The high cost of low-performing medical devices

Guest post by my colleague Patryk Fournier, medical marketing communications manager for QNX Software Systems

Manufacturers of consumer products have long used money-back guarantees to promote laundry detergent, newspapers, pizza, and yes, even beer, as a way to reassure consumers about the purchase they are making. You can now add medical devices to the list.

Last week, Reuters reported that medical device manufacturers have begun to offer device performance and reliability guarantees to hospitals:

“Medical device makers, facing sluggish sales and increasing pressure to prove the value of their products, are beefing up guarantees to compensate U.S. hospitals if a device does not perform as expected.”

Medical device manufacturers already operate in a challenging environment filled with stringent regulatory requirements and industry pressures. They must develop increasingly complex devices in timelines that are more typical of consumer-grade electronics, but difficult to meet in a regulated industry. The added burden of providing compensation to hospitals simply adds a cost line directly attributed to device performance or reliability issues.

These product guarantees underscore the importance of building a medical device on a solid, robust, and reliable realtime operating system. Not having a reliable OS will cost medical device manufacturers — literally and figuratively.

At QNX Software Systems, we’ve been taking reliability seriously for almost 35 years. That’s why our OS supports intelligent fault recovery to enable high uptimes, time partitioning to ensure availability of critical processes, security mechanisms to help devices from attack, and realtime determinism to help applications meet hard deadlines. Moreover, this OS technology has been deployed in dialysis machines, infusion pumps, angiography systems, CT scanners, surgical robots, heart defibrillators, and a host of other medical devices.

No, we don’t offer money-back guarantees. But I think we offer something better: tools, services, and certifications to help our medical-device customers save time, money, and effort in the first place.


They did it! Solar Impulse team makes non-stop flight from Japan to Hawaii

Solar-powered plane sets new endurance record while completing toughest leg of round-the-world journey.

Touching down in Kalaeloa
Source: Solar Impulse 
Now here's good news for a Friday afternoon: The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane outfitted with QNX technology, has landed safely in Kalaeloa, Hawaii, after completing the longest leg of its round-the-world mission and setting a new endurance record for solo flight.

The plane lifted off from Nagoya on June 28 and touched down in Kalaeloa almost 120 hours later, using the sun as its only power source. And did I mention? The plane had only pilot, André Borschberg, who was at the helm for the entire 5-day flight. Yes, he was able to take naps while the plane was on autopilot — but only 6 a day, each lasting 20 minutes. Color me impressed.

The team’s round-the-world flight, which started on March 9 in Abu Dhabi, hit a snag when the plane reached Nagoya, where weeks of bad weather threatened to cancel the project. But, finally, a five-day window of clear weather opened and the team was able to resume its historic journey, which is dedicated to the promotion of green energy.

The team’s other pilot, Bertrand Piccard, will fly the next leg, from Honolulu to Phoenix, Arizona. Piccard’s name may ring a bell, but not because of any Star Trek connection: In 1999, he became the first person to complete a non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the earth.

QNX Software Systems is the official realtime OS partner for the Solar Impulse team, and the plane uses the QNX Neutrino OS for several control and data communication functions. Read my previous posts for more information on the Solar Impulse project.


Developing software for safety-critical systems? Have I got a book for you

Chris Hobbs is the only person I know who holds a math degree with a specialization in mathematical philosophy. In fact, before I met him, I didn’t know such a thing even existed. But guess what? That’s one of the things I really like about Chris. The more I hang out with him, the more I learn.

Come to think of it, helping people learn has become something of a specialty for Chris. He is, for example, a flying instructor and the author of Flying Beyond: The Canadian Commercial Pilot Textbook. And, as a software safety specialist at QNX Software Systems, he regularly provides advice to customers building systems that must comply with functional safety standards like IEC 61508, EN 5012x, and ISO 26262.

Chris has already written a number of papers on software safety, some of which I have had the great privilege to edit. You can find several of them on the QNX website. But recently, Chris upped the ante and wrote an entire book on the subject, titled Embedded Software Development for Safety-Critical Systems. The book:

  • covers the development of safety-critical systems under ISO 26262, IEC 61508, EN 50128, and IEC 62304
  • helps readers understand and apply remarkably esoteric development practices and be prepared to justify their work to external auditors
  • discusses the advantages and disadvantages of architectural and design practices recommended in the standards, including replication and diversification, anomaly detection, and so-called “safety bag” systems
  • examines the use of open-source components in safety-critical systems

I haven’t yet had a chance to review the book, but at 358 pages, it promises to be a substantial read.

Interested? Well, you can’t get the book just yet. But you can pre-order it today and get one of the first copies off the press. It’s scheduled for release September 1.

A version of this post appeared in the QNX Auto Blog.


The June edition of the QNX Source newsletter is now online. So what are you waiting for?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it pays to get your information straight from the source. I am speaking, of course, of the QNX Source newsletter.

The Source is your passport to the latest QNX videos, webinars, whitepapers, articles, press releases, product updates, and board support packages. If you ask me, subscribing is the best way to go. But if you're not the subscribing kind, there is an alternative: you can bookmark your browser to the Source newsletter archive.

Here, for example, is a taste of the June 2015 edition, which is available now on the archive:


QNX boards the bus: an automated fare collection system from MSI Global

You can find QNX technology in almost every form of transportation imaginable, from cars and trains to boats and planes. It’s even used in motorcyles. If you download the infographic, “35 Ways QNX Touches Our Lives,” you’ll find lots of examples, including in-car infotainment, locomotive control, and cruise-ship navigation. But here’s the thing: the infographic doesn’t say a thing about buses. Not a single mention.

Enter an announcement that fills the gap. Earlier today, QNX revealed that the QNX Neutrino OS is powering an automated fare collection system used throughout Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand. The system comprises automatic gates, ticketing machines, and yes, onboard bus equipment, including a console for the driver and a smartcard validation system for passengers. The system was created by MSI Global, an international system integrator specializing in land-transport solutions and a subsidiary of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore.

Silvester Prakasam, head of the fare system business unit at MSI, has good things to say about QNX. “MSI’s experience with QNX Neutrino has been very favorable and we will continue to leverage the same secure OS for our future projects. Creating a solution that could gain widespread adoption was a key consideration in our choice of OS, and with QNX Neutrino we were able to create a design that is fast and reliable, yet affordable to customers in cost-sensitive regions.”

Read the press release to learn more. Meanwhile, I thought you would enjoy some images of the fare collection system, starting with the smartcard reader:

Here's an example of the ticketing machines:

And here's an example of the automatic gates:


QNX brings medical device info days to Europe

Commercializing a medical device is always a challenge. But with the right knowledge, you can mitigate project risk and ease the path to regulatory approval.

On May 19 and 21, QNX will host info
days in Cambridge 
and Paris.
For almost 30 years, QNX Software Systems has been helping its customers build dialysis machines, infusion pumps, angiography systems, CT scanners, surgical robots, heart defibrillators, and a host of other medical devices. Moreover, we have built an OS that complies with international standards like IEC 62304 (medical device software) and IEC 61508 (functional safety systems). In the process, we’ve learned a thing or two about medical devices and how their software must specified, designed, developed, and maintained.

Which brings me to the medical information days that QNX will host this coming month in Cambridge and Paris. In both events, industry experts like Rob Higgins (head of regulatory affairs at MHRA, the agency that regulates medical devices in the UK) and Florence Collé (regulatory affairs manager at SNITEM, the national association of medical device manufacturers in France) will address regulatory and commercial challenges faced by today’s medical device manufacturers. Experts from IHS and, of course, QNX will also be on hand to deliver presentations and share their insights. Topics covered will include:

  • Understanding regulations in Europe and North America
  • Getting up to speed on IEC 62304 compliance
  • Streamlining software integration
  • Ensuring medical device safety
  • Mitigating project risk
  • Easing the path to end-device approval

Interested? Click on the links to learn more:

Cambridge, UK, May 19
The Cambridge Belfry
Back Lane, Cambourne, Cambridge, CB23 6BW
Download the agenda and view the speaker bios
Register to attend

Paris, France, May 21
Hilton Paris La Défense
2 place de la Défense CNIT, 92053 Paris
Download the agenda
Register to attend

There is no charge to participate in either event.

Further reading:


    Advantech and QNX ink distribution agreement

    Advantech to offer pre-integrated platforms for developers building medical devices, industrial control systems, and other QNX-based applications.

    SOM-6894 module: one of many Advantech 
    products with integrated QNX support.
    No assembly required. That’s the idea behind the new partnership between Advantech and QNX Software Systems.

    Advantech can now distribute the QNX Neutrino OS, pre-integrated, on a variety of its embedded hardware platforms, including single board computers, industrial motherboards, computer-on-modules, and fanless embedded box PCs.

    The goal is to make life easier for embedded developers: they can now unbox their Advantech hardware and get QNX Neutrino up and running right away.

    Tom Keyserlingk, director of global sales at QNX, sees real value in having Advantech on board as a distributor. “They have a global footprint, a comprehensive product portfolio, proven QNX experience, and extensive industry partnerships — all the right ingredients to support our growing reach internationally.”

    Angus Hsu, director of embedded computing at Advantech, explains why this partnership is important for Advantech. “The QNX Neutrino OS offers all of the building blocks to create modern embedded devices, from hard realtime performance and advanced security features to graphics frameworks, multimedia support, and mobile-device connectivity — all based on QNX Software Systems’ 35 years of experience in the embedded industry.”

    If you’re an embedded developer that uses, or wants to use, Advantech hardware for your QNX-based application, here is a current list of Advantech BSPs for the QNX Neutrino OS:

    Visit the Advantech site to learn more about their embedded platforms.