Medical innovations come in a variety of forms, from something as large and intimidating as a virtual 3D video X-ray that continuously takes pictures above or underneath a patient to something as convenient and (hopefully) discreet as a bra that detects cancer. To enable the right type of functionality and ensure reliability in the diverse continuum of medical devices, embedded designs must be tailored to fulfill the exact specifications of each unique application.


Like a broad-spectrum antibiotic that treats a wide range of infections, members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance offer a variety of Intel Architecture-based boards and modules that meet both high- and low-end medical application requirements.


At the high end of the medical market, targeting imaging equipment such as MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound machines, Supermicro provides dual-processor workstation motherboards that deliver high-performance features for handling data acquisition, reconstruction, and rendering.


“Our products utilize Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 plus Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 V2, E5-2400, and E5-2600 processors with large memory capacity, enhanced graphics, and high I/O throughput options, making them ideal platforms for use in a variety of high-resolution image processing and data analysis applications,” says Marc Schneider, product manager for dual-processor motherboard products at Supermicro.


To keep large images cached for smooth, seamless viewing, the dual-processor motherboards offer up to 16 DIMM DDR3 memory slot options, as well as a SAS II/SATA III hot-swap hard disk drive with onboard RAID to help prevent data loss or corruption. The boards also meet the need for high network bandwidth in medical imaging systems by providing onboard dual and quad 1G or 10G Ethernet options for speedy communication between servers and the main data center.


Figure 1: Supermicro X9DAi dual-processor motherboard

At the other end of the medical device spectrum, aiming for patient monitoring carts, ECG systems, and other portable diagnostic equipment, Supermicro provides single-processor motherboards that deliver server capabilities with lower power consumption at a lower price point. Designed with the Intel® Core™ i7-3555LE processor, these Mini-ITX motherboards can be easily ported and operated using DC power supply and offer battery backup power to protect data in case of power failure – both critical requirements in mobile medical systems. These motherboards deploy several Intel advanced technologies, including:


Intel® Active Management Technology (AMT) 8.0 for out-of-band remote management

Intel® HD Graphics 4000 for enhanced 3D performance

Intel® Quick Sync Video for improving decode and transcode performance

Intel® vPro™ Technology for vital security and remote management functions

Intel® Intelligent Power Technology for reducing idle power consumption through integrated power gates and automated low-power states


Figure 2: Supermicro X9SPV-M4 single-processor motherboard


Radisys also leverages the performance of Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 processors in its CEQM67 and CEQM77 COM Express product families, which are used in cart- and laptop-based portable ultrasound equipment, as well as a mobile medical robot application that enables video streaming for physicians to interact with patients and staff at offsite locations. COM Express modules are well-suited for both high- and low-end medical applications because they deliver mid-high performance processing in a small, upgradable, modular form factor offering a range of low-power choices and the ability to speed time to market, says Jennifer Zickel, COM Express product line manager at Radisys.


“COM Express modules are available at the same time as Intel processors are released, effectively saving 6-plus months on a design schedule,” she says.


Figure 3: Radisys CEQM77 COM Express module


In addition to addressing medical application requirements for low power, small size and weight, and long lifetime of 7-plus years, these COM Express modules fulfill the strident EMI requirements called for in noise-sensitive equipment such as ultrasound systems.


“Customers rely on Radisys to provide this finely tuned noise reduction by making small yet important hardware changes to support the exact frequencies used,” Zickel says. “Many customers also take advantage of the Radisys Embedded Software Platform (eSP) based on Intel® AMT technology that provides diagnostics and system recovery capability.”


No matter which segment of the medical market embedded designers choose to target, they must understand and successfully address significant design considerations for critical embedded systems vital to maintain patients’ health. Check out this blog post for an overview of how Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members are fulfilling key technology requirements for the health care sector, and watch this video to learn how designers can maximize performance for the high end and minimize product cost for the low end of the medical market using COM Express modules. For more coverage on medical design-related issues, check out recent articles at the Embedded Computing Design archive.


To learn more about delivering quality health care with secure devices, see

Jennifer Hesse

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

Radisys is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Supermicro is an Affiliate member.