GE tact leaves Merge unconnected

March 27, 1991

Merge Technologies of Milwaukee has signed OEM agreements withPhilips and Toshiba for supply of its digital medical imaginginterface technology, according to Stuart C. Gardner, vice presidentof sales and marketing. Merge will customize interfaces for

Merge Technologies of Milwaukee has signed OEM agreements withPhilips and Toshiba for supply of its digital medical imaginginterface technology, according to Stuart C. Gardner, vice presidentof sales and marketing. Merge will customize interfaces for Philipsand Toshiba, enabling users to connect their scanners to equipmentmade by other vendors.

Merge translates the proprietary image data inside scannersinto its own ACR/NEMA-based Mergecom output. Mergecom is an openprotocol that runs on standard networks, such as ethernet or tokenring.

Merge signs nondisclosure agreements, which allows it accessinside scanners without the OEMs having to disclose their proprietaryprotocols to the competition.

The two new vendor relationships round out what has been ageneral acceptance by scanner vendors of Merge's product concept,Gardner said. The firm also works with Siemens, AT&T, Pickerand Hitachi. GE Medical Systems, the largest imaging equipmentsupplier, is a hold-out, however.

GE has taken the position that it will connect to other imagingsystems only via its ACR/NEMA 50-pin connector, which the vendorhas not yet delivered, Gardner said.

While GE's stance can be considered a vote of confidence forthe long-awaited ACR/NEMA interface standard, implementation ofthe connector will allow GE to withhold certain image data fromnetworks linking the equipment of various vendors, he said.

"It (ACR/NEMA) is a nebulous standard. It can be interpretedin many ways. People are only now beginning to learn what theshadow groups are within the ACR/NEMA standard," Gardnersaid.

Shadow groups allow vendors to block certain data from beingrevealed through implementation of the ACR/NEMA standard. Suchdata include slice thickness and T2 times in magnetic resonanceimaging. Information on slice thickness is needed in three-dimensionalreconstruction of image data, he said.

"Just because one vendor puts out a 50-pin plug does notmean all imaging information is going to be transmitted out ofthat 50-pin plug. One benefit of the Merge interface is that allthe imaging information is disclosed to us. There are no shadowgroups in Mergecom," Gardner said.

BRIEFLY NOTED:Du Pont and 3M have signed agreements to cooperate in the supplyof x-ray film products. The companies declared their intentionto cooperate at the 1990 Radiological Society of North Americameeting last November (SCAN 12/12/90).

The two film vendors will divide responsibilities for manufacturingspecific medical film products, which will be sold in select worldwidemarkets by both companies under their respective labels. Sharingtechnical resources will minimize the cost and time to bring newproducts to market, according to a joint statement by Robert Harms,division vice president of 3M's medical imaging business and JeromeSmith, vice president and general manager of Du Pont's diagnosticimaging business.

Cooperation in manufacturing is only the first step of thenew strategic alliance, the two imaging executives said. Futuresteps were not specified.

  • Italian medical imaging vendor Esaote Biomedica and Endosonicsof Pleasanton, CA, have formed a joint development and marketingagreement for products using Endosonics intraluminal ultrasoundtechnology. Esaote will purchase an undisclosed percentage ofEndosonics shareholders' equity and distribute Endosonics productsexclusively in France, Italy and the Soviet Union.

Biosound, the Indianapolis cardiovascular ultrasound supplierpurchased last year by Esaote (SCAN 8/15/90), has been given anoption to distribute future Endosonics products in the U.S. Biosoundhad signed an exclusive U.S. distribution agreement for intraluminalproducts developed by Intertherapy of Costa Mesa, CA, prior tobecoming a wholly owned Esaote subsidiary. That agreement wasterminated late last year, according to Gerald A. Richardson,Biosound president.

  • Toshiba America Medical Systems increased the uptime guaranteefor its MRT-50A mid-field MRI system from 95% to 100% last month.Customers will receive a discount on service if the scanner doesnot remain operational full-time, said Ravi Sharma, vice presidentof service operations.