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Android + Touch Screens = Future of Medical Devices

So exploring the nitty-gritty workings of operating systems is a little bit out of this Tech Girl’s traditional touch screen scope, but I’m sure you readers are much more intelligent than I, so this topic will be a piece of cake for you…

I recently read an article about Android replacing Windows CE and Linux in medical devices (this is of interest because one of Touch International’s main markets is medical). The Android platform essentially builds on the Linux OS by providing a full-featured embedded system framework that is easy to use, like Windows CE, but without the additional cost.

Android is being widely adopted by companies in many industries for devices that require embedded operating systems for several reasons including:

1)      The time to market is shorter – Android fundamentally runs on Linux, but Google has updated and extended it to build a complete framework for rapid development.

2)      Lower cost – Like Linux, Android is an open source system, so the development cost is lower.

3)      Ease of use – Since Android is built out, users enjoy the same out-of-box, ease-of-use experience as with the Microsoft Windows CE program.

In the past three years, we have seen many products adopt this fast-growing OS. From cell phones, net books, TVs and entertainment systems, Android is rapidly gaining market share in mobile devices. In-flight entertainment developer, Thales, even built their hand-held touch screen passenger media unit on the Android program. But I’m starting to get off track…

So how does Android fit into the medical field?

The medical market is traditionally slower to adopt new technologies to ensure that the technology has matured before committing its use into FDA-regulated devices. But, Android is a hybrid – while it is relatively new, it is based on Linux, which is well established in the medical industry. And the medical industry has taken notice of Android, integrating it into Class I and II medical devices; Class I devices present minimal risk (tongue depressors, bandages, basic surgical instruments, etc) and Class II devices present moderate risk (electrocardiographs, x-ray units, blood gas analyzers, infusion pumps, etc). There are, of course, risks involved with using a heavy OS, such as Android, in medical devices, which is why, at least for now, you will not find Android used in Class III devices, such as implantable defibrillators, replacement heart valves, and other life-saving critical units. For a LOT more technical information about this, check out this Medical Electronics Design magazine article.

So why does a touch screen manufacturer get excited about Android in the medical market?

Android and touch screens really go hand-in-hand – have you ever seen an Android unit without a touch screen? This girl hasn’t… And plenty of our customers (including medical) are adopting Android to use with Touch International touch screens. The fact that Android is a low-cost, easy to use, time-saving, multi-touch-supporting technology, should be incentive enough for medical (and other) device manufacturers, to strongly consider paring this nifty, new-ish OS with a super-cool touch screen from Touch International.

From patient monitoring units, to blood pressure machines and operating room displays, touch screens are being integrated into an ever-expanding list of medical devices. And this Tech Girl thinks medical, military, aerospace, industrial, and retail device manufacturers should ALL look into integrating Android into their next interactive device.

What do you think? Agree with me, or am I way off base?

Want to know more about Android with Medical units? See links below:

http://www.medicalelectronicsdesign.com/article/android-best-operating-system-choice-many-medical-applications

http://embedded-computing.com/articles/android-rtos-duo-todays-medical-devices/

http://www.androidmedapps.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)

I am prototyping an in-car computing and entertainment system and am hoping you can recommend a touch screen that fulfills my requirements. Can you help?

Hey Touch Guy,

I am prototyping an in-car computing and entertainment system and am hoping you can recommend a touch screen that fulfills my requirements. I’m looking for:

  1. 7″ screen size
  2. Low or reasonable cost unit
  3. VGA and standard AV input with auto or manual switching
  4. Multi-touch capable
  5. Minimum of 800×600 screen resolution
  6. Open frame or chassis mount
  7. Sunlight readable or transreflective with excellent contrast ratio
  8. Drivers for Linux and Windows platform
  9. Able to operate at high temperatures (up to 60ºC / 140ºF)
  10. Wide viewing angle
  11. Power supply of 10-13.6V power for use on vehicle power

Thanks,
Ammar

Hey Ammar,

Touch Guy finds that he has two categories of customer….one who will describe their product, close their eyes, and when they open them, Touch International will have delivered the perfect touch system to make the product a success. The other half of customers will give greater specification, including materials and possibly the electronics, and we will design to those standards. (There is actually a third type of customer, less common, who will say, “make me one like that” while pointing to a competitive product).

You fall into the second category. Before we can move onto your touch screen, we need to determine which display to go with (item one). The 7” TFT display absolutely offers the best value, probably because it can be made in fab’s that have been fully amortized. It is also the universal donor, because up until a few months ago, all 7” displays had exactly the same dimensions, resolution, mounting, electronics drive and performance. Since this display is the universal donor, you will save money on the touch screen, as our 7” MulTI-Touch projected capacitive sensor has the standard dimensions.

Since the 7” displays are basically all the same, there are a couple of specs you will have to compromise on; the resolution for the display is 800×480 instead of 800×600 and there are no wide viewing angled LCDs in that size.

Now to the good stuff, the touch screen. If you want Linux for USB, then you’re in luck because all of our multi-touch panels conform to Windows Tablet protocol and there are several drivers available in the public domain. Going TouchGuy_Basicwith the SPI or I2C interface is not quite as easy, but we can help. And all of our projected capacitive panels are multi-touch, so no problem there, either. (And of course projected capacitive is the way to go….)

But wait, there’s more! Since this display will be subjected to extreme heat and sun (yes, 140ºF is HOT!), Touch Guy recommends adding a polarizer, light control film, and a heat mirror to the touch screen with an index-matched direct bond to keep the heat off of the LCD, improving the display’s contrast ratio and optimizing its sunlight readability. You may also want to add a transparent heater to the mix to warm up the LCD if the unit is in frigid environments. Finally, if you want your entertainment unit to be REALLY cool, we can add a proximity (Z-axis) sensor to the touch panel so that you can wave your hand near the display and increase the brightness at night.

If you wanna know more, call me and maybe we can do lunch

Until next time,
Touch Guy