While listening to NPR this week I caught a story on a new artificial heart developed by the Texas Heart Institute. What's cool is that the device promises to overcome some of the inherent limitations of older technologies that led to premature failure - such as pumps wearing out or breaking down, and blood clots. It uses a completely different mechanism than prior attempts at mechanical replacements that relied on valves and pumps. What's creepy is that recipients of this new type of heart that uses rotors HAVE NO PULSE! I imagine this dramatic change will have significant implications for related medical technology such as blood pressure and heart monitoring devices and will require new ways of assessing patient status. The assumptions we've made about the necessity of a pulse to indicate life go out the window. As I think more about it, I see some parallels to other technology advances that call us to re-examine assumptions. In the quest for solutions to problems, humans first attempt to mimic existing devices - such as pumping hearts or flapping bird wings, but the successful and innovative solutions often are completely different - non-pulsing hearts and fixed wing aircraft. The world of digital storage offers yet another parallel. When solid state storage came on the scene in the late 1990's, the approach to enabling adoption was to make the new flash technology mimic the old rotating media in a hard disk. Low level system software - like our FlashFX - made this new technology appear to the higher levels in the system as a hard disk, minimizing the changes for applications. But over time the underlying flash technology has become more sophisticated than hard drives and moved beyond simple read and write commands. Take the recent advances in e•MMC just announced by JEDEC, for example. If we want to truly enable these innovations for applications, the whole software stack needs to toss out old assumptions. Datalight will be leading the charge and developing a new generation of software that defends against the shortcomings of the technology while embracing its strengths. Hopefully this will pave the way for many innovations such as new medical monitoring devices that can determine health and life without finding a pulse.
Posted by: Thom Denholm