Medical Imaging Puts Higher Demands on Embedded Processors

With the resolutions in medical imaging on the rise, the technology needed to display those images is putting new pressure on system developers to incorporate the most advanced, low power processors.

By Ann Steffora

From processors, chipsets and development kits to Ethernet controllers, desktop and server adapters and wireless networking, Intel® technology is well entrenched in the development and deployment of embedded applications.

Intel® has adopted open standards in its hardware-based products with the aim of allowing flexibility on a trusted technology foundation with applicationsincluding digital security surveillance, digital signage, embedded gaming, enhanced thin clients, enterprise networking security, in-vehicle infotainment, industrial, IP services, medical, military/aerospace/ government, retail, storage, VoIP/video/converged communications and wireless telecommunications infrastructure.

Specifically, in the complex field of medicine, embedded, lowpower Intel® products are making it possible for designers to create increasingly smaller and highly intricate devices that can run longer on less battery power.

For example, Frank Shen, product marketing director of American Portwell Technology (www.portwell.com), which provides single-board computers, embedded computers, specialty computer platforms, rackmount computers, communication appliances, and human-machine interfaces, said a huge demand from customers is for greater performance in medical imaging.

Driven by display technology as resolutions get higher, response times need to be faster especially in different medical modalities for medical images, Shen explained. “There is a demand for higher resolution to display medical images. As an embedded solution provider, especially with embedded video, the performance of the video needs to catch up to the other peripherals in the market for many medical applications such as ultrasound or CT scan and other scan image processing for reviewing digital radiography. In fact, some digital radiography reviewers now specify images must be at a certain minimum resolution,” he said.

Other trends in the medical electronics market include the need for low power consumption. “Low power design is not only for environmental concerns but also to reduce operating costs. Saving power which means saving energy equates to saving money as well,” Shen noted.

Another trend is the move to lower cost Intel®-architecturebased embedding computing solutions, since when compared with the traditional RISC-based, Intel®-based products have a relatively higher cost, he said. Healthy competition in the market should mitigate this issue.

Additionally, customers in the medical market require products that operate silently in order to be sensitive to the patient, as well as the technician, so fanless or ‘noiseless’ operation is a must. While powerful CPUs of the past typically required a heat extinction device such as a fan and heatsink, thankfully, today’s low power technology eliminates the need for the fan.

To address all of these market trends, Portwell has a number of low-power, Intel® Atom™-based Nano-ITX form factor embedded boards. Both the NANO-8045 and 8044 are fanless products. The NANO-8045 contains the Intel® Atom Z510 / Z530 Processor, and Intel® Poulsbo US15W chipset, dual independent display support for DVI and 24bit LVDS, one 200-pin SO-DIMM supports DDR2 SDRAM up to 2GB, one Type II Compact Flash & two SATA ports, one Realtek Gigabit Ethernet, and support for DC 12V input.

The company has additional Intel®-based boards in a variety of form factors.

Ann Steffora Mutschler is Executive Editor of Extension Media’s EECatalog Resource Catalogs, and is also a Contributing Editor to Chip Design Magazine’s System-Level Design and Low-Power Design Communities.