleagues a half a world away.

Holistic platforms like laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and more dedicated solutions like chromatography data systems (CDS) are just two of the alphabet soup of informatics acronyms featured at PITTCON. In addition to showcasing their wares, vendors announced updates, added features, improved functionalities, and in at least one case a significant acquisition. A host of oral sessions – many of them led by members of the CSols consulting group — were dedicated to all manner of things informatic, from how to pay and what the true costs are, to where to deploy, to case studies from end users about improving productivity and maintaining regulatory compliance.

The Cloud

Not surprisingly, talk of “the cloud” seemed to be nearly ubiquitous – whether discussing software as a service (SaaS), mobile access, security concerns, or infrastructure requirements. Christopher Hahn, a Validation Consultant for CSols, highlighted the projection “that in the next three years something like 91% of companies will be moving to the cloud.” Whether that’s everything they do, or just a tip of their computing iceberg, it still points out the importance of Internet-based, shared resource data analysis and storage platforms.

For example, Waters Corporation, whose Empower CDS software boasts over 425,000 users, announced the launch of the enterprise-level Empower Cloud, combining Empower with Amazon Web Services. This, “provides Waters’ global customers with the speed and agility to bring all of their locations online,” according to their press release. “Infrastructure complexity is also eliminated, as no third-party application of server virtualization technologies are required.”

“The fact that it’s in the cloud just means that you don’t need servers in your company to run the chromatography software,” points out Howard Rosenberg, Principle Industry Consultant for CSols, who spoke to the conference about the true costs of deploying informatics platforms. He cites two principle reasons that companies would want to use cloud-based software. First, to save on hardware, IT staffing, and the like. The second is the flexibility that deploying on the cloud affords.