Digital Pathology 2.0
We live in the midst of Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing revolution. Today anybody can store volumes of documents and images on the Cloud, access them from any web device, share data instantly and collaborate in real time. Using web-applications, businesses of all sizes now can access the same software products that once were only available to big companies with IT departments and datacenters. So, if there is an App for everything, how come we don't have one for Digital Pathology? Well, now we do. In February 2011, a Houston-based software start-up, Smart Imaging Technologies, has launched a Digital Pathology web-application called Simagis Live and its team is pledging to make Digital Pathology 2.0 right. So what are the ingredients of right Digital Pathology according to Smart Imaging? There are several:
Universal Web Viewer with Layers
If you want to see street and satellite view of the same Google Map in your web browser, you simply click corresponding layers on the Google Maps - you do not try to see two maps side-by-side on different screens and connect information in your head. You will also expect to access the same Google Map information on your computer, iPad, or smartphone. Simagis Live web-viewer is using the same concept of layers for displaying digital slides. Users can see multi-spectral images, biomarker layers or results of analysis as switchable overlays on the same slide. Users can see their digital slides from any web-browser, including mobile devices, and share them instantly with automatically generated shared URLs, much like they can share Google Documents or YouTube videos.
Scalable and Flexible Server Processing
The power of modern multi-core servers makes it possible to automatically analyze the entire digital slide and Simagis Live Server takes advantage of it. According to the company, the server is designed for processing and analysis of infinite size images distributed across the Cloud and can run different image processing analysis algorithms built by the third parties. For example, users can run their favorite ImageJ macros on 10GB digital slides.
When image server is located remotely i.e. not on your local network, image upload becomes the critical part of the overall system performance. Company says that traditional upload methods like FTP, WebDav or Torrents do not work well when you need to upload 10GB of data for a single slide to the server. The solution by Smart Imaging is a special Turbo Upload Utility designed and built to optimize upload of large images. This utility is using on-the-fly compression, utilizing all CPU cores and available bandwidth to "move" images through networks with maximum possible speed without losing data packets.
Because Simagis Live takes heavy lifting job of building digital slides from individual images to the server side, it can work with any slide scanner or automated microscope and moderate desktop computer. This approach fundamentally changes economics and affordability of Digital Pathology. A one-man pathology lab can now share and analyze digital slides online with desktop scanner or motorized microscope, no IT department needed. Smart Imaging offers easy integration with imaging hardware through 2-way Virtual Microscopy API connector. Since its launch in February, this technology was picked up by another industry innovator, Mikroscan, who also advocates democratization of Digital Pathology market. "We have received a call from Mikroscan in January and met in person at USCAP 2011. Six weeks later we have fully integrated Web Pathology system where Mikroscan users can stream images to local or remote servers while scanning" – said Vitali Khvatkov, the founder of Smart Imaging Technologies. "We are excited about working with Mikroscan as we both share the same agility and market focus" – he added.
Free Tier and Pay-per-use Model
No Web 2.0 application would be complete without free tier and economical pricing model, and Simagis lives up to this expectation. The company offers free accounts with 2GB space on its servers. If you like the application you can get additional space and pay per Gigabyte of processed images. This pay-per-use model introduced by Web 2.0 pioneers like iTunes should work well for small labs that will only pay for what they actually use - no upfront capital investments, monthly fees or contract commitments. To see technology for yourself and try it, visit http://web-pathology.net/