A recent study by Mckinsey & Company disclosed that the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) into the laboratory “will ensure better quality and compliance by reducing manual errors and variability”.
With this technology, one can expect to be producing more accurate, compliant and detailed research at a faster rate, making it better prepared to combat global pandemics like the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
A second study released by Mckinsey accentuates opportunities in performance levels by improving connectivity “digitally with patients and physicians”. Implementing IoT, the authors surmise, is a constructive way of increasing productivity, likely to result in higher research output and success rates. Some pharma companies have already begun the first stage of digitalisation; swapping from the manually recorded lab notebook to an electronic lab notebook, which enables storage of all research data on an online digital platform. With these digital platforms, the traditional roles in the laboratory will be altered with an increased emphasis on benchwork tasks.
IoT connection allows a researcher to remotely control every device in the laboratory, from scales to centrifuges. Using IoT, the experimental output can be directly streamed into a digital format, reducing the risk of human error and saving researchers considerable time, effort and money. With data stored online, researchers will not only have access to their data from anywhere, but also be able to externally control and access their entire laboratory. The laboratory would become an environment made up of autonomous equipment and sensors connected to a central system, allowing scientists to conduct their experiments in a more productive manner, without the risk of data loss, retrievability issues, compliance concerns or human error worries.
However, uptake of IoT solutions in the laboratory has been slow, to the extent that Mckinsey’s digital assessment states that “pharma is indeed behind, and dramatically so”. This is due to a number of factors, but most importantly pharma companies’ “struggle to define a clear business case for technological changes”. The reluctance to implement IoT into pharma laboratories is considered by most to be a poor strategy, one that is just prolonging the inevitable. It is important to start introducing digital tech into laboratories so younger generations become accustomed to harnessing the opportunities provided by digital solutions and get into good habits. Pharma laboratories need to invest in long term strategies in order to compete on a global market that is becoming increasingly open to digital solutions.
With the adoption of IoT in the laboratory, scientists would no longer have the responsibility of undertaking repetitive, time-consuming tasks that do not maximise their time. Instead, these jobs can be transferred into the domain of autonomous, highly efficient machines that not only carry out the tasks at a faster rate, but also complete the task with a level of accuracy unreachable by humans. Currently on the market there are many solutions that facilitate IoT in the laboratory, some are just sensory-based systems, while others – like the Laboratory Execution System – allow you to not only stream your data directly from existing laboratory devices, but also to control any device remotely. Mckinsey & Company’s recommendations are that pharma laboratories embrace the opportunities the digital world creates and invest in long-term strategies to further scientific progression and ensure a smoother transition into a smarter, more productive laboratory ecosystem.