If you have ever owned a mobile (cell) phone have a look in the draw at home, you know the one, the one filled with all the old chargers that only worked with one phone. I know I have one. Shortly, in Europe, this will be a thing of the past with the introduction of a common phone charger for all data-enabled mobile phones. Amazingly enough, Apple is amongst the 14 mobile phone manufacturers participating in the voluntary agreement.
This plug and play capability, courtesy of the micro Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard, is something that we strive for within the eClinical landscape enabled by the use of data standards. But I detect a trend whereby a few vendors are trying to build the all-encompassing eClincal suite, either by developing the various components or by acquisition of the components and then integrating them into an overall solution. This sounds good until you realise that, unlike the mobile phone charger where I can keep the charger but change the phone, with the eClinical suite from a single vendor, I am stuck with that single solution, one that is not so readily changed or modified. I am constrained, as in the meantime a tool from an agile developer suddenly emerges as the best of breed tool and overtakes the competition. I am left with the second-best solution.
So what should I be looking for? I want that plug and play capability with the ability to swap tools in and out with the tools having the capability to communicate both at a transport level and at a level were content is understood. In a previous blog I talked about the three layers of Presentation, Content and Transport. I want our tools working at all of these levels, the connectivity at the transport level, the content passing over the connection and the understanding of that content at a business level.
Referring back to the previous blog on standards development, commandment one stated:
“Cooperate on Standards, Compete on Products”
We are looking to vendors to implement standards correctly and fully such that they work with other tools out of the box. The competition is about the functionality of their products, the user interface, costs and support. Is should not be about whether or not it can connect to the increasing standards based infrastructures that are growing in the industry.
For the providers of the suites I believe the message to them is that they should ensure the components of their suite are based on standards that allow customers not only to add their own components but that these components can be replaced twith those best in breed tools.