Hamilton Medical relies on Model Driven Development (MDD) with IBM Rhapsody® for developing their intelligent ventilation solutions. Thanks to the direct coupling of design and code, the constantly growing challenges in software development are addressed more effectively and development productivity as well as agility have been increased.
The requirements for the software development at Hamilton Medical AG have increased markedly over the past years. The growing market demand for innovations and additional functionalities, the high-quality requirements for the devices, increasing cost pressure, faster time-to-market cycles and restrictive regulatory standards within the industry have massively risen the complexity of product development. At the same time, the role of software has grown ever more important.
Hamilton Medical AG, headquartered in Bonaduz, Switzerland, is a leading provider of high quality ventilation solutions for intensive therapy and patient transportation. The technologically advanced products are developed in Switzerland by approximately 30 employees. To meet the increasing market demands, Hamilton Medical decided in 2003 to introduce a platform strategy, standardizing the development environment and – at the same – to employ the Model Driven Development approach with Rhapsody® from IBM.
The need for increasing product variety reinforces this trend, says Gion Durisch, Head of Software Development with Hamilton Medical: “Today’s range of ventilators includes numerous devices that are optimized for use in intensive care units, for the transport in vehicles, airplanes or helicopters, or can work in special environments, e.g. near MRIs. The life span of these devices is unchanged from 10-15 years; over this period of time they must be maintained regularly and provided with software updates. In addition, the inter-connectedness of devices and, as a result, the number of interfaces is increasing. They interact with other monitoring or information systems in the hospital or are integrated in third-party systems for specific therapies. With regards to the software development this means that we must provide a significantly broader software scope for a much larger number of different devices.”
Given this increasing complexity, the platform strategy and standardization of the development environment turns out to be highly valuable. “On the one hand, the platform architecture leads to an acceleration in the development, which is an important competitive factor for an innovative leader such as Hamilton Medical. Thanks to the reusability of know-how, components and modules, we need to develop a new feature just once. Then we can deploy it to different ventilators. Thus innovations can be implemented and brought to the markets more cost-effectively… even in a regulatory environment”, says Gion Durisch.
On the other hand, the benefits of the platform strategy can be exploited even better thanks to the object-oriented approach and MDD with Rhapsody®. MDD ensures the coupling of design and code. New functionalities can be developed based on models and subsequently the code is generated from these models. As a result, design and code are always in sync. For Hamilton Medical, MDD and Rhapsody® have thus become essential factors for the consistency and quality of the generated code. They enable them to keep the increasing complexity under control and keeping track of things, even though an increasing number of developers are involved in the projects. “In doing so, we also protect the internal know-how and optimize our knowledge transfer. Likewise, the introduction of new employees has become much easier thanks to MDD and Rhapsody®,” adds Andreas Anderegg, Senior Software Engineer R&D.
New releases or updates of the development tools used to result in substantial expenditures since the generated code for safety-relevant products must be tested with each change. Considering this, Hamilton Medical’s development strategy proved to be of special value: Thanks to re-use of software, testing costs have been reduced distinctly. “Especially for further development of existing products and maintenance work we benefit from our platform strategy and MDD in a quick and focused manner,” says Gion Durisch. “However, we still have to close the gap between our development with MDD and model-based testing. Until now, the high migration efforts have prevented us from doing so.” According to Gion Durisch the variant management is another important subject to be addressed. “At present, this issue is solved by means of our own approach and by using Rhapsody® as much as possible. In view of the increasing diversity of products and versions it is our future goal to develop new functionalities – whenever reasonable – via MDD … in fact for our entire product range.”
Hamilton Medical’s development teams generally enjoy introductory trainings, including refresher courses in object-oriented development, tool training with Rhapsody® or in-depth courses in UML. On a regular basis they also attend Rhapsody® User Group Days organized by EVOCEAN. “The impact of such events on our employees’ efficiency and motivation may not be underestimated,” says Durisch. “In order to have this executed professionally and efficiently, we are pleased to rely on EVOCEAN for their support.”