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Tool : iPhone Protocols Managements

This year, we decided to try a tool project. We though about some nice applications and the iPhone idea became quite interesting. Why ? Why, using an iPhone for a biology tool ?

In fact we noticed that a lot of people have an iPhone, and use some applications on it (mostly gadgets), but just take a look on this phone... just wondering if it still a "phone" : 16 to 32 Go hard drive flash / 600MHz CPU / 256Mo Ram / multi-touch display / accelerometer / light sensor / voice record / wifi / bluetooth etc etc... sounds more like a computer to us. And all of this, for playing Dark Vador with the Light Saber sound apps (i like it anyway :) ).

We discuss about the interest of having a small computer in the lab, is it useful? What do we need when we go to the lab? First of, we need to have some physical support for our protocols, the way to keep in mind some changes during the lab work and make some last time calculations. We also need sometimes digital supports like USB storage for some machines, or digital pictures (more and more techniques use a computer for initiate the manipulation, and analyze them like RT-Q-PCR, DNA sequencing, DNA chips...).

Except the Digital support, we can assume that our physical lab work supports are notes used as reminders; temporary short life storages which became (one way or another) copied on the lab notebook. These kind of support can be compare to some Pot-it...

The Post-it ... or not

Postit bio.png
At this time, and i guess a lots of labs do it in this way too, we use papers, pencil and the ultimate useful wipe marker and colored stickers combo. It's flexible, visible, mobile, and also easy and quick to use and modify. Can we put all this techniques on a simple interface? on a 3,5" display? It's a bit tricky to answer this question, but in the first place, the answers is No. In fact, why do we still use a lots of Post-it despite the fact that we have a lots of computers, and communication techniques which can improve our works ?

We won't really discuss on that (I'll be glade, but it will take a lot of time of reading and it's not really the point of this page), to be quick, just assume that we'll prefer using Post-it&Co by cultural habit, and because it's simple and quick, instead of using some complete software with a lots of buttons everywhere (we don't want to lean how to pilot the Millennium Falcon just for an appointment, or because we forgot to mention that we use Mg instead of Ca). it's way more easy to grab a pen and write. Long life to the Post-it!

Why calming the use of Post-it in a software tool presentation ? We want to mark up the fact that we don't want to replace the Post-it, but we want to try to combine the good of digital and physical support. Digital support have a lots of interests; it can be easily reproducible, easily stock and use. Having a protocol automatically generate accessible in the lab and automatically write in the lab notebook, even better, using multiple protocols at the same time, and generate a mixed protocols witch optimize time seems very nice. You wanna make a modification, or write something, just say it it will record it for you seems nice too, isn't it ?


A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a software that is used in the laboratory for the management of samples, laboratory users, instruments, standards and other laboratory functions such as invoicing, plate management, and workflow automation.

Wikipedia :D

Our idea is similar to LIMS applications, we also think of using laboratory users, instruments, standards and management... At this point, we can guess that our application is more like a Mac/iPhone LIMS, anyway it's sound like one. In the future why not, we can say that the final product can act as an ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planing) like these LIMS. But for now, we are only focusing on protocols management and help/support in the wet lab a sort of mini-LIMS :D.


Despite the fact that we didn't found our application name yet, we're still looking near the "Protocols" or "Labs" like iProtocols or iLabs or iProtoLabs or iProtocols4Labs or iKenobiProtocole4labs&I'm-your-father-anyway. We discuss the fact that we need to have a software which is easy to use and fully adaptable for all labs needs. We found 3 main parts in it.

  • the first step is a fully Lab database. It will be use to stock and share any theoretical biology (like plasmid, primers, DNA, parts, gene etc...) and physical biology (like plasmid stock in the 3rd freezer with the red sticker). It also use an historical data files system for making a stock system, the lab notebook, and the protocol database. we'll discuss about it later (here)
  • the second step is the OSX software. There we can update, modify the Lab database, create protocols (or using old ones, or merging them), and create a lab notebook. It can be use for sharing documents with other on the Web or with the iPhone (the last part obviously).
  • the last part is our iPhone. It synchronize the Protocols used (created, merged on the OSX software) and is use as a Lab helping tool (timers, pictures, recording commentary or even modify protocols and read shared one or lab notebook).

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