It is easy to appreciate the sophistication of medical hardware such as a dazzling multi-slice CT scanner, elegant crystalline ultrasound probe, or muscular high-field MRI. Less evident are the brains behind the operations--the image enhancement software that translates electromagnetic or sound waves into clinical vision.
The industry leader in medical image enhancement software is ContextVision, Stockholm, Sweden. For example, the company's GOPiCE technology removes speckle and noise in 3D (volumetric) ultrasound. With 25 years' experience, ContextVision's software is installed in more than 40,000 medical imaging systems worldwide including MRI, CT, digital X-ray and ultrasound units made by more than 50 OEMs.
DOTmed News recently spoke at length with ContextVision CEO Jan Erik Hedborg.
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DOTmed (DM): The importance of software is undeniable even though we tend to focus on hardware.
Jan Erik Hedborg (JEH): We are a pure software company. In the past we did our own hardware when data processing capacity was not enough and we needed to create our own circuit boards so that we could run the software in the proper manner. But nowadays we are more or less independent of proprietary hardware.
DM: Tell us about your core competency and image software.
JEH: If you ask about the core competency it is image processing--very much the skill of understanding manipulation of images through complex mathematical formulas which we refer to as algorithms. Our roots are in the academic world. We were a research project 25 years ago -- advanced image processing research led to the technology that was spun off in our company.
DM: Your customers are the OEMs?
JEH: We provide the medical imaging manufacturers with our solutions. Our software is embedded the customers' equipment as an integrated part of their solution. We are not very visible to the end user as we reside under the hood of our customers' equipment.
What we bring to this industry is improved diagnostic value. The purpose of supplying image enhancement is to improve the quality of the image in a way that makes the diagnosis for the doctor easier and more comfortable. For some of our customers, the time to market has an impact. They might want to consider doing it themselves, but we are totally dedicated to this technology, and therefore are always improving and offer the best possible technology at all times. In a nutshell we are in the market to add this value to the manufacturers.
DM: How is the market now? It must be down considering equipment sales are down.