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, netbooks, 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: