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A medical device revolution is currently in progress, driven by a globally aging population, a surge in chronic illnesses, and an escalating need for diagnostic medical solutions. As a result, solution providers are eager to satisfy this new demand and actively seek avenues to gain a competitive advantage and accelerate development.
This fervent pursuit of progress has led medical device manufacturers to continuously seek superior hardware components. A clear example of this trend is the heightened emphasis on implementing enhanced embedded storage options. To illustrate, many manufacturers are shifting away from outdated hard disk drives (HDD) and consumer-grade removable media cards, pivoting instead toward solid-state drives (SSDs), particularly the compact form factor of single-chip SSDs.
“SSDs offer significantly swifter and more reliable storage capabilities than HDDs or SD and CF cards,” explains Jason Chien, Director of Embedded Product Marketing at Silicon Motion, a developer of NAND ﬂash controllers for SSDs and other solid-state storage devices. “And in medical device manufacturing, single-chip SSDs are preferred due to their compact form factor.”
But the road to sourcing optimal components for medical devices is riddled with substantial challenges. Given the high stakes in the medical sector, stringent criteria for hardware reliability, performance, and data security are paramount. The operational environments can also be harsh, often necessitating customized configurations. Consequently, identifying a fitting SSD solution is rarely as simple as ordering a generic product from a catalog.
In light of these complexities, hardware experts collaborate closely with medical device manufacturers to deliver tailor-made SSD solutions that meet the medical sector’s demands. These strategic partnerships not only expedite time-to-market for advanced medical equipment but also curtail expenses and conquer the most formidable technical hurdles. Importantly, they lay the groundwork for the imminent influx of medical AI applications.
These strategic #partnerships not only expedite time-to-market for advanced #medical equipment but also curtail expenses and conquer the most formidable #technical hurdles. Silicon Motion Inc. via @insightdottech
Delivering SSDs for Advanced Medical Equipment
To appreciate the significance of these collaborations, it’s vital to acknowledge the limitations inherent in off-the-shelf SSDs. One primary catalyst for SSD adoption across industries has been the increasing affordability of NAND flash memory—the vital non-volatile storage component within modern SSDs. This affordability shift enabled numerous sectors to transition from HDDs to SSDs.
Nonetheless, a concern arises as NAND flash providers strive for higher memory cell density to reduce costs, leading to diminished quality and durability of the NAND in SSDs. While this might not pose a substantial issue for consumers or certain industrial applications, it’s a genuine concern within the medical context.
In response, SSD specialists like Silicon Motion have developed innovative solutions, such as the FerriSSD series of single-chip embedded storage. This series incorporates proprietary technologies that vigilantly monitor SSD NAND flash component health, taking corrective measures as necessary. Thus, the operational life of an SSD can extend significantly beyond that of the NAND component, fulfilling the data integrity requisites of medical device manufacturers.
Beyond safeguarding data integrity, Silicon Motion’s SSD lineup encompasses crucial cybersecurity and data privacy features, in today’s high-risk threat landscape. Full-disk encryption ensures data confidentiality, adhering to both the TCG Opal 2.0 and AES 256-bit encryption standards. Moreover, digital signature technology fortifies against cyberattacks targeting the SSD’s firmware, ensuring malicious actors can’t tamper with or compromise the firmware.
“Consumer-grade SSDs suffice for specific scenarios,” says Chien. “But medical devices, precision manufacturing, and applications demanding elevated performance, security, and stability necessitate a more sophisticated solution.” (Video 1)
Medical Device Manufacturers Overcome Complex Challenges
Medical device manufacturers realize substantial advantages by employing SSD solutions meticulously designed for their unique needs. Equally noteworthy are their collaborations with hardware specialists, which empower them to surmount even the most intricate technical challenges.
For instance, consider Silicon Motion’s experience partnering with a manufacturer of advanced medical equipment emitting electromagnetic radiation (EMR). EMR is prevalent in medical settings due to procedures like CT scans and MRI machines. But the electromagnetic interference (EMI) emanating from this manufacturer’s equipment induced a high frequency of soft errors, jeopardizing the stability of the memory cells within microchips.
Silicon Motion’s engineers ingeniously devised customized hardware and firmware impervious to EMI and equipped to swiftly recover from soft errors. The outcomes were striking—reducing the manufacturer’s soft-error rate by a remarkable 96%, ensuring the essential medical equipment remains operational when needed most.
Partnerships between hardware experts and medical device manufacturers yield the remarkable capability to engineer bespoke solutions, a feat that Chien emphasizes as being pivotal: “We possess the ability to tailor our hardware and firmware to meet unique customer requirements, whether it involves enhancing reliability or accommodating design constraints.”
This customization is bolstered, in part, by Silicon Motion’s technology collaboration with Intel. Chien notes, “All our products are developed based on the Intel platform. It’s widely adopted in advanced medical equipment, minimizing compatibility issues while providing exceptional stability and robustness.”
The Bright Future of Medical Device Manufacturing
Collaboration between medical device manufacturers and hardware specialists already delivers tremendous value. In the years to come, manufacturers stand to gain even more advantages from these symbiotic partnerships.
Anticipating a future where advanced medical equipment continually evolves on-site, Silicon Motion has proactively equipped its SSDs and firmware to support Tesla-style over-the-air (OTA) updates. In addition, the company is preparing for the rise of medical AI and IoT.
Furthermore, Silicon Motion is gearing up for the ascendance of medical AI in the Internet of Things. Chien asserts, “We are actively exploring methods to customize our hardware and firmware to optimally accommodate AI applications. As technologies evolve, so do the demands of medical devices. AI and IoT represent the future of medical applications, and we’re collaboratively shaping this future with our medical equipment partners.”
This article was edited by Christina Cardoza, Associate Editorial Director for insight.tech.