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Life Sciences - Technologies in the Connected World

© Margulies Perruzzi Architects / Warren Patterson Photography
By Mike Kerwin, RCDD, CCS, DCCA
October 25, 2016

This article discusses some of the key technology trends and emerging technology products that are facilitating life sciences education and research activities.  While new technologies and approaches are constantly marketed as “must-have” solutions by manufacturers and integrators, prudent selection of educational and business technologies should be made with a clear and focused understanding of how they support and/or enhance business and educational goals.  With that in mind, one effective litmus test for selecting and implementing new technologies is having a good answer to the question, “How will I measure success in 6, 12, and 24 months?”  The life sciences fields addressed here include educational and commercial research, biopharmaceuticals, health care, research, and patient care.

Key trends include mobility, security, collaboration, regulatory influences, and competition.

As mobile devices continue to proliferate, expanding from laptops, iPads, and smartphones, to include wearables, smartwatches, and sensors, excellent wireless coverage and capacity are fundamental requirements throughout modern facilities.  Excellent wireless, serving mobile devices, reduces the demand for hard wired network access, and associated network electronics costs.  The offsetting expense may be the increasing requirement for network/data security to protect the applications, data, and mobile users.  Recent cyber-attacks and data breaches underscore the requirement for improvements in the network and data security.  Comprehensive security approaches require enhanced user policies, mobile device configuration, wireless network administration, encryption, and effective firewall implementation. 

The life sciences industry is subject to extensive government controls, significant penalties for non-compliance, and competitive pressure.  Therefore, securing data, intellectual property, competitive information, and system integrity is vital.  Successful data protection requires a combination of personnel and products, representing a relatively new cost-center, and increasing the role of IT.  This is driving the expansion of IT security personnel and supporting systems. 

Key contributions from mobility and collaboration include improved communications and speed-to-market.  The competitive advantage, design efficiency, and timely sharing of current-best-knowledge are examples of how the new work models can improve the design and manufacturing processes.  However, the type of collaboration and supporting environment are crucial to success. 

Collaboration may occur in casual settings, more formal settings, and in formal-facilitated and documented settings.  Each collaborative working environment serves a purpose.  Casual collaboration supports ad-hoc or scheduled interactions and sharing that can occur locally or with remote participants.  Ad-hoc collaboration leverages wireless, cloud, and available technologies such as common area displays.  The more formal collaboration is often scheduled and supported with cloud based tools, including information and image sharing.  Formal collaboration frequently occurs in reserved conference rooms that are equipped with fixed AV systems.  Relevant interactive AV solutions include TRUETOUCH, ClearTouch, Microsoft Surface Hub, and Newline Interactive.   Compliance with the regulatory demands and in light of the competitive nature of the biopharmaceutical industry, product development and testing collaboration is best served by the formal-facilitated collaboration approach.  In this setting, secure cloud-based work spaces are configured, each user is specifically authorized to participate, the interactions are facilitated by trained professionals with solid agendas, and the content is recorded.   Formal-facilitated collaboration sessions are best served by custom designed work spaces, equipped with special systems and capabilities

There are an emerging set of solutions that allow the contents of all formal-facilitated work sessions to be recorded and preserved, creating a complete record of the interactions and information related to each specific project.  These secure work environments provide excellent background for defending the creation, intellectual property, testing, and marketing, of the resulting products.  Additionally, they support information persistence, maintaining information integrity regardless of changing personnel over the project period.  However, the fact that these work environments and data are hosted in the cloud reinforces the requirement for enhanced data security and disaster recovery.  One example of this technology is the ARES PRISM project management solution.

Design considerations for collaboration spaces vary with the nature and requirements of the type of interactions.  Specific enhancements required to support the formal-facilitated process work spaces include large interactive audiovisual work surfaces, excellent audio systems, coordinated lighting, and appropriate furniture.  Drug trials and similar activities involve patient interviews.  The patient interviews and associated data are required to meet the data privacy requirements of HIPAA and related compliance legislation/regulations.  Speech privacy solutions such as those offered by Cambridge Sound Management, Lencore, and Valcom.

Design activities for life sciences projects need to integrate the requirements for flexibility, mobility, collaboration, and formal interactions.  The associated specific space types and supporting systems need to be identified during the programming phase, and maintained throughout design, to deliver a successful end result.  The increased demand for IT security systems and support personnel should be taken into account in the early design and budgeting activities.