Meet the company connecting GE Healthcare’s new medical equipment


A new generation of medical equipment is helping GE continue bragging about its industrial internet progress. It includes a CT scanner that can be linked to a heart monitor to snap images at the precise moment the patient’s heart is still, while also tracking vitals, playing music and linking as needed to other pieces of equipment might make sense. Coordinating this level of interaction between devices in real-time is no small feat, which is why it’s worth knowing about Real-Time Innovations Inc., or RTI, the company that makes those data flows possible.

RTI is a 23-year-old company based in Sunnyvale, California, that is using the open source DDS messaging protocol to send data between machines. Its Connext software is built around the protocol, and is deployed on everything from naval carriers to underground mines. It even is used in Canada’s air traffic control system and at NASA. And now that the internet of things is making messaging and sending data in real time so much more important, RTI CEO Stan Schneider is ready to take advantage of his company’s history and software expertise.

In February, the company launched a version of its software that would support more protocols that might be used by connected devices and sensors and also added support for more devices messaging. As Schneider noted in an interview, in a medical setting a hospital might need to coordinate data between 1,000 beds with 100┬áseparate sensors sending information. That’s a lot of coordination, but he believes the Data Distribution Service (DDS) protocol RTI is betting on is best able to handle that.

Alternative protocols that are also vying to carry data traffic for the internet of things are MQTT, XMPP (Jabber) and the AMQP server-to-server messaging protocol.

Based on GE Healthcare choosing RTI as the software provider inside its next generation of connected medical devices, RTI, or perhaps the DDS protocol, is apparently doing something right. RTI is also part of the Industrial Internet Consortium, the group founded by GE, Intel, Cisco, IBM and AT&T to build out reference architectures for the industrial internet, so it’s possible that DDS might find a home there for medical settings. Other companies such as PrismTech, Object Computing Inc. and others also build software around DDS as a sort of middleware platform to connect devices.

Schneider explained that in many industrial settings the device data stays in a mesh network between devices as opposed to going back up to the cloud. When you’re matching the spin of a CT scan to a heartbeat, there’s not a lot of room for latency. The same goes for performing robotic surgery. So while RTI’s software does support sending data back to the cloud, for now Schneider is skeptical how large a role it will play in the industrial internet.

That’s probably because RTI isn’t selling a cloud service.

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