The world has entered the era of technological overhaul and life keeps advancing by the emergence of novel technologies day-by-day. The wide insemination of technologies such as smart sensors, phones, mobile and integrated networking, miniaturization, automation and wearable’s enabling the implementation of IoT in every facet of life. The rising demand for attaining the sustainability necessitates the fast research and developments in every sector including the most diversified field that is biotechnology. The Internet of Things (IoT), one of the coveted areas in technological revolution carries tremendous potential for the transformation of biotechnological research, innovation and invention. Therefore, this article forays about the current and futuristic role of IoT in advancing the innovation in biotechnological and its allied fields and confers economic up-scaling and sustainability.
Keywords: Smart sensors, Internet of things, Agriculture, Pharmaceutical biotechnology, network security
The concurrent technological developments has been revolutnize the lives in current scenario. The Internet of Things (IoT), an unprecedented network platformthat connects, shares and interact data from robust and heavy machineries and appliances to portable machines like mobile and wearable accessories with a central internet system. Therefore, IoT has enabled the connectivity throughout the universe that impacts substantially in every facet of life. Indeed, there are certain quality attributes that imparts fast acceleration ofIoTin every sector that includes their size of the devices and network platforms, their ultra-fast computational efficiency and storage capacities, ability to develop intelligence, capacity to integrate, share the data through strong networking system. The prolific growth in biotechnological developments necessitates the need for the integration of IoT in this sector for enhancing the precision, reproducibility, productivity as well as entering the new horizons in the biological research invention and innovation. The rising awareness for the implementation of IoT in biotechnology sector intensifying the survey reports from Ernst and Young that reported the investment from more than 70 organizations in the biotechnological R&D sector. Therefore, this article advocates about the current role of IoT in biotechnology sector and also emphasized the current challenges and futuristic approaches that can serve as “behemoth developments” in transforming research and development.Fig. 1depicting role of IoTin research and development.
Historical background of IoT
The concept of “Internet of things” recently came into lime light and now-a-days the term has been recognized as “Internet of everything”. The idea of connected device was come into existence in 1970s but at that time the terminology has been given as “embedded internet” or “pervasive computing”. The actual term has highlighted by the pioneering work done by Kevin Ashton at Procter & Gamble in 1999 in the field of supply chain management by RFID technology. From this period onwards the technology was there but didn’t get attention from scientific communities up to 2010. From 2011 onwards, when one of the leading market research company Gartner has made the popular “hype-cycle for emerging technologies” mentioned the emerging technology “The Internet of Things”. From that time, IoT is now becoming reality and in each and every domain IoT plays significant role for the technology up-liftment.
Components of IoT
The integration of various software and hardware technologies enables the functionality of IoT in efficient manner. The different components of IoT are described below:
Sensors & Actuators: The sensors are designated as eyes and ears of IoT and actuators are known as muscle of IoT. The main function of the sensors and actuators is to transform energy into electrical energy in the form of data.
Transceivers This is the hardware that enables wireless communication for data collection and transmittance. The various communication platforms are Ethernet, cellular, and Wi-Fi.
Processors & Boards These are system on a chip devices confers intelligence to IoT systems.
Power Supplies These are conventional thin film batteries; photovoltaic panelscomprising energy harvesting modules.
Gateways & Routers These are network connecting devices. Gateways regulate traffic between two different and non-similar network while routers controls and monitor traffic between similar networks. Together these devices help various systems to connect and integrate to the IoT.
Devices & Equipment Products used by end users that contain IoT technologies. Examples include enabled equipment, wearables, hand-held scanners, and tracking devices.
Wearables These are IoT enabled tiny devices and sensors that are embedded or worn on the clothing and body parts respectively.
Cloud & Fog Platforms These are engineering architectures particularly used for carrying out extensive computation, storage and data management solutions.
Security These are the softwares that provide security, encryption, identity protection and access control to IoT solutions. [6,7]
Applications of IoT in Biotechnology
IoT in Agricultural Biotechnology
The ever growing population leads to the rising demand of food and feed for the livelihood. To achieve this livelihood and sustainability, the agriculture sector has to be improvised with latest technology that is IoT. The estimated world population in 2050 will reach by 10 billion and agriculture sector has to cope with the demand of more food with other challenges including extreme climatic and weather conditions, reducing ground water supply and associated environmental impact. Therefore, the agricultural biotechnology embracing with IoT provides a suitable alternative to transform the agricultural practices. Now-a-days, the concept of smart and precision farming paved the way for the technological inculcation for enhancing the productivity of crops in controlled and accurate manner.
The development of smart sensors, automated hardware’s and vehicles, robotics control systems opens the avenue of hi-tech practices of food production in hygienic and sustainable manner. Recently, various high end IoT enabled products and services have been come into limelight that provides the easy platform for the farmers to do agricultural farming in efficient way. That system includes some examples like variable rate irrigation optimizer (VRI), soil moisture probes, virtual optimizer PRO and other IoT based systems. These devices make farmers to understand the soil fertility and its composition and enhancing the efficiency of water utilization in controlled manner.
More recently, the concept of smart green houses that comprises IoT based sensors that can intelligently measure and control humidity, temperature, pressure and light levels saves time, cost, energy and labor intensive process of farmers with no manual intervention and increased productivity in desired manner. Recently, advent of drones in both ground as well as aerial based systems revolutionize the agriculture by real time monitoring of irrigation, soil variability, field analysis, planting, crop health and diseases assessment. These advanced systems along with cloud computing leads to high-tech makeover in agricultural practices enabling farmers to utilize real-time data for the prediction of plant height and health, crop yield, nutritional composition of crop, canopy area mapping. Therefore, the above mentioned examples revealed the fact that IoT leads to paradigmatic shift in agriculture biotechnology sector. The wide implementation is necessary for the effective consequences of the IoT based services.
IoT in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
In the pharmaceutical industry, the discovery of novel drugs and biologics are the promising avenue for the commercialization and business. However, the pharma industries has been always challenged with the product instability and subsequent recalls, strict regulatory compliance for the adoption of GMPs and GDPs practices, operational efficiencies, and supply chain management. Therefore, its mandatory to embrace IoT in today’s world of digitalization with pharma that offers surplus opportunities for the innovation, agility, consistent quality, branding and value at global scale. The significant transformation has been envisaged in the every aspect of biopharmaceutical development to clinical trials and efficient supply as per market demands.
The implementation of smart and automated equipment’s and accessories provides an excellent platform for adding more precision and quality of drugs with minimal errors. The real time monitoring through smart sensing speeds up the fast regulatory reporting leads to the better adherence of regulatory compliance. The developing concept of ’Organ in a Chip” offers high-through put screening of drugs for the development of vital diagnostics with on-line monitoring. The cost of exorbitant clinical trials has been reduced by the application of IoT based sensors. The development of smart warehouses enhances the efficiency and visibility for the technicians and warehouse operators in larger extent.
The transmission of real time data for the location of products, inventory details, and maintenance of temperature for thermo-sensitive biological has drastically reduced the cost of bio-pharma by 65%. Recently, the advancements in smart packaging labels such as 2D bar-coding, RFID tags confers online tracking of the products from manufacturing to distribution. The implementation of smart serialization through Auto-ID with Automatic Information Data Collection (AIDC) in packaging materials has leads to the complete digital foot print for precise controlling of proper conditions in cold chains for the temperature-sensitive drugs during the transport.
Currently, the outburst of wearable sensing technology and the development of smart pill or ingestible pill on consumption relay the efficacy and release of drugs to the targeted regions transforms the patient health care and easy approach to trace and advice from health care professionals. Apart from that, IoT devices empower easy and fast communication of accurate and precise information of patients to doctors. Therefore, it adds on the improvement in daily lives of individuals and facilitates intensive care in home, office or social space. Therefore, based on the above discussion it is proven that IoT has immense potential to transform the pharma sector provided that pharma players could adopt this technology as soon as possible. Fig. 4 depicting the prolific role of IoT in pharmaceutical biotechnology.
IoT in Research and Development for Biotechnology
The world has entered the era of “omics” by which we are acquiring and implementing the knowledge at molecular level. The high evolutionary pace of novel microbial strains, phages and other biological breakthroughs necessitates the biotechnological research more precise and agile. The acquisition of reproducibility and consistency of the results of the biotechnology research are one of the oldest and prime problems in this sector. One of the pathetic scenarios about reproducibility has highlighted in 2011, when healthcare leader Bayer has performed similar experiments for drug developmental studies published in high repute peer reviewed journals in their state-of the-art facilities and astonishingly 25% of the results could be reproduced. In a similar line Amgen has performed experimental studies and 11% of the results could be replicated. The reproducibility can be varied in two different laboratories under same experimental conditions and infrastructural facilities. Therefore, this finicky nature of biological systems leads to early decimation of various industrial biotechnological companies such as Amyris who attempted the scale-up of the chemicals from 2 L bioreactors to 200,000-L.
Fig. 4. Applications of IoT in pharmaceutical Biotechnology
This scenario needs to be transformed by the recent technological interventions. IoT has enabled the instruments used in biotechnological research embedded with intelligence. The interconnected communication protocols like RF and Bluetooth low energy can be used for communication with in-lab devices. The high end sophisticated sensors could be used for the collection of data with cloud servers and all the information would be digitally stored. This information could be made available by the demand of researchers after their authentication. Therefore, IoT confers promising platform for retrieving the information to the researchers belonging to any part of the world and also the information could be used for reproducing the results or taking the research at next level. Recently, among the automation laboratories in the field of biotechnology, Synbio companies have done pioneering advancements and leading name in biotech industry.
Recently, in the United States of America automated smart labs have been utilized in small scale fermentation and high-through put analytics for 15,000 operations per month for enhancing the productivity of microbial metabolites. Another classic example have been set by Ginkgo Bio-works who recently launched sophisticated automated robotic lab work flow in 18,000-square feet area. The virtual data bases have been generated and the experiments have performed with robotic arms by the identification of bar code labels. This company has involved in contract research organization for the building of novel organisms capable of synthesizing the cultured metabolites as per customers’ desire and collect royalties after successful commercialization of metabolites.
Similarly, in Europe British Lab Genius is Synbio Company has rigorously involved in technological applications of artificial intelligence and automation in gene synthesis for finding and creating novel compounds and biological solutions. Fig. 5 represented the dynamic role of IoT in biotechnological research and development. In addition to that, major IT hubs like Intel and Intrexon has also been entered in the field of service providers in the automation of R&D labs. Therefore, an immense potential has been envisaged for the application of IoT in biotechnological research in terms of enhancing productivity, accuracy and reproducibility.
The emergence of IoT paradigm, a global dynamic interactive network has capability of connecting everything through virtual linkage of integrated devices. They are proving their mettle in every aspect of life and biotechnology is no exception so far now-a-days. The technology is moving ahead with more innovation, invention and productivity in biotechnological research that can be clearly proven by different examples. However, IoT is embraced with sparkling glaze still facing certain challenges that need to be overcome for the successful implementation at global scale. The complex configurations of IoT devices due to utilization of diversified complex protocols laid significant impact for their acceptance in biotech industry. Apart from that, the proper authentication standards are not formulated yet therefore, the end users are not familiar with their maintenance and management of life cycle of these high-end devices. The security interfaces are very much restricted that can interact and share the security data also a barrier for their wider implementation. There are also challenges associated with their auditing and logging standards for the end users. Though, the technology has opens the window for intensifying research and development at higher pace but these challenges have to be resolved for wooed at industrial level.
The skepticism and unpredictability of biological process, discovery of novel organisms, rising industrial demand for bio-based products and ensuring the reproducibility in biotechnological research are key players for the adoption and integration of IoT in bio-technology. Though the technology is equipped with certain challenges but there is tremendous scope for the futuristic research that can improve the efficiency of IoT in biotechnological research and development. The future work will include the establishment of network integrity in the R&D laboratory within an organization’s premises that will enhance the security and trust of this technology for the expedition of innovation and invention. The technology will also improve in the development of various standards for the proper working of devices and workflow. In the future, strong networking that supports automated devices will certainly strengthen the research level in biotechnology sector.
IoT provides a window for the efficient, reproducible, fast and precise research into the biotechnology world. The IoT leads to paradigmatic developments in performing mundane tasks like automated cleaning of glasswares and petridishes, filling multi-titer plates, dispensing cell-culture media and micro-pipetting reagents in the laboratory. The inter-connection of various laboratories is the current working domain of IoT in biotechnology research. Though the technology is embraced with certain interoperability and technical challenges but the biotechnological research is certainly on horizon by inculcation of IoT in near future.
Lee, In, and Kyoochun Lee. “The Internet of Things (IoT): Applications, investments, and challenges for enterprises.” Business Horizons 58.4 (2015): 431-440.
Satyadevan, Shiju, Boney S. Kalarickal, and M. K. Jinesh. “Security, trust and implementation limitations of prominent IoT platforms.” Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Frontiers of Intelligent Computing: Theory and Applications (FICTA) 2014. Springer, Cham, (2015).
Perkel, Jeffrey M. “The Internet of Things comes to the lab.” Nature News 542.7639 (2017): 125.
Horvath, Balint. “Investigating the current business model innovation trends in the biotechnology industry.” Journal of Business Economics and Management 20.1 (2019): 63-85.
Ashton, Kevin. “That ‘internet of things’ thing.” RFID journal22.7 (2009): 97-114.
Keramidas, Georgios, NikolaosVoros, and Michael Hübner. Components and Services for IoT Platforms. Springer International Pu, (2016).
Chen, Hao, XueqinJia, and Heng Li. “A brief introduction to IoT gateway.” IET International Conference on Communication Technology and Application (ICCTA 2011). IET, 2011.
Mohanraj, I., KirthikaAshokumar, and J. Naren. “Field monitoring and automation using IOT in agriculture domain.” Procedia Computer Science 93 (2016): 931-939.
Brewster, Christopher, et al. “IoT in agriculture: Designing a Europe-wide large-scale pilot.” IEEE communications magazine 55.9 (2017): 26-33.
Stočes, Michal, et al. “Internet of things (iot) in agriculture-selected aspects.” Agris on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics 8.665-2016-45107 (2016): 83-88.
Jamali, Mohammad Ali Jabraeil, et al. “Some Cases of Smart Use of the IoT.” Towards the Internet of Things. Springer, Cham, (2020). 85-129.
Navulur, Sridevi, and MN Giri Prasad. “Agricultural management through wireless sensors and internet of things.” International Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering7.6 (2017): 3492.
Liang, Xueping, et al. “Towards data assurance and resilience in iot using blockchain.” MILCOM 2017-2017 IEEE Military Communications Conference (MILCOM). IEEE, 2017.
Stewart, Jacqueline, Robert Stewart, and Sean Kennedy. “Internet of things—Propagation modelling for precision agriculture applications.” 2017 Wireless Telecommunications Symposium (WTS). IEEE, 2017.
Niemi, Steven M., and Gail F. Davies. “Animal research, the 3Rs, and the “internet of things”: opportunities and oversight in international pharmaceutical development.” ILAR journal 57.2 (2016): 246-253.
Wang, Xiaohui, and Nannan Liu. “The application of internet of things in agricultural means of production supply chain management.” Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research 6.7 (2014): 2304-2310.
Zhang, Boyang, Anastasia Korolj, Benjamin FookLun Lai, and MilicaRadisic. “Advances in organ-on-a-chip engineering.” Nature Reviews Materials 3, no. 8 (2018): 257.
Biji, K. B. “Smart packaging systems for food applications: a review.” Journal of food science and technology 52.10 (2015): 6125-6135.
Chavali, L. N. “The Emergence of Blockchain Technology and its Impact in Biotechnology, Pharmacy and Life Sciences.” Current Trends in Biotechnology and Pharmacy 12 (2018): 3.
Chung, Mihyun, and Jaehyoun Kim. “The Internet Information and Technology Research Directions based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” KSII Transactions on Internet & Information Systems 10.3 (2016).
Angeletti, Fabio, IoannisChatzigiannakis, and Andrea Vitaletti. “The role of blockchain and IoT in recruiting participants for digital clinical trials.” 2017 25th International Conference on Software, Telecommunications and Computer Networks (SoftCOM). IEEE, 2017.
Niemi, Steven M., and Gail F. Davies. “Animal research, the 3Rs, and the “internet of things”: opportunities and oversight in international pharmaceutical development.” ILAR journal 57.2 (2016): 246-253.
Saha, HimadriNath, SupratimAuddy, Subrata Pal, Shubham Kumar, SubhadeepJasu, Rocky Singh, Rakhee Singh, Swarnadeep Banerjee, PriyanshuSharan, and AnkitaMaity. . “Internet of Things (IoT) on bio-technology.” 2017 8th Annual Industrial Automation and Electromechanical Engineering Conference (IEMECON). IEEE, 2017.