A Better Debugger for the Software That Runs Your Cybernetic Heart

Illustration for article titled A Better Debugger for the Software That Runs Your Cybernetic Heart

Semi-permanent heart pumps like this one are installed in people's hearts all over the world. The problem is that when these software-controlled pumps fail, the blue screen of death is literally killing people. So researchers at Frunhofer-Gesellsschaft Research, who make a popular model of heart pump (or VAD, for ventricular assist device), have invented this model which will serve as a debugger. New software will run on this human simulator, and researchers can see what might go wrong before it stops your heart.


Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture researcher Holger Schlingloff, who helped develop the device, says:

It's a similar development to that of the automobile, where a considerable number of functions now rely on software, such as driver assistance systems. At the same time, the technical requirements for vehicle registration have become more demanding: certain models on sale 15 years ago would not be allowed on the road under today's standards. Exactly the same applies to cardiac support systems.


Adds his colleague Rolf Hänisch:

It is impossible to prove that a system is entirely failure-proof by simply running a test - it could be that certain types of fault have been overlooked. We can eliminate this shortcoming by producing systematized tests based on models, in which we record and simulate all relevant test scenarios.

Of course it's still not foolproof, but it's still a good system for testing software that has to work — or else.

Odd side note: Frunhofer-Gesellsschaft is the same company that patented the MP3 algorithm. I want my VAD to play MP3s, please!


Relief for Diseased Hearts [Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Research via Medgadget]

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I know (I've done a tiny amount of micro controller programming) it's all tiny kernal versions of UNIX, but the possibility that any MS OS short of DOS would run "real" time critical equipment still gives me the heebie jeebies (I know of a couple of medical devices that did.)