While Big Data is garnering plenty of hashtag hype these days, small technologies are playing a huge role in enhancing the value proposition offered by the Internet of Things (IoT). In the medical field, miniature wireless body sensors and implantable devices are improving patients’ quality of life and increasing the independence of those requiring medical assistance through innovations as unique as a tongue piercing that enables wheelchair control.


Small, connected medical devices require small, tightly integrated embedded hardware building blocks that deliver processing capabilities powerful enough to handle graphics-intensive applications yet energy-efficient enough to meet low power consumption demands. The new Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family allows small boards and modules to address these needs in the medical market by providing double the computing performance and up to 5x greater GPU performance than the previous generation while drawing less than 10 W of power. Built on 22 nm process technology, the latest-generation Intel Atom processor platform (formerly codenamed Bay Trail) offers improved graphics capabilities including faster video conversions, stereoscopic 3D capabilities, and enhanced HD video transcoding in a single System-on-Chip (SoC) solution that is well-suited for edge devices such as portable medical equipment.


Equipped with full HD graphic support that can facilitate high-resolution display of X-ray or computer tomography images, these SoCs enable energy-efficient computing so that battery-run medical systems can operate for a full work shift without recharging. The processors also maintain high data integrity and reliability – critical issues in medical devices relaying private patient data – by providing an integrated 64-bit memory controller with Error-Correcting Code (ECC), as well as extended temperature support, a beneficial feature for medical systems operating under extreme conditions.


The Intel Atom processor E3800 family satisfies other important requirements in the health care industry by delivering a variety of high-bandwidth I/O options and extended life-cycle product support. Built-in hardware-assisted security capabilities including Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) help protect sensitive patient data from theft or manipulation, while secure boot functionality safeguards medical devices from attacks and malware.


Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are utilizing the latest Intel Atom processor platform to create secure, high-performance hardware solutions that fulfill the graphics functionality and low-power requirements of the health care sector. Just as medical devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, Intel Atom processor-based COTS boards and modules also come in an assortment of small form factors specially designed and scaled for these diverse devices.


Medical workstations and portable ultrasound

Portwell is taking advantage of the Intel Atom processor E3800 architecture’s integrated 3D Intel® Gen 7 graphics engine in the company’s new Nano-ITX embedded board, the NANO-6060 (Figure 1), which aims to execute the complex graphical functions of medical diagnostic and nursing workstations, as well as in-device controllers such as portable ultrasound units. In addition to implementing the CPU’s up to quad-core processing power, the NANO-6060 supports one dual-channel 24-bit LVDS onboard connector, one DisplayPort on rear I/O, and one onboard VGA port in a compact 120 mm x 120 mm footprint. With the processor/chipset integrated on the back of the board to improve system thermal design, the NANO-6060 provides DC 12 V input, two SATA 2.0 ports, one microSD socket, four USB 3.0 ports, one Mini PCI Express (PCIe) socket, and a PCIe x1 slot for riser card expansion.

NANO-6060.jpgFigure 1. Portwell NANO-6060


Besides the NANO-6060, Portwell offers two other small form factor products based on the Bay Trail platform – a Type 6 COM Express Compact module (PCOM-B632VG) and a Mini-ITX board (WADE-8078) – that provide further modular, energy-efficient hardware options for numerous medical applications.


Tablets and other mobile devices

Leveraging a Computer-On-Module (COM) approach, ADLINK Technology offers a Smart Mobility Architecture (SMARC) module that combines the consistency of using the same design across a broad range of medical devices with the flexibility of operating on different carrier boards. The Intel Atom procedssor E3800-based LEC-BT (Figure 2) targets ultra-low-power applications such as medical tablets, emergency medical devices, and other mobile medical appliances. Available in two sizes – 82 mm x 50 mm and 82 mm x 80 mm – the small-profile module offers both legacy PC interfaces such as PCIe, SATA, and HDMI, as well as modern interfaces such as SPI and I2C, while supporting up to 4 GB DDR3L at 1,066/1,333 MHz (ECC).

LEC-BT_5.jpgFigure 2. ADLINK LEC-BT


ADLINK’S LEC-BT can be used with application-specific carrier boards that supply other features such as audio CODECs, touch controllers, and wireless devices, providing medical equipment OEMs with scalable, upgradable solutions that meet their low-cost and low-power requirements. The company also offers a Qseven standard module equipped with the latest-generation Intel Atom processor, the Q7-BT, which provides a mid-range power value of sub 12 W between those of SMARC (sub 6 W) and COM Express (up to > 20 W) and is thus well-suited for power-efficient mobile medical applications typically covered by high-end ARM-based designs.


Patient monitoring instruments

Working to ensure the high reliability offered by the latest-generation Intel Atom processor’s virtualization and ECC, the COMe9600 (Figure 3) from SBS Science & Technology utilizes a rugged COM Express Type 10-compliant design that can deliver high graphical performance in rigorous operating conditions, making it a prime candidate for medical equipment such as patient monitoring instruments. With ultra-low-power 2D/3D graphics integrated onboard, the module supports dual independent display (one LVDS and one DDI) and I/O including three PCIe x1, four USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0, two UART, and two SATA II, as well as GbE, SPI, and I2C. The COMe9600’s fanless design and extended operating temperature from -40 ºC to +85 ºC help medical monitoring systems achieve faster real-time data processing with lower power consumption in rugged environments.

Figure 3. SBS Science & Technology COMe9600


Other Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members are maximizing the performance-per-watt advantages of the Intel Atom processor E3800 product family in an array of small form factors, providing OEMs numerous modular options for medical designs:


  • 3.5-inch: Avalue, DFI, NEXCOM
  • COM Express: congatec, DFI
  • Mini-ITX: DFI
  • Qseven: DFI


These and other Alliance members will keep rolling out new Intel Atom processor-based boards and modules suitable for medical devices, so be sure to visit the Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance Solutions Directory for info on product releases, and keep tabs on the Intel® Embedded Community for continuing coverage on how vendors are implementing the Bay Trail platform in medical applications.


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Portwell is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. ADLINK Technology and SBS Science & Technology Co., Ltd. are Associate members of the Alliance.


Jennifer Hesse

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance