University of Alabama at Birmingham Heart Lab selects PV-WAVE as data visualisation solution

Boulder 08 November 2001The University of Alabama at Birmingham's Cardiac Rhythm Management Laboratory (CRML) has selected PV-WAVE, developed by Visual Numerics Inc., an expert in data visualisation, numerical analysis, and enterprise software solutions, as its data visualisation software. Visual Numerics' product line includes the IMSL Libraries for mathematical and statistical analysis; the PV-WAVE Development Environment for desktop visual data analysis applications; the PV-WAVE Web Development Environment for network-based visual data analysis applications; and the PV-WAVE Applications and Toolkits for time-series data analysis, image processing, and signal processing. Financial terms of the contract with CRML were not disclosed.


The CRML is a state-of-the-art 15.000 square-foot research facility which houses an interdisciplinary team of biomedical engineers, electro-physiologists, physicians, and veterinarians. Each year, approximately 400.000 people in North America die of cardiac arrhythmias. Research at CRML seeks to understand the formation, maintenance, and termination of life-threatening cardiac a rrhythmias with the goal of improving treatment strategies. CRML's primary objective is to investigate the causes and potential treatments of cardiac arrhythmias. To accomplish this objective, CRML researchers obtain large amounts of electro-physiologic data from various modalities, or data sources.

Among others, these data sources include a 528-channel electrical mapping system, an optical mapping system using CCD cameras, and cardiac MRI. Analysing and visualising this data requires significant image and signal processing techniques, coupled with advanced graphical capabilities. According to R. Kyle Justice, a CRML programmer/analyst, "CRML needed a software package that would facilitate both qualitative and quantitative understanding of the mechanisms of arrhythmias. We needed powerful software that combined advanced visualisation tools with heavy-duty number-crunching functionality."

CRML's search for a data visualisation solution led them to PV-WAVE, the flagship product from Visual Numerics Inc. PV-WAVE is an open environment for developing and deploying Visual Data Analysis (VDA) applications which help customers turn raw data into meaningful information. These VDA applications let users visualise and manipulate complex or very large data sets to detect and display patterns, trends, anomalies, and other vital information.

PV-WAVE includes hundreds of mathematical and statistical analysis routines from Visual Numerics' IMSL Numerical Libraries, as well as image processing, signal processing, mapping, and general data manipulation features. Engineers, scientists, business analysts, and software developers access this robust and extensive set of functions through an array-oriented programming language. PV-WAVE also includes advanced graphical user interface development tools that facilitate the construction of intuitive front-ends, making the product's functionality easily accessible to others in an organisation.

Mr. Justice cites increased productivity as the leading benefit of using PV-WAVE. "It significantly reduces our development time, which makes everyone more productive", Mr. Justice stated. "We rarely have exact specifications for a particular piece of software that we need. The software tends to grow right along with the research. PV-WAVE is perfect for this interactive, dynamic process because of its flexible programming environment. We need everything from small and large-scale applications to "on the fly" command-line programming. And from time to time, we need to call external C programmes, which is a snap with PV-WAVE."

In addition to PV-WAVE's flexibility, Mr. Justice also likes the software's ease-of-use and cross-platform portability. "GUI-development is quite easy using the built-in Wave Widgets", he explained. "In addition, the cross-platform compatibility of PV-WAVE makes life a lot easier for us. We have Sun and SGI workstations as well as PCs running Linux and Windows. Our programmes run seamlessly on all of these platforms 99 percent of the time."

Mr. Justice added that he is "excited" about the new VTK capabilities available in PV-WAVE 7.5, the latest version of the software released in August 2001. The Visualisation ToolKit (VTK) is an open source, freely available software system developed by Clifton Park, New York-based Kitware Inc., that provides 3D graphics, image processing, and advanced visualisation techniques using OpenGL. Included in PV-WAVE 7.5 are more than two dozen new functions that allow access to Kitware's VTK, both at a high-level for ease-of-use, and through low-level routines which facilitate the creation of more complex, specialised visualisations.

With the 7.5 release, PV-WAVE will provide the high-level 3D interactive visualisation techniques commonly associated with OpenGL without burdening its users with having to learn hundreds of low-level commands. The integration of VTK into PV-WAVE provides the optimum solution. PV-WAVE users are now able to produce accelerated graphics in their applications without having to learn a new programming paradigm or understand the intricacies of OpenGL. PV-WAVE is available for many popular operating systems: Windows 98, Windows 2000/NT, Unix on Sun, HP, SGI, Compaq, and IBM, and Linux. Windows and Linux pricing starts at $1795. Unix pricing starts at $3995.

Leslie Versweyveld

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