Gadgets, Gadgets

(Ref Id: 1325692568)

Needless to say that your iPhone, Kindle Fire, etc. device lacks the power and capabilities of your desktop machine. It weighs a lot less than that machine as well, which is why you are far more likely to carry it around with you.

These devices are basically miniature computers and can run, in a limited fashion, some of the same software that you will find on your desktop. A trip to the 'App Store' that comes with these devices reveals a wide variety of applications. You can find everything from games to business productivity software in the form of an 'app' -- an application for a mobile device with a very small footprint and limited functionality.

Presently there are a growing number of apps geared toward science education but little for practical use. At the time of this writing about the only thing in the Kindle App Store is an engineering calculator and the Apple App Store fares little better.

Are you likely to ever get a fully-featured LIMS via a similar store? Possibly, but not right now. Our best bet is to look for LIMS tools that are accessible via one tool all mobile units have -- a mobile web browser.

Being forced to work with a regular web application that was designed for a large screen and a mouse via a mobile browser should be internationally recognized as a form of inhuman torture. I designed the Chemical Inventory module of LabTools purely in a regular browser with popup screens, drop downs, and other facilities that are generally available. Then I decided to try and enter information into the system purely via a Kindle Fire. Ouch. It was doable, but it was miserable.

First, take the text. In order to read anything, you have to expand the screen. Once or twice when you are looking up information is fine, but in order to enter chemical information or update it means expanding each and every screen, every time, just to read the contents. Next, it turns out that overflow DIV tags do not work in either iPhone's or the Kindle Fire's browser. The iPhone has a so-called 'two finger scroll' solution which is extremely awkward. The Kindle Fire's browser doesn't even have this feature, so an overloaded DIV tag simply does not work.

There are mobile application standards for web browsers but unfortunately it means that entirely new interfaces need to be built. This can be a pain as well as being a bit expensive to do, but it must be done.

From an implementation perspective, the mobile interfaces to LIMS functionality represent an additional training issue. The mobile interfaces will be very different from the standard interfaces, so your training modules will require a complete rewrite. For this reason alone it might be a good idea to strongly consider standardizing on a particular mobile device for your organization or at least devices that are significantly similar. For instance, the Kindle Fire uses the Android operating system, but the iPhone/iPad use Apple's proprietary operating system and applications as do Windows mobile units. This means that the browsers are different and may react differently to your mobile browser LIMS functionality. It is possible to devise applications using recognized standards but mobile devices are updated very quickly and this can substantially destabilize a feature that worked well in a previous version. For instance, the Google Apps on iPhone worked very well but now, due to changes, has become extremely slow, even over WiFi! Thankfully they provide the user with a 'Older Version' link to revert back to the previous version.

So, to recap, the browser is probably the best target for LIMS functionality on a mobile device and, from the absence of LIMS currently available, is probably the target application on these devices. Trying to use the existing web interfaces on mobile browsers for daily use is too onerous an option and should be avoided. Expect to incur substantial retraining costs for mobile devices because their interfaces look significantly different and will not work the same way. Finally, because there is such a quick turnaround on these devices you are better standardizing on a single family (Windows/Apple/Android) for everybody in-house to help avoid quirks.

Go Back

Citation: Gadgets, Gadgets. (2012). Retrieved Sun Nov 19 12:44:13 2017, from http://www.limsexpert.com/cgi-bin/bixchange/bixchange.cgi?pom=limsexpert3;iid=readMore;go=1325692568