Industrial grade data storage for medical applications

Industrial grade data storage for medical applications

Industrial Grade Data Storage for Medical Applications

There are a wide range of healthcare devices that require the ability to store valuable data. For example, diagnostics and imaging to monitor patients and record information like blood pressure and heart rates. Other devices that play a more active role in supporting the patient such as wearables, pacemakers or drug delivery systems similarly demand the reliable processing of data. Since lives and patient safety are dependent on these devices, they require industrial grade storage to provide the required levels of data reliability and longevity. Overall, there are a growing number of applications in the medical industry where the efficient safekeeping, access and analysis of data are critical in enhancing quality of life. These devices need to be designed with reliability in mind and need to be secure against cyber-attacks.

The most frequently used form of non-volatile storage for these devices is NAND flash memory. This is particularly suitable for industrial storage because unlike hard-disk drives, it has no moving parts and is not as sensitive to mechanical shock or vibration. It is also less affected by magnetic fields. However, using flash memory presents some specific challenges that need to be managed in order to ensure reliable operation and good storage life. A high-quality flash memory controller is essential to the success of NAND flash-based storage in medical technology. It is the key component ensuring the reliability of the device and carries out a number of features to avoid data loss and process data efficiently.

How do flash memory controllers handle errors and power failures differently?

Error Correction Codes (ECC) are responsible for the detection and correction of errors on the flash memory. Nonetheless, there will always be a number of errors when reading from memory. The quality of the ECC heavily impacts the reliability of a system overall.

Certain controllers like those from Hyperstone come with a whole ecosystem of features and processes (FlashXE®) that start preventing errors before the system is even designed. This feature set targets the lowest error rates through error avoidance and correction. Hyperstone controllers use an advanced type of ECC where the error floor can be guaranteed which is especially important for application which require a very low probability of failures To learn more about Hyperstone error correction coding and the FlashXE® ecosystem, download the educational white papers available on the website.

Maximum uptime is very important in medical applications. This is because practioners rely on up-to-date information to deliver the best possible care. If there’s an unexpected loss of power, it is the flash memory controller’s responsibility to ensure the storage system does not compromise or lose data. Writing to flash memory and other operations, such as wear leveling, require data to be held in the SRAM temporarily. This data can be lost, or corrupted, if there’s a loss of power. Hyperstone controllers use several mechanisms to protect the storage system from losing data in the event of sudden power fail.

What’s the trade off?  

There are many other features and mechanisms flash memory controllers carry out that contribute to the reliability of flash memory. It must be kept in mind that managing all of these features effectively involves a tradeoff between performance and reliability. In medical environments, where sensitive data must be efficiently transferred without compromising reliability this is a balancing act.

The controller needs to be matched to the characteristics of the flash memory to ensure maximum reliability. The behavior of the flash memory will also change over time. A high quality flash memory controller should be able to adjust for this, in order to maximize the usable lifetime. To ensure that the controller provides the best results with any given flash memory, Hyperstone uses a rigorous qualification process and lifecycle testing to generate data about the flash memory. This qualification process determines the characteristics of each flash and in turn, allows engineers to optimally configure the controller’s firmware to maximize the reliability and lifetime of the memory device.

Ultimately, the controller is the key component for achieving high-quality flash storage by managing data transfers and “hiding” the inherent shortcomings of flash technology. Hyperstone NAND flash memory controllers make it possible to build safe and reliable storage for medical applications.