Welcome to the Smart Lab

Jan 26, 2005

Chemists at the University of Southampton will soon be monitoring their experiments from a more comfortable place than a lab stool. In the final stage of a pioneering IBM project to wire their lab for remote control the researchers will be able to keep an eye on reactions they have left running in the lab via a smart phone from the comfort of the bar.

This ‘e-science’ project is made possible by IBM’s revolutionary WebSphere MQ ‘middleware’, special software which enables unrelated computer systems to talk to one another securely in real time. Sensors in the lab gather data on temperature, light levels, motion in the room, power status and door opening/closing and relay this to an IBM ‘message broker’. This in turn makes the data available to anyone authorised to see it and can be presented as a dashboard of critical data on the web or on a smart phone. The system is also easy to update with new sensors at any time.

“In the next phase it will be possible to click a button on a web page or on a smart phone to turn something on or off in the lab,” says IBM’s Manager of Pervasive Messaging Technologies, Dr Andy Stanford-Clark. “The system might need to ask a question – I’m going to start this experiment, is that OK? Then wait for the human who set it up to confirm that it’s really OK to start. Our aim is get to a state where aspects of the research lab are automated enough to be able to run the lab ‘lights out’ – no graduate students in sight!”

Dr Jeremy Frey, Reader in Southampton’s Department of Chemistry, is a keen promoter of the project. “It’s a powerful tool with lots of potential uses,” he says, “and we have already proved that it really works remotely. One of our postgraduate students, Jamie Robinson, was speaking about this monitoring project at a conference in Paris. As he showed the audience a live web demo of the telemetry data he noticed that the lab temperature was five degrees above normal. So he phoned the University and the technicians told him that the air conditioning had broken down and that they were desperately trying to fix it – but they couldn’t work out how he knew that if he was in Paris!”

A new display opening this week at London’s Science Museum celebrates IBM’s achievements in winning the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for IBM WebSphere MQ, which has myriad other applications that include: secure bank transactions, cashpoint withdrawals, on-line bookings and monitoring a range of everyday business operations.

Source: Royal Academy of Engineering

Explore further: New University of Texas System database connects government and industry to researchers

Related Stories

A phone with the ultimate macro feature

Apr 29, 2015

If you thought scanning one of those strange, square QR codes with your phone was somewhat advanced, hold on to your seat. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have recently developed ...

Researchers finding applications for tough spinel ceramic

Apr 24, 2015

Imagine a glass window that's tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn't get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn't break when dropped. Except it's not glass, it's a special ceramic called ...

Visio.M Automotive Service Bus goes open source

Mar 10, 2015

Up to 80 different systems putter around in many cars. The complexity has come to a limit. Within the "Visio.M" research project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research with a total ...

Recommended for you

The legacy of John Nash and his equilibrium theory

19 hours ago

The American mathematician John Nash, who died in a taxi accident at the weekend, is probably best known to the wider public through Russell Crowe's portrayal of him in the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.