DLS Solutions has been servicing the spectroscopy community for over 15 years and is now proud to reach out to manufacturers and users in the latest special edition of Spectroscopy magazine.  One of the featured articles "How are Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy Techniques Advancing?" reviews advances in FTIR, NIR, ICP-MS, LIBS and XRF.  A noteworthy observation for advances in FTIR is "... software that easily integrates functions such as sample presentation and control, quantitative analysis, classification, and identification through database searching..." DLS Solutions has been building software along these lines for over a decade and has witnessed the progress in FTIR, specifically with field portable devices using spectral search.   Incidentally, DLS Solutions offers products for FTIR spectral search used in product identification. 

DLS Solutions, Inc. company website

DLS Solutions recently used the Qt Application Development environment to develop a Linux based, GUI application in C++ for a medical device system.

Why did DLS Solutions choose Qt Creator as the IDE?

We needed to develop solid cross-platform code with a UI to run on Linux.   The system we were building was a touch-screen application for use in hospitals and Linux was the best choice for the Operating System.  Some of the manufacturing tools were already running on Windows, so we wanted the application to run on the testing computers used in integration test and manufacturing.   Having worked with Qt Creator before on a high-performance DNA Sequencing application we were comfortable with the environment and the productivity it gave us.  In our first exposure to Qt, we were happy with the simplicity and coding practicality of the signal-slot API built into Qt.   For this medical device software, in addition to the instrument control, we needed a convenient tool to build the touch UI, Qt offered some really powerful ways to design the application with a flexible approach to swapping out and changing the "skin".   We also found that with Qt, you can write once and deploy many times.   Qt supports the following compelling position: "create powerful applications and UIs that run on any screen and any platform.  Qt runs everywhere including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Phone/WinRT."  Additionally, we were impressed that the UIs created with Qt can be quickly and easily stylized to fit our clients application UI theme in a demonstration environment so that we could quickly prototype look-and-feel changes in design sessions.

Getting Started

Getting started with Qt is straight-forward.  On Linux, you can use your distro's app center to install or download an offline or online installer from the Qt website.  Once you've installed the tools, you can simple start the IDE (Qt Creator) and dive right in.   Below is an example of the IDE:


Development and Deployment

Qt offers a choice of template applications via the use of a wizard to pick the type.  DLS found the standard C++ Qt Widgets application was a good choice.  Via the use of QSS (Qt Style Sheets) we were able to easily style the standard widget controls to meet our client's requirements.  In our application, all the controls we used were standard labels, buttons, etc. but we stylized them to match the exact look-and-feel of the UI design.  The QSS code is essentially CSS code, so if you're comfortable with CSS, QSS will be a snap.

We found that Qt easily integrated with our build and deployment strategies, the Qt command line build tool is QMake.  We were able to successfully create make files for all the configurations we needed without having to fiddle with difficult command line options.  This made the builds much easier than some of the other build environments we've used.

Overall, DLS's experience with Qt was simple and straight-forward.   We were able to focus on the project and write cross-platform code efficiently.   We'll continue to use Qt for all of our cross-platform C++ applications.  

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Custom Software Development for Instrument Control

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DLS Solutions, Inc. has been developing custom software since 1999 for many projects that require combining knowledge of digital image processing, spectroscopy and instrument control in analytical chemistry and biotech. DLS Solutions has also been involved in all software aspects of these projects including: real-time instrument control, high-performance data collection, CCD and sCMOS acquisition, digital image processing, algorithms, traditional and touch UI.   Our projects usually involve multiple staff members with a collective set of skills in project management, software design, programming, electronics, regulated processes, risk analysis, formal documentation and domain specific application knowledge.  Our programming languages usually include C++, C#.net and/or Java.  We typically develop for Windows, Linux operating systems and embedded web servers.   We typically develop our code using Visual Studio, IAR Embedded Workbench, Qt Creator, Netbeans IDE and Eclipse.  The low-level communications between the PC or host computer is usually USB or Ethernet, and sometimes, systems are still using RS232.  A few of the technology stacks we've used include: ASP.net, Microsoft MVC, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), maintenance on MFC based projects and user interface development with Swing, Netbeans or Qt Style Sheets (QSS).  We also have extensive experience with embedded systems.  Our real world experience developing custom software for research grade instruments and medical devices is our strength and serves as the core for our software development strategy and services.  We have developed the software that controls many different types of instruments.   This raises a very good question, what is an instrument?   The types of instruments we deal with include:  cardio-ultrasound imaging systems, laser tools, x-ray imaging, real-time qPCR, thermal cyclers, DNA sequencing, capillary electrophoresis, UV-Vis spectrophotometers, FTIR spectrometers, Raman spectrometers, mass spectrometers, surface plasmon resonance imaging systems, real-time laser based protein imaging systems, NIR spectrometers, hand-held FTIR based detectors, medical NIR sensors and more.  We develop for innovative start-ups, small or mid-sized companies and large publicly traded corporations, all with our "DLS software inside" running the system.

DLS Solutions, Inc. company website

Medical Device Software demands safe and reliable engineering practices.   The ANSI standard 62304-2006 abstract states: "Defines the life cycle requirements for medical device software.  The set of processes, activities and tasks ... establishes a common framework for medical device software life cycle processes."  A summary of the sub-processes for chapter 5 is shown in the Figure below:


In the Life Sciences industry producing the right software and getting it to market in a timely manner is critical to success.  DLS Solutions is a company that has been doing this consistently since 1999.  DLS provides the highest quality custom software solutions for the instrumentation industry.  One company that has benefitted from DLS's expertise is CAS Medical Systems, Inc. (CASMED) located in Branford, CT.  CASMED is a medical device manufacturer of non-invasive neonatal accessories, blood pressure products, vital signs monitors, and oximetry monitoring equipment.  Their products are used at hospitals everywhere from low acuity to surgical care in cardiac cases.  In July 2012 CAS Medical Systems, Inc. (CASMED) was developing the next-generation of their flagship cerebral oximetry monitor; called FORE-SIGHT ELITE, see http://www.casmed.com/cerebral-oximetry.html  CASMED was familiar with the DLS expertise in developing custom software for analytical and biotechnology instrumentation and decided to use DLS to augment their software development team.  DLS was selected because we have real-world experience with embedded systems and expertise in both the graphical interface side and the lower level drivers.  Hiring manager John Gamelin, CASMED's Vice President of R&D says, "I would absolutely recommend DLS Solutions. They are experts at coming in and helping with development, doing it quickly, doing it right the first time, and meeting deadlines ... I'm a firm believer in DLS, and was extremely pleased with what they were able to do to help us."

DLS Solutions celebrates 15 years of custom software development

English: Three software development patterns m...

English: Three software development patterns mashed together. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DLS Solutions, Inc. is celebrating our 15th year in the business of developing custom software systems for analytical and biotechnology instrumentation companies.  Through our commitment to the success of our clients, we have built many long-term partnerships in these 15 years.   

Below are the domains we've worked in and the services we provide: 

Domains/Completed projects:

  • DNA Sequencing
  • FTIR
  • Raman
  • NIR
  • UV-Vis
  • Gas and Liquid Chromatography
  • Fluorescence Instrumentation
  • Chemiluminescence
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • SPR
  • Capillary Electrophoresis
  • DNA Forensics
  • Well-plate readers


Custom Software Development Services:

  • Custom desktop application development
  • Hand-held instrumentation
  • Embedded systems programming
  • Device drivers
  • Instrument control
  • Graphic Design and Branding
  • User Experience design
  • Architecture and Design
  • Prototyping
  • Algorithm development
  • Database design and implementation
  • Digital image processing
  • Mobile device application development
  • Software leadership
  • Estimation and Scoping
  • Installation and Packaging
  • Requirements and specifications
  • Project management
  • Technical writing
  • Verification Testing
  • Reverse Engineering of legacy code
  • Statistical Data Analysis
  • 21 CFR Part 11

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21 CFR Part 11 for Analytical and Biotech Instrumentation Software

Title 21 of the CFR is the Food and Drug volume, part 11 is on electronic records and electronic signatures.  21 CFR part 11 standards have been adopted by the pharmaceutical industry and products used in human diagnostics research to name a few.   The regulations provide a minimum set of standards and requirements to be compliant and offer additional specifications and guidelines for advanced features typically used to enhance user acceptance and usability.   21 CFR Part 11 has 3 main sections, these are: subpart A (general provisions), subpart B (electronic records) and subpart C (and electronic signatures).   See FDA Part 11, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21.

The following categories should be considered when implementing 21 CFR part 11 for instrument control software systems:

      • Closed System Controls
      • Login Security
      • Data Security
      • Data Integrity
      • e-signature capability
      • Audit trail capability
      • Validation of system performance

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Mind Mapping Tools for Software Development

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The earliest stage of software development is sometimes called the Inception Phase.  During this period, the team deals with information and ideas attempting to define the project scope and requirements.  Many approaches are used in practice; one size does not fit all.  Depending on the nature of the problem being solved and the complexity and size of the system being developed, the team will benefit from using tools and diagramming techniques to simplify the tasks.   Mind mapping is a well-known method of brainstorming.  The natural presentation of data in a graphical view allows spatial building and navigation processes to occur at the team level.   There are many tools available, the following is a list of some software tools available for both Windows and Mac:

MindJet/Mind Manager
Mindjet or Mind Manager is the industry standard and probably used by more analysts than the other tools on the market.  

This is a solid product with a clean presentation.  The Quick Entry feature is a benefit when interviewing and creating the list prior to organizing and building the relationships.

iMindMap 7
iMindMap is unique compared to the other tools in the field.   The organic design is good for idea gathering; this approach takes on the natural hand sketched look and feel often used in generic mind mapping documentation.


iMindMap has a novel way to draw the information; the products uses a graphical approach where the user interacts with a special drawing popup handle (called control points) presented when the user hovers over any data object.

The control points allow you to quickly move the branches around, pull off new branches or nodes and make connections.   The visual approach to adding information and making the new connections is very cool and unique to iMindMap.  

This tool also has a good set of exporting capabilities such as movies to automatically show the system in a progressive demonstration.  There is a 3-D view that adds some WOW factor if you are interested or in need of such a device.

DropMind is similar to MindJet Mind Manager and works very well.  This tool has one of the cleanest organizational layouts and the simplest map balancing from the tools examined. 

XMIND has the best set of templates, if you need to easily create timelines, fishbone charts or do risk analysis; this may be a good tool to start with.  XMIND also has a free version that is feature complete and solid. 


For many software diagramming tasks, Visio is ideal.   The Mind Mapping tools listed above offer a fast way to capture, organize and manipulate information during brainstorming and requirements gathering.

DLS Solutions joins CURE, The Bioscience Network of CT

DLS recently joined the CURE network of nearly 100 companies and organizations.   The CURE website lists their Mission Statement as "... bioscience cluster of Connecticut, a diverse network of scientists, educators, students, entrepreneurs, mentors, business experts, and investors ... collaborate to ensure a sustainable, high-value bioscience and healthcare community ..."   Having served the Biotech sector since 1999, DLS Solutions is proud to continue to be part of this growing community.   You can find us in the CURE Member Directory at http://www.curenet.org/membership.php?id=16.


Biotechnology (Photo credit: Idaho National Laboratory)

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3 Reasons we need Good Software Estimation

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Project Management Lifecycle

Project Management Lifecycle (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

Software estimation is a complex subject.  An entire cottage industry has emerged to support the need, providing tools and methodologies for project managers and developers.  Estimation in general remains one of the most vital aspects of commercial software development and remains one of the classical problem areas any team faces.  Vice presidents, directors and project managers face the reoccurring challenge of getting "good" software estimates.   In this sense, "good" does not necessarily mean accurate.  When we examine how experts make decisions, many factors are revealed and not only is the actual cost and time to make better estimates a critical factor to keep in mind, we find that experience matters when dealing with large and complex systems.   Non-experts necessarily rely on processes and detailed analysis to work through any problem, the outcome is more time invested and not necessarily a more accurate final ballpark estimate.   Many times the process of performing the work breakdown is combined with estimation step since both are needed eventually and it is common to use a scaled percentage of the total of the task estimates from all the individual, atomic tasks.  Rather than examining estimation theory or industrial best practices, the following are 3 reasons why decision makers need them both quickly and as reasonably accurate as possible.

1. Equip decision makers

Without a scope, how do we make decisions about a project?   Before we go after resources and before we start to design and build, we must decide to go ahead or shelve the idea or change request.   Without the estimate we cannot proceed.  If the estimate is very low, this biases the decision in the favor of jumping into the work and sets the wrong expectation resulting in disappointment even if the project is done faster than normal.  If the estimate is padded or doubled to prevent overcommitting, then perhaps the decision maker decides not to proceed and the end customer is robbed of the chance to get a new feature or technology.  If the decision maker accepts the plan, then being on schedule is simply an illusion and we don't learn how to improve the team dynamics to make better decisions.

2. Provide the basis for a strategic plan

With some scope, especially early, we can decide on something.  We may want to agree to a lengthy formal analysis or maybe it is better to start some rapid development to flush out the unknowns and migrate the findings and assets into the project.  Perhaps we discover that a vital resource is needed and without the early estimate we could unknowingly miss the opportunity to search for this expert completely changing the outcome.  Perhaps it is simply best to defer any analysis as we can use the guess to simulate how this project fits into the pipeline and discover that even if a much better estimate were provided the benefit does not justify the investment.  Often times the decision maker can take quick estimates and use judgement or ask for incremental analysis to reveal more insight.  An early and reasonable estimate supports planning.  

3. Reveals the initial design

When we think through the problem in order to generate the estimate, we learn more about the problem.   A natural process used both in the mind of the expert and by an analytical team will ask questions and traverse the landscape in such a way that different design patterns are revealed as well as insight into different ways to go about the tasks.   Working through the tradeoffs and finding viable answers to the design questions may reveal high level design solutions and elements or at least the need to search for a new solution.

For additional reading about how expert decision making can be blended with formal or automated analysis, see the thought provoking and informative book "Streetlights and Shadows, Searching for the keys to Adaptive Decision Making", Gary Klein.
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