Panasonic today unveiled its new computer in the venerable Toughbook line of PC’s designed to perform in an environment somewhat more rugged than your lap. We had the ER in mind as a place where the new U1 can be tested.
The U1 UMPC (Ultra-Mini PC) is a full featured computer running Windows XP or Vista on the new Intel Atom processor, fully compatible with any PC application. Coupled with Toughbook’s standard safety components, like withstanding a four foot drop onto concrete, the device may prove to be a winner among doctors and nurses working in hospital wards.
What makes the U1 especially suited for healthcare is a combination of the design considerations put into it. Because of the cooler, more efficient Intel Atom processor, the U1 doesn’t have ventilation ports through which liquids can enter. The device is effectively sealed, and Panasonic claims that it can take a good splash (of urine or C. diff., we assume) and keep on ticking. (Just don’t take it SCUBA diving with you. Its not fully water proof.)
Nursing staff and the IT department will also be happy to know that the U1 sports two separate battery slots, which lets the user hot-swap batteries without having to turn off the unit. A hospital can even buy multi-battery chargers to hang on the wall at the nurse’s stations for round the clock operation. Somehow this feature seems like it was specifically designed with nurses in mind, who already have enough to think about without having to deal with complicated battery changes during busy hours.
The screen is 5.6 inches and is fully touch sensitive, which means it can be controlled with your finger, not just the stylus like so many tablets out there require. (The advantage becomes obvious once the stylus is accidentally left back at the desk.)
Optionally it can come with a bar code scanner, which can be utilized for device or medication tracking, and a built-in webcam, which we envision can be employed in a futuristic communication system between clinicians in a hospital ward.
We’re really impressed by the U1, and would like to see more portable computers come out suitable for use in hospitals. Not to say that this is a good general replacement for a real laptop, as it has only 1GB RAM and tops out at 32 GB for a solid state disk drive. But its nice to have all the data and tomographic images of the patient wirelessly accessible at the bedside.
Press release: Panasonic Unveils the Handheld Toughbook CF-U1, a Rugged Ultra Mobile PC for Field Workers in Extreme Environments …
Product page: Toughbook U1 …