Overcoming the obstacles of compression
The greatest challenge for Sentoni was to find affordable components that could support the bandwidth without compressing the data. In Argentina and elsewhere, medical regulators prohibit image compression because of the potential for losing vital image data. "The core of the system acquires, processes, stores and displays 1024 x 1024 images at 30 fps. That generates 300 Mbps of information, which uses a good deal of the practical available PCI bandwidth," he says. "Our intention was to develop an affordable medical device, and that could only be fulfilled with off-the-shelf hardware." But not all hardware combinations were equal. Indeed, Dr. Sentoni discovered that visualization, an essential feature of a medical imaging systems, could only be achieved with the 915-based motherboard and Pentium 4 chipset.
Dr. Sentoni credits much of the work to his former student who implemented the design under Sentoni's guidance. Leonardo Seminara took on the project as an undergraduate and started his own company, Xineus Technology, after graduation. Today Xineus is responsible for the PimaxScan product and the fifteen systems deployed in Argentine hospitals and health-care facilities such as diagnostic clinics. The manufacturer also plans to export the system to other Latin American countries as soon as those health authorities determine that PimaxScan complies with their regulations. Sentoni's team is also developing additional functionality to help doctors diagnose, as well as adapt the current technology to the ecography market.
Compared to competition, PimaxScan is a high-quality, very-low cost diagnostic tool, thanks to the embedded PC and off-the-shelf hardware. "This also makes the system maintenance and upgrading easier," notes Sentoni.
Dr. Sentoni believes that Matrox Imaging's hardware and software products played a key role in the project's success. "The handy MIL API and the fabulous software-hardware integration with the Matrox [Helios] could be easily integrated with other components. Those were the main reasons to choose Matrox products." Once development began, Sentoni realized the combination of an easy-to-use API, the simplicity of integrating the hardware components, and "outstanding customer support" proved they made the right choice.