Home healthcare devices are an enormous growth area for embedded systems manufacturers that offer low cost, ubiquitously connected hardware. These devices along with associated services are rapidly growing in popularity and allow doctors to monitor, diagnose, and often treat select health conditions remotely. Home healthcare devices can also be used for preventive wellness coaching such as monitoring or adjusting the user’s daily exercise and diet. For example, the Intel® Health Guide provides tools for remote patient monitoring including data collection, patient reminders, surveys, multimedia content delivery, and video conferencing (See figure 1). The Health Guide combines the PHS6000 in-home patient device with the Intel® Health Care Management Suite, an online interface that allows healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients and manage care.
There are a number of common requirements that embedded designers must satisfy for most home healthcare devices including low power operation, a graphical interface, a small form factor, and universal connectivity. The Intel® Atom™E6xx architecture provides a plenty of performance enhancements and features to simplify these connected healthcare device applications. One improvement over the previous generation architecture is the integration of the display, audio, and memory interfaces onto the CPU resulting in higher system bandwidth along with a reduced bill of materials (BOM) and board area. The processor incorporates the Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 600 2D/3D graphics engine which delivers a 50 percent improvement in graphics performance compared to earlier architectures. The Intel® Atom™E6xx series also updates the front side bus used in previous generations to a four-lane PCI Express interface giving designers the option of replacing the companion chipset with custom or third-party circuitry.
To support the next generation of integrated processor architecture in healthcare and other applications, board manufacturers and standards organizations are developing a series of smaller, off-the-shelf computer modules. For instance, PICMG member companies have recently proposed updates to the COM Express specification to include a new 84 mm x 55 mm “Ultra” form factor that is about the size of a typical credit card. The nanoETXexpress-TT Computer-on-Module from Kontron conforms to this new card size and features a 600 MHz to 1.6 GHz Intel® Atom™ processor E6XX series as well as the Intel® Platform Controller Hub EG20T (See figure 2). In addition, the COM Express board provides up to 2 GB of DDR2 800 system memory and a microSD card socket for boot media. The nanoETXexpress-TT also offers new Digital Display Interfaces (DDI) that support two independent monitors plus LVDS single-channel graphics. Additional interfaces include gigabit Ethernet, six USB 2.0 ports, three PCI-Express x1 lanes, and support for an external PCIe-to-PCI Bridge. The Kontron module also supports a wide range of operating systems including Wind River VxWorks 6.8, Linux, Windows XP Embedded, and Windows Embedded Standard 7.
The Intel® Reader is another example of a home device that provides rehabilitation and remote care for low vision patents (See figure 3). The reader combines a high resolution camera with text-to-speech software to convert printed text to digital text, and then reads it aloud to the user or stores the text for later listening. The reader is based on the Intel® Atom processor and includes a 4 GB Intel® Solid State Drive (SSD) and can hold up to 600 pages of images and text or 500,000 text-only pages. In addition to a stereo audio jack and USB 2.0 port, the reader includes a five megapixel camera and internal speakers. The internal 3300mAh lithium-ion battery delivers 4 hours of test-to-speech operation or 5 days of standby time and can be recharged in approximately 150 minutes.
By choosing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology based on advanced Intel® Atom™E6xx processor architecture, healthcare device developers can bypass the most complicated portion of embedded design and shorten the time to market. If you are starting or have completed an embedded design for a remote healthcare application, please offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can also keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on home healthcare.
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