1. Omron Electronic Components Europe launched the HVC face recognition module, which has a maximum recognition speed up to ten times faster than the company’s current unit. With the module, any embedded developer can add face recognition functionality to a system without the need to understand the algorithms or the optical design.

Omron’s B5T HVC-P2 offers ten key image sensing functions: detection of a human face, hand or body, as well as face recognition and gender detection, plus age, mood, facial-pose, gaze and blink estimations.

In each case, the module returns a value and a degree of certainty, enabling the programmer to configure the response appropriately for each individual application. Besides the greater speed, the B5T HVC-P2 module offers greater consistency of response and an increased distance over which readings can be taken.

To make the module easier to integrate, it is now supplied in two parts: a camera and a main board.


2. A surgical solution that simplifies discectomy in minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery was announced by Depuy Synthes. Called the CONCORDE Clear MIS Discectomy Device, it allows surgeons to complete the degenerated disc-removal process more efficiently compared with using traditional tools, while increasing the amount of disc material removed.

Minimally invasive surgery is the fastest-growing category in spinal fusion surgery because it leads to fewer complications than undergoing open surgery for treating degenerative disc disease.

The device is a single-use instrument that removes a degenerated disc and prepares end plates using readily available, standardised hospital suction. This not only leads to fewer tool passes and instrument exchanges, but also removes a larger disc volume when compared with traditional techniques, thus allowing surgeons to complete surgery in a way that could improve patient outcomes substantially.

“The CONCORDE Clear MIS Discectomy Device is a true innovation that embodies our mission to make spinal fusion surgery less invasive for patients and less complicated for surgeons,” said Jordy Winters, lead for DePuy Synthes Spine EMEA.


3. In November 2017, a group of graduates from McMaster University’s Electrical and Biomedical Engineering programme won the prestigious James Dyson Award, which gave them $50,000 to support the development of the sKan, a skin cancer detection device invented by the group.

The device helps physicians and laypeople to detect melanoma by creating a thermal map on a region of interest on the skin. The device is made up of 16 temperature-sensitive components called ‘thermistors’ that look for areas of significant temperature difference on the skin, which may indicate the presence of melanoma.

Current diagnosis methods are qualitative and are primarily based on visual inspection. sKan provides quantitative information about skin spots, so physicians can select the appropriate patients for biopsies. The James Dyson Award celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers, and is entered by students from 23 countries.


4. A new device, which enables heart tissue to be imaged in real time for keyhole procedures using an optical ultrasound needle, has been developed by researchers at UCL and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

This technology provides a highresolution view of soft tissues that are up to 2.5cm in front of the instrument.

Doctors typically rely on external ultrasound probes in combination with pre-operative scans to visualise soft tissue and organs during procedures, as miniature surgical instruments do not support internal ultrasound imaging.

In a press release, Dr Malcolm Finlay, study co-lead and cardiologist at QMUL and Barts Heart Centre in London, said, “We now have real-time imaging that allows us to differentiate between tissues at a remarkable depth, helping to guide the highest-risk moments of these procedures.”

He added, “This will reduce the chances of complications occurring during routine but skilled procedures, such as ablation procedures in the heart. The technology has been designed to be completely compatible with MRI and other current methods, so it could also be used during brain or foetal surgery, or with guiding epidural needles.”

Over four years, the team developed the ultrasound for use in a clinical setting, which can fit into single-use medical devices, including needles. When moving, it is also sensitive enough to image centimetre-scale depths of tissues and can be fitted into the existing clinical workflow.

Using an optical fibre that is encased within a clinical needle, it delivers a pulse of light that generates ultrasonic pulses that are reflected by tissue. A sensor detects these on a second optical fibre, providing real-time ultrasound imaging to guide surgery.



5. Californian start-up Zipline plans to use drones for good. In conjunction with UPS and vaccine distributor Gavi, the company is deploying a fleet of drones in Rwanda, where the machines will deliver medical supplies.

The goal is to see 15 autonomous aircraft fly out of a centralised hub to make 150 deliveries a day to 21 medical stations throughout the western half of the country.

The Rwandan Government, which has embraced drone technology and recently approved guidelines for its use, is working with Zipline to measure the success of the venture.


6. Unigloves has created Unigloves Fortified, Europe’s first antimicrobial nitrile examination gloves, which incorporate silver ion technology from BioCote. The single-use gloves destroy 90% of harmful bacteria within just 15 minutes and 99.5% in two hours.

BioCote is effective against multiple bacterial and viral strains. Exposure to treated materials prevents microbial colonisation and also renders bacteria non-infectious through protein and oxidative damage, membrane disruption and DNA interference.

Prior to vulcanisation, ionic silver particles are impregnated into the gloves’ synthetic nitrile and are homogenously dispersed throughout the rubber polymer, rather than being added as a surface coating that can wear off. Silver is an ideal antimicrobial agent that provides lasting protection throughout the gloves’ lifetime – it will not wear, wash off or leach out.

Chris Wahlers, operations director, said, “We’re confident that these gloves will become a must have for our healthcare and hygiene-critical clients.”


7. Plain bearings from igus helped a team of students meet the requirements of a smart-drill measuring system that can be used to fix bone fractures. Combining a rotary drive and axial vibration required high-quality plain bearings to implement freedom of movement in the axial direction, and also achieve the most accurate signals possible at high vibration frequencies.

Osteosynthesis is performed to fix a fracture, especially in extreme circumstances where a splint or cast would be inadequate. This procedure aligns the bones and fixes the fracture internally using metal plates, pins, rods, wires or screws. To avoid injuring the surrounding tissue structure and ensure strength, the length of these screws need to be precise. The bone diameter and depth of the hole can be determined in advance, but can only be measured during the operation with a gauge. This is dependent on the operator’s experience, which makes the procedure susceptible to human error.

In the Smart Drill project, a group from Bremen Institute of Measurement Technology, Automation and Quality Science (BIMAQ) made this process safer by developing an attachment for an existing drilling machine, which measures the depth of a hole to determine the correct screw to use.

Due to the special demands placed on the bearing points of the measuring system – including resistance to chemicals and moisture, and troublefree mounting at high speeds – the use of plastic self-lubricating bearings was explored.


8. A Nottingham-based regenerative medicine company has developed a therapy that can prevent sight loss, and has raised £500,000 to market the product.

NuVision was set up in 2015 to commercialise research carried out at the University of Nottingham by Dr Andy Hopkinson, who is the company’s CEO. Its wound-healing therapy harnesses the regenerative properties of amniotic tissue, which is found in the sac surrounding babies in the womb and is normally discarded at birth.

NuVision’s first product, Omnigen, can be used in eye surgery, where it provides a ‘biological bandage’ for the treatment and surgical reconstruction of wounds. More than 2,400 treatments have been distributed since the product was approved for human use in 2016.

NuVisions’ latest innovation is a contact lens that is applied in a clinic treatment room to kick-start regeneration, without the need for surgery.


9. An Indian start-up is working to provided better care for knee surgery. AlgoSurg, which was created by Dr Vikas Karade and Amit Maurya, operates out of Mumbai and is searching for a replacement for expensive CT scans in knee replacement surgeries.

The technology it has created – referred to as XrayTo3D – is used in conjunction with cloud-based software called Tabplan3D to generate a 3D model of the bone on a phone with two X-ray images. This model can be viewed from any angle and produces a virtual simulation of the surgery.

At present, orthopaedic surgeries are conducted using 2D modelling, which can lead to errors. Usually, the alternative for this is reconstructing a 3D model from a CT scan, which can be costly and involves giving a toxic dose of radiation.


10. The University of Washington (UW) has launched the Institute for Nano- Engineered Systems (NanoES), which concentrates on accelerating nanoscale research. Housed in a new, multimilliondollar facility at the UW’s Seattle campus, the institute will pursue advancements in a variety of disciplines, including energy, materials science, computation and medicine. However, these advancements will be at a scale 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

As part of the UW’s College of Engineering, it is hoped that NanoES will become a magnet for researchers in nanoscale science and engineering. The centre will focus on enabling industry partnerships and entrepreneurships at the earliest stages of research projects. Karl Böhringer, director of the NanoES, professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at UW and site director for National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, said this approach will hasten the development of solutions for the field’s most pressing challenge: the manufacturing of scalable, high-yield nanoengineered systems for applications in information processing, energy, health and interconnected life.