Like other health care technologies, medical imaging is advancing at a pace about as relentless as Moore’s Law. Scientists such as those who recently broke the MRI sound barrier are discovering ways to accelerate the speed and improve the precision of critical imaging equipment in the hopes of scanning patients more rapidly and producing more accurate results.


These systems rely on off-the-shelf hardware to process complex imaging data and generate high-resolution pictures, often presented on multiple displays. With the introduction of the 3rd-generation Intel® Core™ (codenamed Ivy Bridge) architecture, COTS boards and modules can now provide enhanced media and graphics performance (2x better than the  previous generation Intel® Core™ processors) plus faster, more efficient  CPU performance to meet the escalating demands of medical imaging applications.


As the first microprocessor architecture built on Intel’s latest 22 nm process technology, Ivy Bridge offers a smaller 3D transistor with power-aware interrupt  routing for higher-performance, lower-power processing augmented by Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology and Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 for automatically scaling clock frequencies to manage heavy workloads. The 3rd-generation Intel® Core™ processor family saves designers the trouble of needing to add discrete graphics hardware by integrating the graphics engine and media processing on a single chip. Equipped with Microsoft DirectX 11 support and more redesigned execution units, Intel® HD Graphics 4000 shares last-level cache between the CPU and graphics to optimize load balancing and accelerate 3D rendering, thereby delivering sophisticated graphics and visual features like those required in medical imaging systems as well as industrial applications.


Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are leveraging these and other features offered by the Ivy Bridge platform in new COTS boards targeting the medical sector. For example, Kontron is offering two Ivy Bridge-based boards that address requirements in medical applications: a planned Mini-ITX motherboard (model number TBD) and the Kontron COMe-bIP6, a COM Express basic pin-out Type 2 and 6 Computer-On-Module (COM).


Kontron COMe-bIP6 COM Express board


Both boards feature state-of-the-art graphics performance provided via 2x DisplayPort, LVDS/eDP, and DVI interfaces, as well as support for three  simultaneous independent displays. While the Mini-ITX motherboard offers advanced interface support including PCI Express 3.0 x16, 4x USB 3.0, and 10x USB 2.0, the Kontron COMe-bIP6 module packs up to 16 GB of dual-channel system memory (2x DDR3 SODIMM) in a small, flexible COM Express form factor ideal for compute-intensive, power-efficient medical  applications. In addition to supporting the latest interface technologies, the 3rd-generation Intel® Core™ architecture enables these boards to deliver the performance-per-watt ratios and long-term availability (7+ years) required by the medical market, as well as provide integrated Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT 8.0) to simplify remote management, resulting in higher medical system reliability and lower total costs.


IEI Technology also offers a number of Ivy Bridge-based motherboards well-suited for medical applications. In particular, the KINO-QM770 Mini-ITX SBC and the NANO-QM770 EPIC SBC can utilize the low-power 17 W  Intel® Core™ CPU for a fanless medical system or the 35 W Intel® Core™ CPU for a medical system outfitted with a smart fan that operates above the default temperature setting. Both boards incorporate the Intel QM77 chipset and support DVI-I/Dual HDMI/LVDS, USB 3.0, Mini PCI Express, SATA III, and dual PCI Express GbE LAN with Intel® AMT 8.0 support.


IEI Technology KINO-QM770 Mini-ITX SBC


Arbor Technology’s MB-i77q0 Micro-ATX motherboard likewise integrates a PCI  Express x16 slot that can be used for installing a high-end graphics card, which, in combination with the Ivy Bridge onboard graphics, can support up to four independent displays. The board’s multiple expansion options offer flexibility in ultrasound imaging and other diagnostic medical systems by enabling designers to add in or swap out data acquisition or other expansion cards as needed in the specific application.


Arbor Technology MB-i77q0 Micro-ATX motherboard


Other new products drawing on the enhanced graphics capabilities and computing performance of the latest-gen Intel® Core™ processors include the MANO870 Mini-ITX SBC from AXIOMTEK and the conga-TM77 COM Express module from congatec, both of which provide the advanced digital display  options crucial for medical imaging system applications.




More board- and system-level products utilizing the Ivy Bridge architecture will make their debut in the months ahead, so be sure to visit the Intel® Embedded Community often for the scoop on produce releases, and check out the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance solutions directory as well as the online product database at Embedded Computing Design for new product specs. And to find more community news on health care applications, see “Top Picks – Medical.”


Jennifer Hesse

OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance


Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. AXIOMTEK, congatec, and IEI Technology are Associate members, and Arbor  Technology is an Affiliate member.