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  • 18 September 2014 08:11

Opengear offers ‘miracle’ cure for hospital robots

Opengear is aiding scientists' work with stroke patients by providing instant out-of-band access to globally dispersed robots

Australian-developed out-of-band access technology from Opengear is successfully allowing remote maintenance of hospital-based robots worldwide that are aiding the recovery of stroke patients.

Last month, US company Interactive Motion Technologies reported it had successfully deployed Opengear’s remote management gateways to each of its internationally-located InMotion neurorehabilitation robots.

Opengear (http://www.opengear.com) is a leading provider of critical infrastructure management solutions through advanced console servers, remote management, monitoring, and cellular out-of-band products. Opengear’s CEO and its research and development team are based in Brisbane.

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.

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. Daniel M. Drucker, Scientist at Interactive Motion. “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 is currently investigating additional opportunities to integrate Opengear’s solution as a part of their product.

Interactive Motion selected the Opengear ACM5004-G-E for maintaining the systems of InMotion robots worldwide via secure cellular out-of-band connections.

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.

Because Opengear’s connection is not Internet-based but done via cellular out-of-band – and because Opengear’s gateway provides secure tunnelling – 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.

“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,” said Opengear CEO Rick Stevenson.

“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.

The robot takes the patient’s own movements as feedback, tapering off its assistance as the patient’s brain learns and regains motor control. In this way, InMotion robots take patients from an utterly passive role to an active role, so that by the end of therapy the robot is adding zero assistance.

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.

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.

For more details on Interactive Motion's use of Opengear ACM5004-G-Es in their distributed network, please check out the Interactive Motion case study. For media assistance in Australia, call John Harris on 08 8431 4000 or email john@impress.com.au.

About Opengear www.opengear.com Opengear designs, manufacturers and delivers the most feature rich, cost effective, flexible solutions for secure remote infrastructure management. Opengear smart appliances enable companies to access and manage virtually any electronic device on their network remotely and securely from anywhere, even if the network is down, to improve efficiencies and maximise business continuity.

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