Last week I was in New Orleans attending PittCon 2015 for the first time. Pittcon is the worlds largest annual conference and expo for laboratory science. We were there as guests of our manufacturing partners Ruosull Technology and it was a great opportunity to show our BlueBox-pH device and DataWorks App and get feedback from other in the industry.
It was also an opportunity to get out and see what new device others in the industry were demonstrating. On this end I was a little disappointed. For the most part, the bulk of what people were showing were no different from what we’ve been using in out labs for the last 10 years. Even the new products looked and worked like the old ones. Whilst there was some truly new devices on show – like Hanna’s range of Bluetooth Smart devices – for the most part, it seemed to me like innovation was coming from companies that weren’t traditional instrument manufacturers.
The three product highlights for me were:
PractiChem Arista Slice
This was probably my favourite device of the week. There were plenty of different chromatography devices at the expo last week and for the most part they are all fairly similar. Big gray boxes with chromatography columns connected to a desktop computer. The practichem solution is a small protein chromatography unit, with its own web server that you can control from a browser. No need to have a dedicated computer connected to it, just walk in to the lab with your tablet or laptop and you’re good to go.
But what is most exciting about what practichem is doing is that the device is just a bunch of components (pumps, valves etc.) connected together for a purpose. What if you had a different purpose – it wouldn’t be that hard to redesign for a completely different set of experiments – which gives this platform loads of potential.
The Stream, a new product from Jenco Instruments is essentially an android tablet converted into a bench top water quality meter. It has four ports (2 BNC + 2 DIN8). The interface, as you would expect from a modern mobile device, was quite straight forward. There is no need to break out a manual, as it was all self explanatory. The two features that stood out as most different from anything else I’d seen last week were:
- The ability to stream results to another devices (assuming it was on the same network).
- The ability to purchase new electrodes directly in the app.
Whilst the purchasing fuction probably wouldn’t have worked in my previous lab, where the users weren’t the same people making purchases, the idea of prompting users when their probes need replacing and understanding how they have been used is really important. Too often in my previous life did we use electrodes beyond their useful life, or replaced them early because we didn’t trust the previous user to have looked after them.
(www.jencoi.com) – unfortunately the stream isn’t on their website yet.
Along with Hanna’s Halo pH probe – the iDip Exact was one of the few Bluetooth smart devices on display that is currently on the market. The iDip Exact is a simple colorimeter unit that connects to your phone using bluetooth smart. Using this method allows the device itself to be quite basic, as all the computation is done on the connected smartphone. The device is water proof and has the cuvette (sample container) built-in – so you never have to worry about losing them or breaking them.
After filling the cuvette with a sample, you select which test you are going to do in the app, and then stir for 20 seconds with the associated test strip before a sample is recorded. The only problem I had was that it took my sample before I’d put the cap on.
The app takes you through the process of taking a sample and is fairly straight forward. I’m not sure I’d use it in the lab, but out in the field (or if I owned a pool) it would be my go to device for quick water quality results.