Designing remote health systems reaps rewards

May 1, 2012 OpenSystems Media

As the world’s population continues to age, remote health care or telehealth devices are becoming an enormous growth area for the embedded systems industry. Low-cost, ubiquitously connected hardware and its associated services are rapidly growing in popularity, allowing doctors to monitor, diagnose, and treat specific health conditions remotely. Telehealth devices can also be used to provide remote data collection, patient reminders, multimedia content delivery, and wellness coaching by monitoring and adjusting the user’s daily fitness and diet.

For most health care device designs, embedded developers must address a number of common requirements, including a graphical interface and small form factor, patient safety, low-power operation, remote management, secure operation, and universal connectivity. In addition, these devices must be built with long-life support plus the ability to interoperate with other equipment in the field. Although hardware and software development for telehealth can be challenging, the rewards are significant, and manufacturers are rapidly seizing opportunities in the marketplace.

To delve into the latest technologies revolutionizing health care, we interviewed telehealth industry experts in this month’s Strategies section. Alan Boucher, Director of Software Architecture and Engineering at Intel-GE Care Innovations, a joint venture between Intel Corporation and GE Healthcare, explains how embedded technologies such as wireless connectivity, software, and sensors can be used to enable and enhance products in a telehealth environment. Also on the forefront of telehealth technology, Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, emphasizes the need for programs that move care from the hospital or doctor’s office into the day-to-day lives of patients by incorporating engagement strategies such as games, social networking, coaching, reminders, incentives, and punishments.

In this month’s Software section we investigate the latest techniques developers can use to optimize code for a variety of embedded applications, including telehealth. John Lockhart from SmartBear Software looks at the advantages of standard and automated peer code review – a process by which team members inspect and review source code to eliminate errors earlier in the development process. Presenting another method to optimize software, Dominic Tavassoli and Jonathon Chard of IBM Rational detail an automated Unified Modeling Language (UML)-based code testing technique that can shorten the development life cycle and reduce costs. In considering how embedded designs are moving to multicore processors,Henk Muller of XMOS presents a unique approach to substitute a parallel software paradigm known as concurrent real-time programming for FPGA and even ASIC technology for a range of industrial and consumer applications.

Besides analyzing software, designers must also evaluate hardware components with each new project to ensure that the design will be compatible with changing requirements and the latest standards. For example, in many applications, display connections are transitioning away from traditional interfaces such as LVDS and VGA toward newer technologies such as DisplayPort. In this month’s Silicon section, Eurotech’s Haritha Treadway describes the cabling and multiple display advantages of DisplayPort I/O-capable interface hardware for embedded projects. As these new display technologies utilize high-resolution images for display and analysis, designers must consider the different approaches to embedded image processing. Allen Rush of Nethra Imaging investigates the use of linear and nonlinear filters to analyze and correct noise, dynamic range, color accuracy, optical artifacts, and other details in high-quality imaging applications.

The telehealth trend promises to influence the technology in many of the Silicon, Software, and Strategy areas covered by Embedded Computing Design, and our goal is to report the latest updates as they occur. Feel free to give us your ideas for future technical articles and online updates to support your design efforts. We are always looking for contributed technical articles, which can be an excellent tool to gain exposure in the embedded computing industry. For example, the August issue is our annual Resource Guide and will feature articles and Q&As from industry experts to help simplify and shorten embedded projects. If you have an idea for a technical article that would be of interest to our readers, please send me a short abstract.

Warren Webb, Editorial Director
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