Frequently Asked Questions
What is SiLA?
The SiLA organization promotes open standards to allow integration and exchange of intelligent systems in the lab in a cost effective way.
SiLA’s mission is to establish international standards which create open connectivity in lab automation, to enable lab digitalization.
SiLA’s vision is to create interoperability, flexibility and resource optimization for laboratory instruments integration and software services based on standardized communication protocols and content specifications.
What is a SiLA Standard?
The SiLA standards define how information is packaged and communicated from one system to another. Setting the language, structure and own data types required for seamless integration between systems, SiLA standards support good laboratory practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of laboratory services. SiLA 2 is recognized as the most commonly used laboratory communication standard in the world.
What is SiLA 2?
SiLA 2 is the new Standard in Lab Automation. It changes the future of lab technology realizing outstanding and elegant concepts.
The SiLA Organization provides with the SiLA 2 Standard a framework for the exchange, integration, sharing and retrieval of electronic laboratory information.
The SiLA 2 specification specifies interoperability schemes that allow laboratory devices and services to communicate with each other. It is based on open communication protocols that are well established and defines a thin domain specific layer on top of these, consisting of common concepts and a vocabulary / taxonomy.
For an overview of SiLA 2 visit this page.
If you are interested in supporting SiLA 2, visit this page.
Why SiLA 2?
SiLA 2 is a complete redesign of the standard. It embraces a modern, service oriented architecture (“micro services”). Using the SiLA 2 Feature Definition Language to describe services, SiLA 2 is a configurable and open standard which allows choosing based on functionality. Thanks to its self describing functionality, SiLA 2 allows true plug & play. Break out of closed ecosystems. Reuse, change, adapt and configure already existing systems automatically. With its lean and intuitive specification, SiLA 2 is easily accessible for both, end users and developers of new services.
SiLA 1.x and SiLA 2 are both tackling down the same problems in lab automation. However, their solutions differ greatly. SiLA 1.x was based on XML SOAP, an unpopular technology choice nowadays. SiLA 2, on the other hand, is based on a handful of promising new technologies and concepts, including HTTP/2 and “REST-like” communication paradigms.
While SiLA 1.x focused on devices and device classes, SiLA 2 focuses on systems offering services.
Where can I find more information about SiLA 2?
Apart from our web resources, the SiLA Consortium offers the SiLA 2 Specification:
- SiLA 2 Part (A) – Overview, Concepts and Core Specification
- SiLA 2 Part (B) – Mapping Specification
- SiLA 2 wiki on GitLab
SiLA 1.x vs SiLA 2?
SiLA 1.x and SiLA 2 are both tackling down the same problems in lab automation. Their solutions however differ greatly.
SiLA 1.x was based on XML Soap, an unpopular technology choice nowadays. SiLA 2 on the other hand is based on a handful of promising new technologies and concepts, including HTTP/2 and “REST-like” communication paradigms.
While SiLA 1.x focused on device types, SiLA 2 embraced a completely service oriented structure. Using Features, SiLA 2 is a configurable and open standard which enables users to choose devices independently of vendors and based on functionality.
Thanks to its self propagating functionality, SiLA 2 allows true plug & play. Break out of closed ecosystems. Reuse, change, adapt and configure already existing systems automatically.
Is SiLA 2 compatible to SiLA 1.x?
No. SiLA 2 is not directly backwards compatible to SiLA 1.x. This has been a very specific design decision of the core working group. The working group decided early in the process of the SiLA 2 development not to include backwards compatibility in order not to sacrify proper design. However, many larnings from SiLA 1.x made it into SiLA 2
How is security implemented in SiLA 2?
The SiLA 2 Specification Part A requires that all communication between a SiLA Client and a SiLA Server must be encrypted. Additionally SiLA recommends the use of Authentication and Authorization Features. The encryption is realised through Transport Level Security (TLS), as specified in SiLA 2 Specification Part B.
How does SiLA 2 compare to REST?
REST is an acronym for Representational State Transfer, which is based on the HTTP protocol and corresponds to a paradigm and not to a defined standard. This implies, that two semantical identical REST-Services do not have per se an identical representation. This results in the need for individual implementation and adoption of specific REST-APIs.
SiLA is based on HTTP/2 and Protocol Buffers for communication. The Feature Definition Language allows to have semantical identical services to have the identical representation. The SiLA 2 Standard specifies security models, data compression, feature and service discovery.
How does SiLA 2 compare to OPC?
OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is a machine to machine communication protocol for industrial automation developed by the OPC Foundation.
While SiLA has been explicitly designed with the lab automation needs in mind, OPC-UA has been designed for industrial automation. OPC UA is very well suited to monitor a plant with thousands of sensors delivering simple data values. However, it would be difficult to orchestrate a workflow in a lab, e.g. control and handle the complex data of a mass spectrometer with OPC. SiLA, however, has been specifically designed for such applications. SiLA 2 features and commands also tend to be at a higher level of abstraction and are more verbose than OPC-UA, which makes SiLA 2 easier to understand and simpler to implement.
In addition, OPC-UA’s complex specifications have led to mostly incomplete and heterogeneous implementations, which makes it hard to develop generic applications independent from the specific OPC-UA implementation. This heterogeneity of implementations, requires the need for custom applications and limits the seamless interoperability of different systems – Both obstacles SiLA 2 overcomes with its lean and intuitive specification.
How does SiLA 2 compare to AnIML?
The Analytical Information Markup Language (AnIML) is the emerging ASTM XML standard for analytical chemistry and biological data. AnIML is a data standard, while SiLA 2 is a communication standard. Both standards enable the digitalized lab.
In general, the SiLA 2 standard recommends using existing, open data formats. For example, it would be useless to invent a new image format to transport an image over SiLA 2. However, one of the existing formats (like PNG, JPEG, etc) would be used.
Likewise, for analytical or process data in the lab, SiLA 2 recommends referring to existing open and free-to-use standards like AnIML.
How does SiLA 2 compare to Allotrope?
The Allotrope Foundation is not a standardization organization as such. It is an international consortium of pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and other scientific research-intensive industries. Its first initiative is the development of the Allotrope Framework for analytical data, consisting of a standard data format, class libraries for interfacing with applications, and semantic capabilities to support standardized, structured metadata.
As such, it is comparable to AnIML, with the difference of being not open and not free-to-use.
What is the difference between ROS and SiLA 2?
The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a collection of software frameworks for robot software development. Although there is some overlap between ROS and SiLA, there are quite some differences (e.g. network topology and communication protocols). ROS is not a standard, but rather a philosophy of how to develop robotic applications with open-source in mind.
Whereas SiLA 2 standardizes “what” functionality a device offers (i.e. the SiLA 2 Features offered) and how a client can access it, ROS focuses on “how” the functionality is implemented.
How dows SiLA 2 copmpare to Module Type Package (MTP)?
MTP is used in process automation of production processes to describe modules. It can be compared to a SiLA 2 Feature, however, its focus is in industrial automation and not on life science lab’s connectivity and data needs. In a nutshell, an MTP includes the following information: Description of the data objects, Description of the control image, and in the future: Description of services, etc., which allows industrial integrators a faster way to solve challenges in adaptable production processes.
Is SiLA ready to be used in regulated (GxP) environments?
Of course. The use of a standard like SiLA 2 even simplifies the implementation of data integrity requirements and reduces the validation efforts.
What are the advantages of using SiLA in a regulated environment (GxP) for instrument connection and system integration?
- SiLA is superior to sharing plain files (which is a compliance risk according to data integrity best practices)
- SiLA reduces implementation effort as a certain interface needs only to be implemented once e.g. on the LIMS side
- SiLA enables type based qualification of interfaces to save validation effort
- SiLA Feature Definitions replace functional specifications (FS, FDS) in a structured and well defined way. Specifying Features by the Feature Definition Language (FDL) both saves effort and reduces ambiguities, as it actually results in a complete, unambiguous and even machine readable functional specification. The FS/DS of the interface itself is completely specified by a combination of the SiLA specification Part A, B and the FDL.
- SiLA also ensures the availability of meta information, when it comes to managing parameters and results of scientific experiments, quality control, etc. In combination with AnIML audit trail and even digital signatures are covered as well.
How do I get involved?
We provide different ways to get involved with SiLA:
- You can become a SiLA Member.
- You can directly sign up here.
- You can submit proposals and ideas.
- You can ask us questions directly.
- You can help us implement new ideas to our standard on GitLab.
How do I become a SiLA Member?
How do I become a SiLA member?
There exist different forms of SiLA Memberships:
- Personal Member (Free)
- Observing Member (NEW)
- Academic Contributing Member
- Academic Member
- Start-up Members
- Supporting Member
- Core Member
If you want to become a Personal Member, all there is to do is sign up here.
You can also find more detailed information here.
A membership application form is available here.
Why should I become a SiLA Member?
Will Membership increase my sales?
Let’s put this question into a different context: Will buying a gym membership improve your fitness?
Clearly, just paying a membership doesn’t translate into results. However, using your membership typically does! Just like a gym membership gives you access to equipment to help get you in shape, SiLA membership grants Members access to promotional tools to increase company visibility.
These tools include free Member advertising wherever SiLA advertises – tradeshows, press releases, websites, newsletters, and conferences.
Use SiLA as part of your company’s marketing and promotional plan. The more you use your SiLA membership, the more visibility your company will get which will translate into more sales opportunities for your products.
Where does the Membership go?
Nearly half of SiLA membership fees are used to promote SiLA standards and SiLA compliant products in publications, tradeshows and conferences. Through these activities, SiLA increases the adoption and popularity of the standard and brings new business opportunities to our members.
The other half is split more or less equally between our Operation fund, Administration fund and direct work into the standard. This ensures the persistent existence of SiLA as an organization.
What does certification mean regarding SiLA 2?
There will be two types of certification processes to guarantee stable and well functioning SiLA Servers, Features and SiLA Clients: Self-Certification and Accredited Certification.
See Certification for more information.