Staying up-to-date

We all do it – and quite frequently. Press the button, watch the hourglass, circle or shaded bar until it’s completed. We’ve now updated the software in our mobile phone, tablet or PC. We carry out these kinds of updates, patches or hotfixes without thinking about it for the most part. If the software provider recommends them, then we usually believe in the benefits.

It makes sense to keep our computer and mobile devices updated. Service and security packs contain improvements, whether it’s optimizing the processing speed, fixing minor bugs or eliminating security vulnerabilities, all of which makes the system work better.


Updates – PCs, phones and more

Software updates are defined as new, improved, or patched software for an application, operating system, or software suite to bring it up-to-date with the latest drivers, system utilities or security software. However, computers and mobile phones are not the only devices that run on software. We run across software-based devices and processes every day, in different forms and functions, nearly everywhere. And this trend is growing. Just imagine what a daily routine might like in the future…

The tablet that lulled you to sleep last night by playing calming music, the latest audio book or a guided sleep meditation wakes you up in the morning with your favorite song. You stretch your body, slip out of bed and step into the shower, which has been warmed up in advance by your smart heating system.

While drying your hair, you grab the smartphone and order a cappuccino with a double portion of foam from the coffee maker in the kitchen. Dressed and enjoying the fresh coffee, you stream the morning news on the touch panel of the refrigerator door. Before leaving the house, you clap your hands to deactivate the electric devices and turn down the heating.

Your new car drives you autonomously to the office and does not forget to stop at the hydrogen filling station. At work you first check the welcome-hologram for today’s agenda before sitting down at your desk and working naturally with the interconnected computer, printer and phones. For lunch you go out to the nearest pizza restaurant where the waiter places the order with a small mobile device that communicates with the kitchen.

Behind the scenes, logistics software calculates the foodstuff consumption and prepares order recommendations for the head chef. After paying the bill with your mobile phone, you rush to meet your international colleagues in a virtual evening workshop. After work you stop at the nearest supermarket because you need groceries. Your car guides you automatically to the last remaining parking spot. You then activate your home sound system with the mobile phone because Missy the cat, who loves Vivaldi, wants to be entertained.

While at the supermarket, you view the food cam in your fridge on your mobile phone display to see what it is you need to buy. After returning home, you begin to cook for the family. The oven is preheated thanks to a setting that you programmed in the morning before leaving the house, plus the recipes are displayed on the refrigerator door.

After dinner you play a few holographic games with the kids before they go to bed. Afterwards you snuggle on the couch and enjoy a thrilling crime story on your e-reader before moving to the bedroom and setting the alarm on your tablet…

Missing updates may backfire

While this scenario might seem a bit far-fetched, some of these tools and features are already a reality. They simplify our life, enhance mobility and ease communications. However, all these intelligent devices, smart applications and virtual solutions are controlled by software. Without regular updates, even stand-alone applications will not operate reliably 100 percent of the time. This will be particularly true for all interconnected and corresponding smart devices and Internet-of-Things technologies.

The importance and impact of software updates was recently illustrated by a couple of products "gone awry." Take the brand-new self-lacing sneaker that was introduced several weeks ago. It performed perfectly well until the first software update, which unfortunately paralyzed the entire shoe mechanics. Another example involves the recall of a pacemaker that is used by some 150,000 patients around the world. A new pacemaker design lead to changes in the circuits, which in turn caused a software fault. An update has been announced for the middle of the year. Until then, cardiologists have to manually deactivate parts of the device in all patients who wear this model. And then there is the infamous dieselgate scandal that clearly demonstrated how important proper software updates can be. Although the software updates recommended by the auto manufacturer(s) have been sold as a panacea for improving exhaust emissions, they have proven to have only a minor impact.

Regulatory authorities meanwhile understand the importance of software updates. The European Parliament for instance is currently writing new consumer protection legislation that governs the regulation of software updates for products and services.


Consider your lab-devices

Keeping your electronic devices up-to-date is not only necessary in smart homes, intelligent mobility or for connected offices. It is fundamentally important in laboratories a well.

Have a look at your lab. You’ll find devices in every corner that operate with some type of software. Some of the equipment is interconnected through special laboratory network software. Analyzers load their data directly into electronic lab books or interconnect with laboratory information and management software – or LIMS for short. However, particularly when it comes to high-end devices for complex tasks such as such automated pipetting robots or upstream bioprocessing systems, versatile software is vital. If an automated pipetting robot can intelligently choose between a single or a multichannel pipetting tool, depending on the task, this streamlines productivity and reduces costs by saving tips and reagents.


Take-home message

Products are continuously being improved and most suppliers offer their customers regular updates. Take advantage of these updates! Not only for your PCs, mobile phones and smart home devices, but also for your lab equipment.  Keeping your systems up-to-date can improve your automation processes, increase efficiency and thus reduce on-going laboratory costs.