shutterstock_84146302How many of you are you familiar with “I, Robot?” No, I’m not referring to the 2004 action, science fiction movie starring the handsome Mr. Will Smith. I’m talking about Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories, first published as separate stories in 1942, then as a bound collection in 1950. I’m not going to give a detailed overview here so if you’re curious to see what you’re missing out on, I would encourage you to find some time and curl up on the couch with a copy of the novel.

While entertaining, I find the storyline to be quite impressive because it revolves around technology that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI). Think about it for a minute. In the year 2016, we have glasses and wrist watches with built-in computer operating systems, we can print three-dimensional models and finished goods using a standalone printer and we have automobiles that can parallel park and even drive themselves. It’s incredible to think how far technology has advanced over the past couple of decades.  However, even with advances like that, AI still seems like a concept out of a science fiction novel.

At the heart of AI is software that allows technology to operate and perform tasks that typically would require human intelligence. Artificial intelligence already exists on a basic level – speech recognition software is a good example. Automated robotic vacuums are another example. But nothing exists that approaches the level of sophistication described by Asimov.

My theory?

It has partly to do with the basic nature of most software – it’s complicated, it’s not user-friendly, and it’s just generally tiring to use. That’s why I’m so excited about the Thermo Scientific™ iCAP™ instruments. The Thermo Scientific™ Qtegra™ Intelligent Scientific Data Solution™ Software platform operates the instruments in our ICP-OES and ICP-MS product lines and it’s one of those rare software packages that’s a delight to work with.  I won’t go on about its simplicity and ease of use – I covered those points in one of my previous blogs. What I will describe is its intelligence and flexibility.

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Are you relatively new to elemental analysis? Not to worry. The software is laid out in a logical manner and will guide you through the steps needed to use an existing method for your laboratory work, or to develop and optimize a method from scratch. Even better, the software has an intelligent plug-in that will suggest which elements and which wavelengths you should be looking for in your sample, along with the plasma conditions that are optimal for your particular sample matrix.

Maybe you’re an advanced user with a background in spectroscopy? Wonderful! The software is flexible enough to let you make any manual adjustments to the instrument operating conditions and data collection parameters to customize your method as you see fit.

Do you have to collect and report data according to the new USP guidelines? No problem. Pre-built report templates will ensure all your reported data is 21 CFR 11 compliant. In fact, the templates can help guide you in collecting the proper data to validate your method, prior to reporting data.

There’s a lot to like about the iCAP instruments – including their intelligent software.