Engineering at the frontline of health

August 18, 2020 //By Dave Wilson
Engineering at the frontline of health
The spread of Covid-19 is changing the face of medical engineering, says Dave Wilson, Business and Technology Fellow for Portfolio Business at test NI

The emergence of Covid-19 has forced us to re-evaluate so many aspects of modern life, resulting in an urgent rethink of established norms. With people working from home, the usual approaches and processes no longer apply.

In the engineering community, enormous efforts have already been spent supporting the global fight against the spread of the disease. Multi-disciplinary teams from around the world have come together to help to design, develop and test a broad range of medical equipment such as face masks and ventilators, often under the shortest timeframes imaginable.

This response is now moving to the next phase, as engineers play a central role in helping medics to deliver new treatments while supporting researchers on the path to finding a cure. Then there is the requirement to imagine dependable solutions to new challenges such as how to safely re-open offices, factories and other communal areas. In each of these cases, progress will only be made through collaborative working in pursuit of the common good - an ethos that, if sustained, has unparalleled potential to tackle the collective health challenges facing humanity over the next 100 years.

Test software provides crucial support

Right from the start of the pandemic, it was clear that agile testing was going to be crucial. Urgent efforts to develop new equipment such as ventilators had to be done during a time of enormous change, with many engineers suddenly finding themselves working from home.

Fortunately, software engineers have lived in a virtual world, 24/7, for many years now, enabling them to compile, develop and contribute remotely, and in real-time. NI has been software-first since 1986, and the connected nature of our systems means the test community was well equipped to work remotely, running automated test and automated measurement systems from home. In contrast to the closed, box instrument lab, these software-centric systems remove physical barriers to collaboration across the whole team and testing process.

In March,

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