I recently ordered and received my Nexus One in the mail. For those who are just slightly less geeky than I am, the Nexus One is the new Google phone, running Android. Think iPhone, but with more Google-ness.
After trying out some of the applications available (and there are A LOT!), it got me thinking about how a portable system like this could revolutionize animal facilities.
The facilities that I have been exposed to have been very reliant on paper records for example: Records for room checks, records for health reports, records for equipment certification… the list goes on. What if there was an app that could do each of these functions? Well, then the animal technician only has to press a few buttons, and it’s done, electronically recorded sent to the main servers over wifi.
Health reports are an integral part of a well functioning animal facility. It is essential that technicians, researchers and PI’s are aware of the health status of their animals. But most facilities record animal information on cage cards. When a health report needs to be filed, the cage card has to be removed from the animal room and brought to an office area where it can be scanned. Then the technician has to fill out a form, send an email, etc. all before returning to the animal room. If this functionality was available in a mobile application, an image could be taken of the cage card without ever leaving the room – no more lost cage cards. Similarly, a report could be filed immediately – no more waiting for the next available computer.
The list goes on: Inventories could be done more accurately – instead of counting the cages from different investigators, just press a button and the program can tally it up. Instead of writing needed supplies on a white board, go into an inventory program that wirelessly updates orders. The possibilities for increased accuracy and efficiency are endless.
Now, the Nexus One is a little pricey for the average animal facility. But what about the iPod Touch? For $200 a unit (8gb model), you still get the user-friendly applications and ease of use, and you lose the phone part, which is unnecessary inside an animal facility. When you consider that the average mouse holding rack can run into the thousands of dollars, $200 per unit for the iPod touch doesn’t seem so bad. I would argue that the cost per unit would be offset by savings in staff hours and paper wastage.
And… who’s going to make these apps??
I’d like to say me, but I’m not quite there yet. 🙂 But seriously, as soon as there is a need – I would bet that developers would step up to make it happen. Indeed, most of the applications I mentioned, such as inventory and record filing, are no doubt available in other forms. It would be trivial to tweak such an application to suit an animal facility.
What do you think?