Wednesday, 17 September 2014 20:05

Aussie technology plays part in recovery from stroke

Rick Stevenson, Opengear Rick Stevenson, Opengear

Technology developed by Australian critical infrastructure management solutions vendor Opengear is successfully allowing remote maintenance of hospital-based robots worldwide to aide the recovery of stroke patients.

US company Interactive Motion Technologies has reported it has successfully deployed Opengear’s remote management gateways for a number of its internationally-located InMotion neurorehabilitation robots.

Opengear’s advanced console servers, remote management, monitoring, and cellular out-of-band products have been developed by the company’s Brisbane-based research and development team.

Using Opengear’s solution, Interactive Motion can perform remote maintenance of robots in hospitals all over the world from the company’s headquarters in Boston.

According to Dr. Daniel M. Drucker, Scientist at Interactive Motion, the results of using Opengear’s cellular-connected remote management have been transformative. Service calls can now be completed from the Boston office, and minor robot updates no longer require a tech to travel to each site, rendering unnecessary what had been huge cost and time expenditures associated with travel for minor updates.

“We call the Opengear product a miracle!’” said Dr Drucker. “It feels like magic.

“The idea that I have this robot I’ve helped to make, and I expected I’d never be able to connect to again unless I travelled to where it is and typed on the console; suddenly I’m able to take this box, ship it and have them plug it in. And now I’m here in Boston, type a couple commands, and a minute later I’m connected and able to issue commands on this robot. And it’s going over the global cell network.”

Interactive Motion selected the Opengear ACM5004-G-E for maintaining the systems of InMotion robots worldwide via secure cellular out-of-band connections, and the company is currently investigating additional opportunities to integrate Opengear’s solution as a part of its product.

InMotion robots have been at use in hospitals around the world for more than a decade, with some models still running on legacy versions of Ubuntu or Red Hat Linux. These systems are not on the Internet or even local Ethernet networks, are out of date with security patches, and cannot be connected to hospital networks.

Opengear CEO Rick Stevenson says that Opengear’s connection is not Internet-based but done via cellular out-of-band – and because the gateway provides secure tunneling – the security of the older systems still in use is protected. Additionally, the value added by a low cost gateway and US$20/month cell service means Opengear’s solution “easily pays for itself by saving technician time and travel costs” Stevenson says.

“It’s exciting to see Opengear technology deployed in a way that not only saves a business time and money, but also gets to play a role in helping rehabilitate stroke patients via the extraordinary InMotion robot.

“On the business side, the trouble and costs of traveling internationally for trivial maintenance issues are exactly the kind of burden our cellular out-of-band gateways with secure tunneling are designed to solve. All Interactive Motion had to do was ship the gateways with instructions to plug them in. Now, the ACM5004-G-E makes it so their technicians can access the robots from home, and they’re doing nine out of every 10 service calls with no travel required.”

InMotion robot-assisted therapy helps moderate to severe stroke patients reacquire and improve motor skills in impaired upper limbs. Leveraging the brain’s incredible neuroplasticity, an InMotion robot will guide a patient’s arm through a range of motions, assisting the movements as needed. These motions cause the brain to rewire its neurons, and relearn how to control the body.

Stevenson explains that in the practice of ensuring that these robots stayed fully functional, maintenance issues would arise. “Hard drives would fail, or researchers would ask for new customised features. To maintain these systems, technicians would travel out to the sites. In some cases, this meant a US$5000+ expense and overseas travel to delete a single character in a code string: a simple three-minute job if they had remote access.Now they do - with Opengear.”

According to Stevenson, for Interactive Motion and the hospitals and patients using their robots, Opengear’s remote management solution improves operational efficiency and reduces mean time to repair. “Rapid robot repairs mean patients are not left waiting. Researchers asking for special experiments and features can have those delivered quickly and remotely. Technical staff can better invest their time where it’s most valuable: developing technology to serve patients.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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