Friday, August 20, 2010
There is a lot of interest in the fledgling dedicated ELNs for iPad. This doesn't surprise me. I predict that 5 years from now everyone will be using something smallish just like the ipad for most of their personal and professional data management. More than likely these will include a synthesis of many of today's common mobile technologies. Imagine how great it would be to move freely around the lab, making voice and text notes, snapping pictures and wirelessly gathering data from instruments as you go, using a small lightweight device that never needs to be physically connected to anything else. With the current state of portable devices as they are today, concerns about the physical resilience and spill resistance of the device are barrier that will prevent many prudent scientists from making the jump from paper to electronic record keeping. What we need (are you listening, Apple?) is a totally sealed and durable device that can be recharged by induction and connected to almost anything wirelessly. Touch screen-based tools like the iPad extend this promise to us, since they have few or no moving parts and with modern wireless technologies, it's easy to imagine that future iterations could be made with no connectivity ports or moving switches of any kind, since these only serve as chinks in the armor through which moisture or contaminants can enter. The device would still be at risk from a catastrophic disasters like fire, but then, so is paper. With paper though, there is no instant backup, so loss of your paper notebook means loss of your data. With a small relatively low-cost device and a client-server ELN system, your data is beamed safe and sound safe to a remote server as soon as it is gathered. Loss of the small client device is no big deal, you just replace it and pick up your research right where you left off with no data loss at all. Far fetched? Not at all, many ELN companies are working hard to make sure that this ideal will be realized as soon as possible.