In our everyday world, failing batteries represent little more than a nuisance, something that may require us to actually get up off the couch and change the channel. But in the medical field, a weak or dead battery can cause more than a minor inconvenience; it can cost a human life.
Medical systems, and particularly those that are portable such as a nursing cart, require long battery life to sustain device operation throughout the period of care delivery – say, a nurse’s entire shift. As more patients are tapping into their smartphones for remote monitoring capabilities and doctors are starting to stock up on tablets, these types of applications are demanding low power consumption as a key requirement for extending battery life.
“When a tablet is being used to support clinical care procedures, it is often unacceptable to have to charge the device at a fixed location or to use cables because of the disruption that having this extra equipment would cause,” says Qi Chen, VP of engineering and general manager at Arbor Technology. “Tablets are used during field visits to patients, and often there is no charging station available at the point of use.”
In addition to low power, mobile health (mHealth) devices call for a high level of processor and graphics performance, as most of the information is presented to the user in graphical form. But there’s the rub – increasing graphics performance often comes at the expense of increased power consumption, thus creating conflicting design requirements for critical systems that cannot compromise on either factor.
The next-generation Intel® Atom™ processor, code-named Cedar Trail, can address these competing needs by offering dual-core performance and enhanced graphics features, as well as significant power efficiency, so much so that 10 pairs of a processor/chipset combo consume less power than a single Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) bulb.
Based on 32 nm process technology, the new architecture family includes the 1.66 GHz N2600 with 3.5 W Thermal Design Power (TDP), the 1.85 GHz N2800 with 6.5 W TDP, and the 2.13 GHz D2700 with 10 W TDP. The processors feature an integrated Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3600/3650 graphics engine, enabling 1080p video playback and streaming at a fraction of the power consumption of previous generations. The Cedar Trail platform incorporates Intel Smart Connect Technology, allowing data to be updated while in sleep mode, and the N2600 and N2800 processors also support Intel® Deep Power Down Technology, reducing power usage during idle time to minimize transistor power leakage.
With its combination of high-performance graphics capabilities and energy-saving features, Cedar Trail targets next-generation embedded designs such as always-on, always-connected medical devices.
“The Cedar Trail platform balances well between power consumption and available processing power,” Chen says. “The enhancements made in power consumption and TDP for Cedar Trail enable fanless designs with longer battery life.”
Arbor’s M1042 Mobile Clinical Assistant is powered by the Intel® Atom™ N2600 processor, delivering the performance-per-watt needed to provide long battery life for up to 6.5 hours. The ultra-lightweight (1.3 kg) 10.4" tablet incorporates an electromagnetic digitizer with projected capacitive touch and multiconnectivity to Bluetooth and WLAN for transmitting patient data from a remote location to a hospital server. Expansion options include RS-232, USB, LAN, VGA, and SmartCard, enabling multiple portable devices to be easily integrated into large hospital databases.
The M1042 is EN60601-1, EN60601-1-2, and UL60601-1 certified and provides antibacterial protection through its fanless design. Portable medical devices such as tablets typically must be fanless to avoid cooling vents and external airflow that can potentially lead to contaminant exposure, Chen says.
Another fanless medical system, the MTP-1207 all-in-one workstation from Avalue Technology, is equipped with the Intel® Atom™ D2700 processor. The 12.1" XGA TFT multifunctional touch panel PC offers a variety of I/O including COM, RS-232/422/485, USB, Mini PCI Express, and Gigabit Ethernet, helping connect the unit to other medical systems and enabling nurses to access the Hospital Information System (HIS).
The MTP-1207’s HD graphics and multimedia functionality enabled by the D2700 processor allow physicians to review X-ray film and other diagnostic images, as well as make a video call with a nurse or patient, thus improving communication at the point of care.
Heavy visualization is a key design requirement for boards used in medical applications, which often involve capturing and displaying 2D or 3D high-resolution files. The Catalyst CV module from Eurotech incorporates the Intel® Atom™ N2x00 processor with the Intel NM10 Express chipset, providing full HD up to 1080p, Blu-Ray, HDMI, and DisplayPort features. Available in Q2 this year, the 67 mm x 100 mm module supports inline video decompression and dual-independent displays, allowing health care practitioners to plug a mobile medical device such as a portable ultrasound machine into another piece of medical equipment and view them both independently.
The Catalyst CV can run dual-core processes at 1.6 GHz while maintaining less than 3 W of power consumption. High-speed I/O such as 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, USB, and PCI Express ensures medical devices can be interfaced with each other, often a critical need in medical applications where several instruments are being used at once. Furthermore, by offering support for Eurotech’s Everyware Software Framework and Everyware Device Cloud services, the module can be integrated as part of an end-to-end system that captures data and makes it accessible to health care providers and patients via a secure portal.
The SEAVO SV6-A804 series motherboard from Shenzhen Seavo Technology also leverages the new Intel® Atom™ architecture, drawing on the 640 MHz graphic core and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology to provide real-time data processing and rendering for clear visualization of dynamic images that can aid physicians’ diagnoses. With a 3.5 fanless design and overall minimum TDP of 15 W, the motherboard provides a variety of I/O, including VGA, LVDS, HDMI, USB, dual Gigabit LAN, and dual Mini PCI Express. The motherboard is equipped with anti-acid, anti-corrosion, anti-oxidation, and high/low temperature resistance capabilities to handle any special physical or chemical environments in which a medical device may be deployed.
The next-generation Intel Atom architecture is providing low power and high-end graphics performance in many board- and system-level products destined for mHealth applications. Embedded designers who have used or plan to integrate the Cedar Trail platform in their designs can suggest/find tips and pose questions in the Intel® Embedded Community. And for more in-depth technical analysis of medical device design issues, check out the articles and multimedia resources at Embedded Computing Design and the Telehealth TechChannel microsite.
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Embedded Alliance
Avalue Technology and Eurotech are Associate members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Arbor Technology and Shenzhen Seavo (China) Technology Co., Ltd. are Affiliate members.