Cochlear implants applications into Amazon Web Services' cloud

Cochlear has adopted a hybrid cloud model for specific applications, and hopes to see more of its applications moved onto Amazon Web Services further down the track.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Cochlear's decision to begin building certain services on Amazon Web Services was first realised four years ago when it noticed that it needed to move faster, according to the company's chief software architect Victor Rodrigues.

Speaking to ZDNet, Rodrigues explained the implantable hearing aid solutions provider noticed that it was taking too long to deliver its clinical software, and needed to come up with a more efficient solution. The clinical software is used by clinicians who individually configure each device according to a patient's need, following the implantation of the solution.

"Our clinical software was distributed on CD, and that took up to four weeks to put the CD into production, to get the CDs produced, and then we'd ship them out to the regions and they are physically shipped out to the clinics," he said.

Rodrigues added that due to the length it used to take for the CDs to be delivered, it prevented the company from delivering software updates, such as new patch releases, in real-time.

But since moving the software onto AWS cloud using CloudFront and S3, Cochlear's delivery window has been reduced from four weeks to practically zero, Rodrigues said, assuring that the company is still able to remain compliant with regulatory requirements. The initial move was completed in the United States first, followed by Europe.

"All we need to do now is upload it through our system and just make the software available via a link. Our professionals would go and register and download it," he said.

Rodrigues said that the project helped familiarise Cochlear to the cloud and its benefits.

"Over time as we got more familiar with AWS and we started to see opportunities to resolve business problems, for example getting closer to your customer ... there was the opportunity to put things in the cloud because of the immediacy," he said.

As a result of this, the company recently launched Cochlear Link, a platform to enable clinicians to store patient data with Cochlear via the cloud.

Rodrigues explained previously, for instance, when an individual implant's processor malfunctioned, clinicians would have to contact Cochlear to reach the data that exists on the processor. But now with Cochlear Link, clinicians are able to download a patient's data right from the solution.

Rodrigues said the automation of the process has significantly improved the experience for patients.

"We started very small when we moved the data to Cochlear via S3 and made it available to our service and repair. But as we started seeing where this product could take us, within the confinement of regulation, it became apparent very quickly that AWS was going to fulfil what we felt a product like this would do for us," he said.

On the topic of moving data, Rodrigues recalled that the main issue the company faced was convincing clinicians in the UK that the data was going to be safely stored in the public cloud. He said Cochlear addressed the reluctance through education to convince people that the data would be safe in the cloud.

"When we started in the UK there was a lot of resistance of moving data to the public cloud. It was viewed with an air of scepticism, with preference of wanting the data to be in the UK," he said.

"It was a lot of negotiation to effectively assure them that when we moved data into S3 it would be on a server of Ireland, and so within the EU region."

With these two projects as successful proof points, Rodrigues said he hopes to see more of the company's existing services -- such as its website, professional portal, and recipient portal, which are still on-premises -- eventually be moved on the cloud, too.

He added that unlike other companies that often start in the cloud for development and test purposes, Cochlear went straight to using it for its core projects.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to AWS re:Invent with Amazon Web Services.

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