[Air-L] Nature Methods | Editorial > The Scientist And The Smartphone
gerry.mckiernan at gmail.com
Wed Mar 10 17:46:37 PST 2010
Nature Methods 7, 87 (2010) / doi:10.1038/nmeth0210-87 /
Abstract > Mobile computing platforms such as the iPhone are beginning to
make inroads into the laboratory—serious prospect or fairy tale?
... [The] metamorphosis of the cell phone into a mobile computing platform
with voice capabilities is epitomized by the iPhone—one of a new breed of
smartphone that is not only popular among the general public but seemingly
ubiquitous among scientists. [snip]
With a seemingly unlimited number of apps available, the iPhone can be quite
a handy tool. An increasing number of apps are targeted to scientists, and
lists of must-have apps for researchers have proliferated. There are apps to
calculate how to prepare solutions, view restriction enzyme information,
search online databases for papers and even store downloaded papers.
Well-known product vendors for biological research are also beginning to
release laboratory apps for the iPhone. Promega has an app with product
information, tutorials, protocols and unit conversion calculators, and
Bio-Rad has a quantitative PCR app.
But will such devices be used in wet-lab procedures? The lab environment can
be a dangerous place for a high-tech personal cell phone, and who wants to
keep removing their gloves every time they go to a new step in a protocol?
Although awkward, an easily removable skin would help alleviate some of
these concerns. A killer laboratory app might convince at least some
principal investigators to spring for dedicated devices for the lab.
It may not be long before such a killer app makes an appearance. The barcode
scanning ability of the autofocus camera on new devices suggests some
possibilities. This is the basis of a popular app that is remarkably handy
for checking prices when, for example, you are out shopping for a new HDTV.
Barcode scanning combined with printing and database querying capabilities
could turn the device into a powerful laboratory information management tool
for samples and reagents. The camera combined with text recognition could be
used to access the material safety data sheet for any chemical. Barcodes in
scientific publications could direct readers to relevant online information
or raw scientific data.
The ability to interface with other devices using different wireless
protocols could be used for remote sensing or instrument control. The camera
can even potentially be used for direct data acquisition. Two winners of the
2009 Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project were compact microscopes that
interface with a cell-phone camera. [snip]
But for the present, the most immediate potential for these devices is in
providing a painless way for researchers to keep up with their reading
wherever they happen to be. Mass media publishers have embraced the iPhone
for delivering their content, ... . But the situation is changing. Several
publishers, including Nature Publishing Group, have apps that will go live
any day. The nature.com app will let you read full-text articles, view
full-size figures and save references.
We would like to hear from you, our readers, what you use your iPhone or
other smartphone for. Does it have a place in the lab? What is the must-have
app you are looking for? One way or another, mobile computers have the
potential to play a substantial role in the laboratory of the future. Just
maybe, scientists and their mobile devices can live happily ever after.
Full Text Open Access [?] From
[ http://tinyurl.com/y9tngto ]
Science and Technology Librarian
Iowa State University Library
Ames IA 50011
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