With a packed floor and over 7,000 attendees this year, we have to say this is one of the best SLAS events yet! And the trends that we saw over the whole show floor were inspiring for the year ahead.
Here’s what we’re thinking about after the event:
Takeaway 1: Solutions for digitizing the lab are top of mind. Scientists are looking for software that centralizes control of individual workstations and instruments, and captures disparate streams of data. It is great to see that the industry as a whole recognizes the need for orchestration and is thinking of solutions to address it.
We’ve been pushing toward this for years: our Green Button Go® Orchestrator software and data services application was built from the ground up to address this very challenge by giving scientists both centralized control over their lab infrastructure and a tool that captures information from multiple data streams. With GBG, scientists can analyze experimental results alongside data about the processes used to generate them. GBG empowers users to use what they learn to plan new experiments, identify problems in their workflows, and redirect resources if needed.
- Takeaway 2: Scientists are more comfortable with working remotely. Before the pandemic, this was nearly unheard of. Most of the time, scientists had to be physically present in the lab to run experiments and analyze the results. Now there are various cloud-based tools that scientists can use to stay on top of their work from afar. There are new data visualization capabilities and augmented reality systems that can immerse users in the lab environment no matter where they are located. Some companies even offer holographic and augmented-reality technologies that bring the lab to life for scientists in the comfort of their homes.
- Takeaway 3: There are numerous options for physical connectivity in the lab now. Besides robotic arms, a staple in many labs, mobile robots, planar systems, track-based systems are good options to physically link standalone instruments and workstations and safely move samples, labware, and other consumables. With these tools, scientists have more latitude in setting up their labs, designing workflows, and connecting liquid handlers and other instruments. Connectivity tools also free up scientists’ time by handling tasks such as moving sample plates from storage to a liquid handler.
- Takeaway 4: Everyone is focusing on making their automation solutions more accessible and user-friendly. As more scientists turn to automation to improve productivity, vendors are thinking critically about how to make their solutions work for people who want off-the-shelf solutions that don’t require an engineering background to implement and use. The graphical user interfaces for so many of today’s automation solutions are very interactive and simple to navigate. Some vendors even offer digital twins that show scientists how to setup and run their automation; for example, how to direct robotic arms to load reagents or plates, or how to troubleshoot problems in their workflows.
It is an exciting time to be in automation and to see the kind of transformative research that’s happening in labs around the world. The industry is in a very healthy place and we have a lot to look forward to. We can’t wait to catch up with everyone again at SLAS2024!