Panasonic Combines Toughbook Features, Intel Atom Processor for Health Care PC

The Panasonic Toughbook H1 is a health care-specific notebook that will feature the same rugged features found in other Panasonic notebooks and include an Intel Atom processor. With the Toughbook H1, Panasonic is looking to compete against Motion Computing, which also uses Intel processors for its line of notebooks and tablets for the health care industry. In the past few months, Panasonic has turned to the Intel Atom chip for a number of unique notebook designs for vertical markets, such as the Toughbook CF-U1.

Panasonic is combining the technology it uses for its line of Toughbook notebooks with Intel's Atom processor to offer a new type of notebook specifically designed for hospitals and health care workers.

On Nov. 4, Panasonic debuted Toughbook H1, a rugged notebook for the health care industry. The Toughbook H1 is based on a reference design that Intel first brought to the health care market in 2006 called the MCA (mobile clinical assistant).

Right now, the only other PC vendor that makes this type of MCA notebook is Motion Computing, with its C5, which hit the market in 2007. For now, many hospitals and health care workers simply use standard laptops or tablets with wireless capabilities to help them with their jobs, such as checking patient records or checking inventories.
While the health care industry remains a highly specialized vertical market, it is becoming one where companies like Panasonic and Intel are looking to make additional investments. According to Health Industry Insights, U.S. health care providers will spend about $411 million on PCs and other hardware in 2008, and that number will increase to $605 million by 2011.

Now that Panasonic has joined Motion Computing in this market, Health Industry Insights Research Director Marc Holland said he believes that at least one or two other PC vendors will offer similar notebooks within the next six to 12 months.

"The MCA is a reference architecture that is published and Intel licenses it," Holland said. "I was surprised it took this long for a second competitor to Motion to come to the market."

The benefits for health care and hospital workers are fairly obvious. MCA notebooks such as the Toughbook H1 and the Motion C5 will help nurses and doctors cut down the time it takes to record information about patients by allowing them to bring the machine into the room. Since the Toughbook H1 offers an RFID (radio-frequency identification) reader, the notebooks can also be used to check inventory or patient records.