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Informatics fosters Science as a Service

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Karen Madden and Devendra Deshmukh of Perkin Elmer Informatics believe that data democratisation will lead to analytics as a differentiator for drawing inferences in real-time, particularly as consumption of diverse, large data sets through mobile devices increases at a rapid pace

Several forces are bringing into focus a future that includes the democratisation of data, where individuals will be evaluating, analysing, and making decisions from an abundance of data that is delivered right into their hands – or on their wrist or even right at their eyeball. Google Glass, smart watches, and future technologies will empower individuals – provided they are able to gain insights from data, and use those to make informed decisions.

We envision scientific informatics helping individuals use data from multiple, divergent sources to drive accelerated, informed decisions – efficiently, economically and in real time. Doing so will require continued investments in cloud computing, visual analytics, mobile application development, and point-of-care/contact technologies. Informatics will foster ‘Science as a Service,’ as the preponderance of data and new devices warrant solutions that will help users get the most from their data.

Rather than relying on IT professionals, those closest to their area of interest will be able to gain insights and visualise the patterns or trends from data. This will have an impact on not only the drug researcher who is analysing gene sequencing, biochemical, biomarker protein, blood pressure, or heart rate data from a clinical trial, and comparing it against preclinical research data; but also the patient monitoring his or her own health using devices which provide the data needed to paint a complete picture. The right investment choices will continue to transform informatics beyond instruments and enterprise systems, to empower individuals.

Continued reliance on the cloud

Cloud computing not only provides the infrastructure elasticity to enable the democratisation of data and real-time analytics at an attractive price; but, more importantly, it also drives collaboration to the next level. It is becoming easier to deploy systems in a device-agnostic manner outside the enterprise, thereby bringing scientists and other users together on common platforms worldwide. This is significant given the distributed nature of research today, together with the increased drive toward outsourcing and externalisation. Corporations will find opportunities to serve their customers in emerging markets and vice versa. Cloud computing also enables users to gain access to the most current version of enterprise systems without having to go through upgrades. Common tools and standards can be used for greater efficiency and productivity around the globe. PerkinElmer’s cloud based collaboration platform – the Elements ELN – aims to cater to these needs.

Increased use of visualisation tools

The human brain responds to visuals, so informatics solutions that leverage this predilection will ease data analysis. Most people want answers, not data points. The ability to spot trends and layer on multiple data sources is key to informed decision-making. Translational medicine, for example, will benefit from the combination of data from imaging, biochemical assays, next-generation sequencing, arrays and clinical measurements, followed by the pooling of that data with public databases, human genome databases and so forth. In agriculture, there is a need is to integrate plant genomics, satellite data, temperature, weather and more. Aggregating and interrogating the data isn’t enough however; visualisation is crucial for human beings to spot trends and patterns in the data quickly to help them gain insights. Solutions that can deliver stunning visualisations of the most complex data sets, such as the TIBCO Spotfire software platform, will help everyone make informed decisions.

Science goes mobile

Mobile technology will continue to make inroads into the lab. Arming scientists with dedicated mobile applications promises to help increase productivity both in and out of the lab. Mobile applications offer scientists rapid anywhere, anytime access to data, allowing them to generate data and/or control experiments remotely. Another benefit is increased collaboration fostered by the social aspect of the mobile technology world. PerkinElmer has started its foray into ‘Science as a Service’ with early efforts, including the introduction of the ChemDraw mobile application for use with the iPad. This first app puts science at chemists’ fingertips and lets them create and share wherever they may be.

Science at the point of care

We anticipate that the next decade will see growth in the creation of diagnostic detection and monitoring devices at the point of care (POC) and the informatics necessary to transmit, analyse, store, and make decisions from the data produced. One early example is our Elm air monitoring service that provides local air quality analysis for individuals, smart cities, and sustainable communities.

Informatics is actively working towards shifting from discrete products, particularly those tied to a specific instrument, to bundled solutions, in which services are used to tailor the system to meet specific needs. This need to combine technologies, services and software to solve customers’ problems – by delivering ‘Science as a Service’ – will only increase.