Key Sharp – Key Tech’s Custom Software Tool

Key Sharp – Key Tech’s Custom Software Tool

Gain Faster Development Times with our Unique, Powerful & Proven Software

Key Tech has developed a PC-based software tool, called Key Sharp (Key#).  Key# is built to reduce time to testing for prototypes – The average Key Tech client can save 1-2 months on the front end of a program.  Key# provides a clean and intuitive UI to enable more team members, like Key Tech customers and manufacturing partners, to test devices who previously were unable to without a custom PC application.  We saw a need for a flexible PC-based tool that will allow non-software engineers to easily communicate with embedded firmware that is run on devices.  The result is more data, sooner in product development programs to inform decision making.

Why is Key# Better?

Key# is a common software framework that can be customized to unique design needs, like medical devices with sensors, cameras, pumps, motors, etc.  Also, the Key# UI can be customized for the engineers that will be using it. Current methods that allow non-software engineers to control prototypes usually revolve around a custom PC application developed from scratch, specific to the prototype.  This takes significant effort and time.  Further, the PC app won’t have any practical commercial use, since a custom UI will likely need to be developed to control the product.

Getting the desired data efficiently isn’t always straightforward – Enter Key#

During development, it’s easy for Key Tech’s clients to think about what the end product will be, as they should.  However, it is our job as the development partner to discuss the intermediate stepping stones to get there.  Testing tools during development is one of these stepping stones that we find ourselves discussing with clients often.

It’s easy to understand that for a medical device to work well, you might be looking at a few design iterations of the device during development.  Some subsystems may require more iterations to get it right than others.  Characterization data, or simply test data, is needed in every step to inform design update decisions.  For a design to be effective, it takes lots of data to get there, gobs of it.  However, getting the desired data and getting it efficiently isn’t always straightforward.  Many of these tests should be repeated to verify performance improvements over design iterations or prove reliability over time.  A good set of testing software is critical in getting consistent data, and it should be collected at a reasonable schedule and cost.

Representative Key# User Interface: Key# offers a clean and intuitive interface that allows quick and easy scripting at its core. Key# is also highly customizable, offering a user-friendly graphic interface that can be configured to display easy-to-read device status in real time and control appropriate functionalities via the visual interface. To round out its powerful features, Key# offers a flexible interface that captures and stores relevant data in a spreadsheet for easy post-processing.

Representative Use of Key#  

As an example, if a medical device contains optical emitters and sensors for image processing, it might be useful to characterize factors that would affect the image quality to inform design decisions, such as:

  • Luminescence over time
  • Heat compensation
  • Output wavelength variations in parts
  • Performance drift over time

The end-users for this device will most likely not need control over these detailed parameters.  Ideally, the software targeted for the end-users will automate and hide these variables, and just provide a clean and intuitive interface.  However, the engineers designing and testing the instrument need access to these “low-level” variables so that proper characterization testing can be carried out.  In addition, manufacturers can easily ship out prototypes to customers for testing, since Key# can be used to control the device, while the final GUI is still in development.  A testing framework provided by Key# that can offer quick test planning and automated execution will bring a tremendous amount of value to both the development house and the clients.

Key# Overview: This diagram illustrates that by using Key# and its underlying communication framework, the majority of the low-level instrument code is developed once and can meet communication needs at different stages of the development. During integration and testing phases, the engineering team at Key Tech and system testing team on the client-side can get data from the instrument directly by using either Key# or a custom-developed software package. In parallel, the higher-level product software that’s intended by end-users can also be developed and tested using the existing communication framework. The common communication framework and low-level instrument code can also build up a pedigree through extensive testing during the early development stages.

Additional Key# attributes and benefits

  • Ready to go solution to reduce time to data in the alpha stage – getting data faster and leaner when data informs design the most in early design stages
  • Flexibility to provide Key Tech clients the ability to tweak parameters for data characterization
  • Highly customizable software plugs into existing customer platforms or to target different user groups (i.e. advanced developers or entry-level technicians)
  • Intuitive and user-friendly UI that minimizes the learning curve
  • The end-user UI can use the same underlying communication modules
  • Full source code is delivered to the client for the product
  • Code is developed under design control, and can be validated as part of the overall project

Example Use of Key#

  • Infusion Pump – Client team members can exercise and modify pumping protocols on an alpha prototype infusion pump concept delivered by Key Tech.
  • Diagnostics – Client customer assay scientists can test assays with Key Tech prototypes, modifying instrument control to optimize testing.
  • Surgical Robotics – Manufacturing partners can establish check-out tests on a surgical robotic subsystem, tapping into the embedded firmware on a Key Tech design.

Who doesn’t want faster development times in the MedTech industry? If you have a software-based medical device and need Key# to accelerate development time reach out or call us at  410-385-0200.

Lei Zong

Lei has been in the embedded hardware field since 2004, focusing on firmware design and development. She has experience developing applications for various Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) on several hardware platforms. Lei received a BS in Electrical Engineering, a BS in Computer Science, and a MS in Computer Engineering, from the University of Maryland.
Lei Zong


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